Russell and Rhys portray Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, Russians who’ve successfully embedded themselves as sleeper agents in a suburb of Washington, D.C. It’s 1981, President Ronald Reagan has declared the USSR an “evil empire,” and one of the Jennings’ two kids needs a training bra and wants her ears pierced. As Reagan’s reelection campaign would soon say, it’s morning in America.
I have always enjoyed Keri Russel's work but also thought her beauty overwhelmed her talent, which is considerable. In this Cold War drama she is able to play all the emotions necessary to fake her role as an ordinary American housewife. In reality she is and her 'husband' are spies/sleeper agents for the KGB. It's bad enough to be working for a foreign government but even tougher when all kinds of personal issues and memories start rising to the surface. Does duty trump humanity or is everything reprogramming and training? Can you design the perfect sleeper agent?
I have only seen the pilot but found it was very strong. The creators depict the time well and create compelling characters that I wanted to know more about. I look forward to the flashbacks that show how and why these two were recruited for this mission of a lifetime. It takes a great deal of training and supposition to make a sleeper agent. There are never any guarantees that they will act in the way you want them to when the time comes. There is always that pesky 'human factor' that can't be figured for in any equations. How long can a person live a double life?
The problem for the audience here is, "Who do you root for?" The spies working against us or the American government? Which side do we want to sympathize with? That will be a tricky line to walk for this series to be a success.
Of course it doesn't hurt our sympathies when we discover by the end of episode one that Keri was raped back in KGB training camp - making the man who is killed a 'righteous kill' in the eyes of the viewers. I hope that in future episodes the decisions are not so easy for this spy couple to make. This program wants to be 'Homeland' and if it makes some correct decisions with story and character, they have the ability to be just as entertaining.
Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys