When The Americans (FX, Wednesdays, 10/9C) returns tonight, Soviet sleeper agents Philips and Elizabeth Jennings face dangers from persons unknown and at least one person very well known. If you thought last season was taut and suspense-filled, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!
Over the course of season two premiere, Comrades, series creator and showrunner Joe Weinberg amps up the tension in so many ways that it’s difficult to know where to begin. Suffice to say that Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) have missions to fulfill while trying to be good suburban parents and both tasks become dicey – though they’re only aware of one set of problems.
When Elizabeth arrives home following her stay with an ailing great-aunt (not the best cover story), it’s Henry’s birthday. After an abbreviated celebration is interrupted by their parents’ real job, daughter Paige (Holly Taylor) gets snoopy again, rifling through her mom’s suitcase on the pretext of surprising mom by doing her laundry.
We also meet another couple who are part the Jennings’ network and they have kids, as well – which leads into Philip having to use Henry (Keidrich Sellati) in a ‘brush pass’ while the family is at an amusement park when the other couple’s cover may have been blown. Events transpire that force the two to re-evaluate their priorities – at least in terms of repercussions from their work on/for Paige and Henry.
In between moments of family stuff, we get to see that Philip is still deadly and that he and Elizabeth are still wily, intelligent and completely capable of turning well-placed Americans without their even knowing it’s happening.
Once the possibility of danger to their kids is made clear to them, their whole world changes. A city crew working on the street in front of their house becomes sinister; interruptions in their routine from their handlers create more tension. Everything becomes nerve-wracking for Philip and Elizabeth, while Paige and Henry carry on mostly oblivious.
As for Paige, whatever is making her suspicious of her parents’ behavior, it seems pretty certain that she has no idea of what they’re really doing.
Meanwhile FBI counterintelligence agent Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich) is blissfully unaware that his informant, the lovely Nina (Annet Mahendru), has turned on him and is now working a honey trap on him. And there is a new guy in Russian embassy – a young KGB agent on his first posting who loves new wave music and dancing. And being in the wrong place at the right time.
Weisberg and Joel Fields have really ratcheted up the stakes in season two. Comrades is fast-paced and more than a little unsettling. The dangers of being the Jennings have never been made clearer. Thanks to finely tuned direction from TV veteran Thomas Schlamme, moments of relaxation and breeziness are kept to a minimum and even then the tension mounts as we hold out breath waiting for that moment when things go in other directions.
At this point, I’ve seen a couple of the episodes made available for review and can say that The Americans has definitely hit its stride. This is great stuff – great, deadly stuff.
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Photos by Craig Blankenhorn/Courtesy of FX