Feb 26 2014 10:15am

I’m Here for Philip/Elizabeth: 4 Reasons to Watch The Americans

Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys in GQThe Americans Season 2, here we come! FX's series about a pair of Russian KGB spies posing as a married couple in the U.S. during the latter years of the Cold War is set to resume tonight, and if you haven't yet caught up, you really must. Why? This show is romantic suspense at its best, as it turns out that agents Phil and Elizabeth Jennings (played by Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell) may actually be falling in love with each other after 15 years, many many missions, and two kids.

The whole first season is currently streaming on Amazon Prime, so feel free to quit reading and check it out at any time.

...Need more incentive? Let's get to it. Allow me to present 4 (mostly Philip/Elizabeth-related) reasons why, given the opportunity, this show will hook you good:

1. Theirs is a love story in reverse. If you thought your relationship was complicated, wait'll you hear how Philip and Elizabeth got their start: In Season 1 we learned that fifteen years before, these perfect strangers (seriously, they'd never even met before) were paired for a long-term KGB mission in the U.S., where they were ordered to pose as a married couple and, eventually, produce a few kids to really sell their cover in between all the covert ops Moscow assigned them. Can you imagine? So, really, it wasn't at all surprising to learn that in the years since, they hadn't exactly fallen head over heels for each other, despite the fact that they did, indeed, bring two children into the world and into their “family.” Except, in the Pilot episode, after Philip ruthlessly snapped the neck of a man who raped Elizabeth in training years ago, feelings started to come to the surface for both of them after all.

Thus the series is also a backwards romance novel; this married-with-children pair falls in love before our very eyes and it is wonderful. And since their lives and their children's lives are at risk every single day, even knowing they love each other, Philip and Elizabeth's story will never get boring or lose its edge. I LOVE THAT.

The Jennings family in The Americans Season 22. Couples that spy together... Another aspect of the show I quite enjoy is that, for once, there are no (serious) romantic threats to our main couple. The comfort of knowing your ship is canon and always will be cannot be overstated. Love triangles (and ship wars they spawn) are all the rage these days, but Elizabeth and Phil's marriage is the heart of the show. They didn't just decide to make a go of it because they might as well—rather, after years and years, they decided to give a real relationship a try because they both actively wanted to. They made that choice themselves, and that's hugely important because it's one of the rare choices they've had in their (pretty sad, I think we can all agree) lives thus far. After the events of Season 1, I'm convinced there is no room for anything else or any need to worry that they won't get together or will end up with someone else. Now, that's not to say the show will end happily—one or both of them could die and I wouldn't be shocked—but all the way up to that point you can be sure these two will be the driving force of the show. Shipper nirvana, am I right?!

3. It's the '80s, baby. Terrible wigs, high-waisted pants, hot rods, scene-setting music... The trappings of Phil and Elizabeth's story only add to the brilliance. Plus, the fact that this is a period piece means we have a little distance from the show's history-inspired events (the better to romanticize what would be horrifying if we were still living it?) and also that we know how things play out in a broad-strokes way for the KGB. Yet, and this is important, the writers still have a great deal of freedom to play with Phil and Elizabeth's story, so we'll probably never be able to predict how their particular story will end, which is wonderful/horrible. And the reason we get addicted to TV shows in the first place.

Phil and Elizabeth Jennings in The Americans Season 24. The stakes are impossibly high. I love romance, but in TV, especially, I find that I like my romance best when it's part of a larger story. Too much of a focus on that aspect and it gets stale—I'm no longer waiting with bated breath for each new episode to find out whether there'll be some romantic moment (intentional or not) to make Tumblr explode with gifs the next day, because I don't need to. Tl;dr: too much of a good thing is actually not good, yadda yadda yadda. So how refreshing to find a show like The Americans, where a relationship is totally definitely the heart of the show (yay) yet goes hand-in-hand with legitimately thrilling spy hijinks. You've got life-and-death missions, an FBI agent neighbor, an alter ego with a different wife for the sake of an assignment, curious children to be protected at all costs, sexpionage missions that can't help but incite jealousy, untrustworthy handlers, and generally just more secrets and lies than you can shake a stick at. This is not your average action-adventure show in which you know your favorites will always make it through unscathed; this is a hold-your-breath-and-wish-hard show with a few shocking deaths already under its belt. The quiet, intimate scenes between Phil and Elizabeth are all the more welcome for being sandwiched between such stressful ones. The show is them against the world and their bond is all the more compelling because you have a front-row seat to the crazy things they go through together.

In short: Watch this series! And let me know what you think.

Season 2 premieres tonight at 10 p.m. on FX.

Head over to GQ's site for more images from Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell's photo shoot with photographer Marco Grob.


Heather Waters is the site manager of H&H, and a 24/7 fangirl. Find her on Twitter at @hwaters_.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
Darlene Marshall
1. DarleneMarshall
Love, love, love The Americans. One of the freshest shows on TV, and I can't wait for the new season. Part of what thrilled me was how as a child of the Cold War generation, I found myself cheering for the bad guys and feeling truly conflicted over it. Great writing, super acting!
2. lauralee1912
I don't know how I missed this show. I loved Matthew Rhys in Brothers and Sisters. I'm thinking some binge-watching of Season 1 is in my future.
3. LizF
This show is great! I love the development of the relationship between Elizabeth and Philip, especially how fiercely Philip defends and protects her. Really looking forward to this new season!
Heather Waters
4. HeatherWaters
@darlenemarshall -- The acting, oh man. So subtle, so good. Lots of talent there. And yes, it's so disconcerting to find yourself rooting for these people, yet you can't help it. Kudos to the whole cast and crew for that.

@lauralee1912 -- Awesome! Hope you like it. Took me a few episodes to really get into it, but things get INTENSE and I was just fascinated at how this couple's relationship kept my interest so thoroughly when I usually only get this invested in pairings BEFORE they're an actual couple.
Heather Waters
5. HeatherWaters
@LizF -- Yes, Philip being the more emotional one was a refreshing twist, wasn't it? I adore him.
Mary Lynne Nielsen
6. emmel
Amazing show, and what I love is that they run with characters when things are working (for example, adding Nina and Sam's wife as season regulars when they rocked it in the first season). And I am really excited to see what happens with Philip and Elizabeth's kids as they head into their teen years and are becoming understandably curious about what their mom and dad do for a living.....
Heather Waters
7. HeatherWaters
@emmel -- Last night's premiere set up so much good stuff.


Poor Paige got an eyeful and the gruesome scene of the other Russian family? Man. That all certainly gave us an idea of how integral Phil and Elizabeth's family (and their fear for their family) is going to be this season. Can't wait.

I like Stan's wife but am curious about what they'll give her to do this season since last year she was never part of the primary plotlines. So glad Nina's a regular--you're so right, she rocked it, and it's already clear she'll be playing a big part in the main story.
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