*** This article contains spoilers of Season One of The Americans.
Nearly ten months to the day since the season one finale aired, The Americans finally returns to our TV sets tonight and we here at Place to Be Nation couldn’t be more excited. Created by a former CIA officer, this breathtaking show constantly kept viewers at their edge of their seats as it gutwrenchingly wove us through deception, affairs, murder, suicide, successful missions, failed missions and treason. Stuffed with a fantastic cast and perfect backdrop, the writers of the show were able to find a perfect balance of delivering tons of action and storyline development without blowing their wad out of the gate. As season one wound down, things were getting especially spicy as Stan Beeman, doing his best to keep his crumbling marriage together while also maintaining an affair with a witness under his protection was slowly piecing together some of the clues surrounding the possible secret identity of his neighbors, the Jennings, a family that also finds itself in a bit of disarray, both professionally and personally. As the season closed out, Philip and Elizabeth’s oldest child, Paige, started to poke around at the family skeletons, buried deep in their basement closets. As season two kicks off later tonight, join your fellow comrades Jen Engle, Chad Campbell, Andrew Flanagan and Justin Rozzero as they look back at season one and share their thoughts on where this thrill ride is headed next.
1. Which episode of season one was your favorite?
Jen: I have to say that this is a toss-up between the Pilot and the episode Trust Me, when Elizabeth beats up Claudia. The pilot pulled me in, I wanted to know more about this Russian spy family and when Stan was looking in the trunk of Philip’s car, I already didn’t want them to get caught. Great work to the powers that be for the pilot, I think it did what it was supposed to do and got us all engaged.
“Trust Me” proved what a badass Elizabeth was, and how committed she was to the cause. This couple gave up their own life to spy for their country, and this was a test to prove the lengths that they would go to. I was completely shocked to see Elizabeth kick the crap out of Claudia, but at the same time not at all that surprised based on her personality.
Chad: “Duty and Honor”, Episode 7. This was the turning point of season one for me, and where “The Americans” switched from being a fun spy thriller into an emotionally charged drama centered on family. The contrast between Philip and Elizabeth and their love and devotion to each other had many layers to it in season one and felt really true to the nature of how a marriage can work sometimes. Elizabeth’s commitment at the end of this episode was the most heartwarming scene in season one and made the show jump from the enjoyable category to the great one.
Andrew: My favorite episode was the finale, “The Colonel”. It pays off storylines that have been building all season, has some great tension heading into the FBI setup, and closes with a pretty great montage (I have a weakness for those). I also enjoyed Claudia getting revenge for General Zhukov.
Justin: “Only You”, Episode 10. The Gregory/Elizabeth relationship was tremendously interesting and had a lot of depth despite not having a lot of screen time dedicated to it. In “Only You”, the tension is high as Gregory and his team botch a job, leaving vital evidence behind that leads the FBI right to his apartment. The moment Gregory realizes what this all means is heartbreaking, and the scene where he and Elizabeth get busy for the final time before he tells her he is not going to Moscow, but will instead allow cops to gun him down is tough to watch. Watching Beeman and the FBI slowly work the case and work their way to Gregory while the KGB contingent alternates between smuggling Gregory to Moscow or outright killing him was exhilarating. Gregory was a great character with a lot of gas left in the tank, but that is why this show is known for its big brass balls.
2. If you could change the outcome of any scene in season one, which would it be?
Jen: I’m going to be all girly and say I wish that Gregory didn’t have to die. It was very Romeo and Juliet, he couldn’t have Elizabeth and he knew he didn’t have a good life ahead of him in Russia so he committed suicide by cop. I liked Gregory and I wish we got to see his character more. I do hope we see more flashbacks of his and Elizabeth’s relationship, but something tells me that they are done with his story.
Chad: I would have kept Gregory alive. His demise was an important premise to the final act of season one but I loved the dialect and scenes he shared with Elizabeth as they gave a great contrast and interesting insight into the common “one who got away” trope we see on tv. I do think there was more opportunity to continue to create tension between Gregory and Philip and Elizabeth simply by his existence but more by his loyalty and connections to the entire operation.
Andrew: I don’t know if qualifies as a scene, but if I could change anything, I’d have Claudia not get reassigned. Margo Martindale is the best, and I’m especially going to miss the character’s feud with Elizabeth.
Justin: I think I have to agree with Chad. There weren’t too many missteps in season one, but this one sticks out to me. There was so much left in the Gregory/Elizabeth story and we had only scratched the surface of what was there. I wish he went to Moscow and eventually came back to stay in the mix or just skated by the FBI, having them pin it on one of his partners instead. Derek Luke was great in the role and definitely met his demise much too soon. I honestly can’t think of much else that I would change, which tells you just how fantastic the writing on this show is.
3. Which season one scene came the closest to giving you a heart attack?
Jen: There were so many great moments! I think I was on the edge of my seat the most during “The Clock,” when Elizabeth and Philip poisoned the son of the maid of the U.S. Secretary of Defense. He and his mother were innocent civilians and it showed that the Jennings were both pretty ruthless.
There was also a lot action in the season finale. Both Elizabeth and Philip’s missions were compromised, and then Elizabeth got shot…the entire episode was non-stop. It reminded me of how I never wanted Dexter to get caught killing someone when I watched Dexter. It feels wrong rooting for these KGB spies, but I find myself doing so just like I rooted for a serial killer.
This show has the rare ability to keep me engaged for the entire show every week. I usually multi-task while I watch TV, but this is one of the few shows that I watch without simultaneously reading or on Pinterest.
Chad: A lot of answers come to mind and I want to give a shout out to Elizabeth getting shot in the season finale which had me frantically texting Justin as soon as it happened. Drawing the viewer into a show and pilot can be a slippery slope. A show’s creator and director want to push the action forward but also give enough backstory to make the viewer care. It is rare that a scene can produce so much knowledge with such little dialogue as the “Tusk” sequence that the pilot achieved. Matthew Rhys is a known actor but certainly wasn’t established enough for me that I thought he might escape trouble throughout this sequence. The marketing for the show up to the pilot was brilliant in not revealing too many eminent details but also building up intrigue. This action packed sequence immediately made me interested in the show and had me listening to “Tusk” on repeat at work for weeks on end.
Andrew: This is cheating a bit, but I’m going with all the scenes revolving around getting the encryption card from the trunk of the FBI car. They used lots of near misses and long shots to build the suspense, and the inherent claustrophobia of trapping a character in a car trunk really adds to it.
Justin: Hands down, the scene in “Trust Me”, Episode Six, with Paige and Henry hitchhiking a ride with a random guy, eventually identified as Nick. With their parents on a mission, they were left stranded and needed a ride home, so Paige, the eldest, made an executive decision to flag down a car. From the minute they got inside that car, my heart was racing. Even though Nick seemed normal at first I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Would he rape them? Kidnap them? Straight up kill them? Was he FBI? KGB? WHAT IS HE??? He ends up driving them to a pond to feed ducks and offers Paige a beer while preaching about God and complimenting her on her looks. Henry, inheriting a keen sense of awareness from his dad, grabs a beer bottle and smashes Nick with it, leading to the kids running home. Even after that, when they returned home, I waited for Nick to show up and wreak havoc. He never did and was never mentioned again. That is why this show rocks: they took a typical TV trope, teased the shit out of it but let it rest with the torture of anticipation. My heart is racing again just thinking about it.
4. Which character will go through the biggest change in season two?
Jen: I think the biggest change is going to come from one of the ancillary characters, like Martha. I think Beeman is pretty set in his ways, although his wife might go a little crazy this season. The kids aren’t likely to change too much and I think we’ve seen the true colors of Elizabeth and Philip so I can’t see either of them doing a 180.
Chad: Paige Jennings. I enjoyed the restraint shown in season one with her not being able to uncover the true identity of her parents but I do think that is a narrative they will play up sooner rather than later and while I hope there isn’t a dumb mistake by Philip and Elizabeth that leads to this discovery, I do think an educated combining of clues to help Paige come to the decision and realization that her parents are KGB spies would be interesting television. Another facet of “The Americans” that really worked was the dynamic of the children and I think Paige’s increased presence and discovery in season two will be a season-long narrative.
Andrew: Elizabeth will go through the biggest change, partly because she has the most potential for it. The show started hinting at her wavering commitment to the mission towards the end of season 1, and I’m expecting that to grow in the upcoming episodes. Philip has been committed to Elizabeth all along, and now she has to decide what he means to her. And if one or both of the kids start getting suspicious, she will be questioning her identity as a mother as well.
Justin: Chad picked a good one in Paige, as she is the most obvious to go through change as she reaches adolescence and begins to really question what is really up in her household. The tease at the end of season one clearly set us up for some turmoil between mother and daughter, and he made a great point about strong women permeating the show. I also think Nina will go through some serious change as she will gain power within the KGB and harden her heart even more as she seeks retribution for the death of her friend.
5. Which known character will be the first to die in season two?
Jen: My gut is telling me Nina. She’s vulnerable and she’s not entirely careful.
Chad: Claudia. I will admit that I have cheated some on this one and do know that the executive producers have announced that Margo Martindale will return for multiple episodes. However, I don’t see her escaping the season unscathed partially because of her character arc so far and partially because of her other projects she has going on. I think a mid-season finale with Claudia’s death could provide the spark to ignite the thematic theme for the second half of the season.
Andrew: Martha. I don’t think she’ll be able to keep her secret marriage a secret, and Philip will have to deal with the threat that she will expose him.
Justin: I would say Claudia as well as it just makes the most sense logically, and even though this show likes to swerve us on occasion, it often pieces together logically. A prime example was the death of Amador. It was pretty shocking at the time, but the path was very clear that he was losing control of his judgment and was very likely to slip up and end up on the wrong side of a knife. I want to go really outside the box and say Martha, but I think she still has a big role left to play. Last season I thought Nina would be gone soon, but I have changed my mind there too as I think her importance will really ramp up as the season progresses. Claudia it is.
6. What role will Martha play in season two? Will she lead to Philip’s downfall?
Jen: I think Philip is going to entertain Martha as long as she is useful. I think she is going to come very close to being his downfall, whenever that happens. I can see her becoming a vengeful ex when he decides to end their marriage. So, back to my answer above to what character we’ll see go through the biggest change this season, I can see Martha turning around and being the exact opposite to how she is now when that happens. She’ll become a pretty big liability because she is so unstable.
Chad: I think Martha will be one of the most important characters of the entire series and that interests me to no end. They have provided some scenes where Beeman has had a heightened awareness and inquisitiveness about the Jennings but Martha remained the naive lover throughout season one. I do think in the end she will end up being detrimental to Philip’s identity and crucial to the end game of the series as a whole.
Andrew: I see Philip’s fake marriage to Martha continuing to be the counterpoint to his fake marriage to Elizabeth. Martha wants more than he give, and is always left wanting more. And while he wants something real with Elizabeth, he’s left waiting for her to figure out what she wants. As I mentioned above, I do think she’s going to cause problems for Philip, and she won’t make it through the season alive
Justin: Philip will continue to use her love against her and she will continue to be the saddest character on the show because everyone is in on the jig except her. It is like she is living in the Truman Show and when she finally discovers the truth shit is going to really go down. That is what makes me think she may bite the dust a lot sooner than expected, mainly because Philip can’t chance letting her live once her information channel dries up. However, two questions remain: will her information well dry before she finds out the truth and if she does discover the truth, will Philip have developed too many feelings to take her out before she rats him out?
7. Will Philip & Elizabeth reunite by the end of season two?
Jen: Elizabeth asked Philip to come home in the season finale, and based on everything that they went through that episode, I think he went home. Having Martha around is certainly going to complicate that though.
Chad: I do see them reuniting to provide a united front based on the turmoil they will be presented with not just on the work side of things but also at home. “We are better together than apart” is a narrative I can see being played up throughout the season and their relationship.
Andrew: I think they reunite early. The finale had them well on their way to reconciliation, and I don’t expect that to be derailed. I think the family drama this season will come more from the two figuring out their new relationship, along with some conflict with their children.
Justin: Yes, they will be forced to as things start to cave in on them a bit. With Gregory gone and Elizabeth having nearly died, the two will realize they are stronger together than divided. Plus, they will be forced to both keep an eye on the inquisitive Paige. I believe their feelings will rekindle, but their reunion will centered around their duties and loyalties to the homeland first and foremost.
8. Will Nina make it through season two alive?
Jen: Definitely not. She’s pretty vulnerable and she takes a lot of chances. She couldn’t handle being a spy for the Americans, how can she handle being a double agent?
Chad: This would be my choice for the final scene of season two and it will be used to the get the ball rolling on Beeman looking at his neighbors as suspects. Nina initially seemed like eye candy in the early going of season one, but she grew to be an integral character and held her own against great actors.
