This is a show that has quietly flown under the radar somewhat despite the fact that it is high quality television. The story is riveting (especially the personal lives and feelings of those involved), costumes and hair is great and the acting by the two leads is strong.
Cold War tension is at an all-time high with the U.S. and Soviet Union trying by any means possible to get the one up on the other. Undercover operatives, or illegals as the Americans dub them, are the tools that the Russians seem to rely most upon. Russians who have been planted in the United States for years and assume American identities. They pass for Americans and are not suspected to be spies. Two of the best in the biz are Elizabeth (played by Keri Russell) and Philip Jennings (played by Matthew Rhys). They run a successful travel agency, live in the suburbs and have two kids. Who would suspect them as Russian spies? No one is the answer.
Everything about the show seems quite timely, the whole Russian, world on the edge and spy stuff. Even though it takes place during the 1970s it seems rather modern in lots of respects. Each episode gets a hold of you for different reasons (action, moral conundrums, personal issues or close calls) and does not let go. Much of what is happening is subtle yet still effective.
There are plenty of moral issues or questions at play here. Who are the bad guys? Are there bad guys? Each side, including the Russians, are doing what they think is best for the world not just for their country. Elizabeth and Philip believe that by killing a few they are saving thousands or even millions. They do not believe what they are doing is immoral. A war is going on and it has to be won at any cost. The show does a good job making the Russian spies seem human. They have emotions and killing is not easy for either of them.
-Operation Ghost Stories: The Real Directorate ‘S’
-Shades of Red: The Morality of The Americans