Spy drama The Americans takes final bow, timed to USSR's demise
As hit TV drama The Americans prepares for its final season, set against the backdrop of the fall of the Soviet Union, the Cold War-era spy thriller has never felt more topical.
The show's creator, former CIA officer Joe Weisberg, recalls with amusement the question he was asked when he first presented his idea back in 2012: "Who really cares about US-Russia relations?"
Since then, Russia has gone to war with Ukraine, annexed Crimea, backed anti-American Syrian president Bashar Al Assad, and according to US intelligence agencies, interfered in the 2016 presidential election with the aim of helping Mr Donald Trump win.
The sixth and final season - which airs on FX (StarHub TV Ch 507/Singtel TV Ch 310) on Thursdays at 10pm and is also streaming on FOX+ - finds Soviet sleeper agents Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip Jennings (Matthew Rhys) still posing as an average American couple in the suburbs, with two kids and jobs at a travel agency.
Philip - whose commitment to the KGB has wavered over the years - has left the game of spycraft, but idealistic Russian patriot Elizabeth is still all in, and their daughter Paige is along for the ride.
Elizabeth is desperate to gather intelligence on the INF treaty that saw the US and Soviet Union eliminate part of their nuclear arsenals in 1987.
And their marriage is as chilly as the Cold War stand-off between Washington and Moscow.
"Being a girl and getting to play this character is pretty cool. She's so fierce and single-minded," US actress Russell, 42, told Variety magazine's Remote Controlled podcast, calling her work on the show "by far my most fun role".
"Everything at home that Elizabeth is fighting for is falling apart, is in complete anxiety and turmoil."
This season, she finds herself trapped between the reforms championed by Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev and the hardliners at the KGB. And she opts to take the hard line.
The Americans is a riveting spy drama, but it is also a gripping portrayal of a family, typical at first glance but layered and complex in reality.
"This show isn't about spies. It's about two people who are married to each other and happened to be spies," Weisberg said at a screening in New York.
Russell, who has a two-year-old son with Welsh co-star and real-life partner Rhys, 43, says: "Set in this weird, heightened spy world, it just allows all of the feelings of a long-term relationship, specifically a marriage, to play out in very big firework ways."
In addition, no other network series has dared play out entire scenes in a foreign language - mainly Russian - so as not to betray the realism of the subject matter.
Of course, there is a fair bit of action as well, and after more than 70 episodes, Elizabeth and Philip have killed their fair share of adversaries.
In that sense, the final season will be the climax.
No one associated with the show would reveal any details, but Rhys joked: "Everyone dies. Pretty simple." - AFP