14 The Americans
“You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!” “Well, you got your peanut butter in my chocolate!” Only make it a TV show. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys are Soviet sleeper agents posing as married suburban couple Elizabeth and Philip Jennings in Reagan’s America.
Is it a riveting spy thriller or a quiet and nuanced examination of the compromises inherent to any marriage? As the meme goes, why not both? The suspense plots make the show’s family drama more exciting, and that character work in turn gives the espionage action more weight. The Americans smartly tracks the level of reality in each of its relationships, including Philip’s desire to make his fake marriage to Elizabeth into a real one, Philip wrestling with guilt over befriending his FBI-agent neighbor Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich), and
Philip and Elizabeth’s teenage daughter, Paige (Holly Taylor), debating how to feel after learning the truth about her parents. The performances are sensational in matters both domestic and spy-related. And where many classics of this era have had divisive endings, its conclusion only made everything that came before feel better.