In The Americans, a team of deep-cover Russian agents lives in the D.C. area during the Reagan era. They have two kids and a house in a suburban cul-de-sac. At night they put on wigs and run spy ops, stealing classified information, aiding Soviet allies, and occasionally engaging in bloody firefights with FBI agents-one of whom happens to be a friendly neighbor. The spies participate in American life even as they try to ruthlessly undermine it.
The Americans, which entered its third season this year on the FX Network, is a thriller as well as a glossy melodrama about marriage and family. Even more than that, it is a show about the ways that nationalism and ideology can warp one's perspective, making it easy to kill and lie for a totalitarian cause. The show adopts the perspective of its Communist protagonists, but its sympathetic viewpoint only renders the horror of their work more damning.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "The Spies Who Hated U.S.".