In its second season The Americans has quickly become one of the best shows on television, combining intense plot lines with clever character development. During its debut season, the show evolved from an adequate Homeland substitute into a grippingly original show. Set in the early 80's, the show has become a defining statement on the Reagan era of Cold War intrigue. Having grown up under that constant cloud of looming nuclear war, I find the politics within the show to be compelling, and appreciate the care with which the nuances are handled.
The strength of the show comes from the main characters, two Soviet spies who have lived in the U.S. for nearly their entire adult lives, even raising two very American children who have no idea about their parent's political allegiances. As the years have passed, the couple increasingly finds themselves conflicted over the cause they committed to in the past, and the life they've come to lead in the present. They believe in what they're doing, but they've come to see that not everything about America is as evil as they once thought. The lure of a free society is very powerful, and through the characters we can see why the outcome was sort of inevitable.
One of the most interesting things about the show is how you end up rooting for them, thus bringing out "traitorous" emotions within the viewer. As a result you are forced to examine the Cold War from different perspectives than the ones indoctrinated during that time. These conflicts are embodied in the main characters in a wonderful way, adding to the drama that plays out on the screen. Of course, it's also an extremely satisfying spy story, complete with all of the cloak and dagger elements that makes spy stories so addictive. The show keeps the surprises and suspense at a high level, and should be rewarded come Emmy time. Here's to hoping the Cold War never comes to an end.