Andrew: I think the biggest threat to Nina is Beeman. The KGB seems content with her status as a double agent, at least for now. We’ve already seen Beeman commit one murder in a fit of anger, so Nina is certainly in danger when he finds out about her double cross. I don’t think she makes it through the whole season.
Justin: Yes. In season one I thought she was a goner for sure, but the way she flipped back to the motherland and felt completely stabbed in the back by Beeman when he murdered her friend for no reason. There was anger and hate in her eyes and I really think she ends up quickly ascending the KGB ranks and sticking around as the main foil for Beeman and ally to the Jennings into season three. Or maybe I am nuts.
9. In which episode of the season will the children finally find out about their parents’ true identity? Will it be just one of them or both that discover the truth?
Jen: I think if either of the kids finds out, it’s going to be the daughter, Paige. I don’t think it will be dragged out to the end of the season, and I highly doubt it will happen at the beginning. I’m going to go out on a limb and say it will be a good mid-season cliffhanger. Paige is very smart, and she has been suspecting that something has been going on all season. She’s finally starting to snoop as we saw in the season finale, so she’s bound to come across something.
Chad: I don’t think Henry will know by season’s end. I foresee Paige putting together the pieces of the puzzle at around episode 10 leading to a confrontation in one of the final episodes of the season. Women are at the forefront of “The Americans” and strong women seem to always play a critical role. I don’t see why this would be excluded in regard to Paige
Andrew: To me, that feels like a season finale kind of reveal. They were certainly focusing on Paige’s suspicions at the end of season one, and I do think she’ll continue questioning them over the course of this year. The hitchhiking incident planted the idea of the children keeping their own secrets from their parents, so I’d expect her to share her doubts with Henry at some point. On a whim, I’ll predict a swerve and that Henry finds out at the end of season two.
Justin: I think this becomes a slow piecing together of the puzzle by Paige. Within each trio of episodes, she finds out just a little bit more before finally, horrifyingly puts it all together at the end of the season. I agree with Chad that Henry will remain in the dark within this season but by season three it could be a full on revolt within the Jennings house.
10. Does Stan Beeman discover the true identity of the Jennings in this season?
Jen: I think Stan eventually figures it out, but I don’t think it will be this season. It’s an excellent idea for an arch for a season finale, maybe coming close to discovering their identities, but I don’t think it will happen this soon. Their relationship with Beeman is too important of a story line for it to end this soon.
Chad: If he does, I will say it is the final scene of the season. My money is on no though. This is a tricky situation and the creators and producers have painted themselves into a bit of a corner. A series has to tow the line between making the criminal and the law both looking competent in this time of series. I hope “The Americans” doesn’t fall into the same traps shows like “Dexter” did where it was impossible for people to be that naive and not the least bit suspicious of what Dexter is up to. I will say with the acceleration of stories and payoffs in the first season, I don’t think “The Americans” has a 6-7 season series in it. Building towards a stunning conclusion in five seasons still allows time for Beeman to be competent in his job and try to catch Philip and Elizabeth down the road.
Andrew: It’s possible, but I don’t think it’s likely. On the on hand, the longer he lives next to two Russian spies without figuring it out, the less believable it gets. But I can’t imagine a situation where he finds them out but doesn’t expose them, so his discovering their true identity almost certainly means the end of either the show or his character. It might be wishful thinking, but I’d like to see both come back for a third season.
Justin: Damn, I mean it seems like he has to at some point soon based on all the hints that are dropped and knowing how the writers work I think it happens sooner rather than later. I will say around episode ten he finds out and spends the last few episodes keeping the knowledge internal and plotting his course. In season three, we get the full on chase. And it will be epic.
11. On a scale of 1 to 10, how excited are you for tonight’s premier?
Jen: I’m going with an 11.
Chad: I am around a 9 on the excitement level. I can only think of “Mad Men” and last year’s “Breaking Bad” premiere as ones I was more looking forward to in recent memory. I sincerely hope and think “The Americans” can continue to build off the momentum of season one and remain on of the best dramas on television.
Andrew: I was probably a lot lower a week ago, but after going over season 1 and answering these questions, I’m up to a solid nine.
Justin: After writing this, it is now at a ten. It has been so long that I had forgotten how much I loved this show, but after rereading the recaps and re-immersing myself back into the storylines, I am really pumped up to dive back into this world now. I love the setting, the time period, the music, the ambiance and the characters. There isn’t one useless or underdeveloped character anywhere near this show right now. In season one it clicked on all cylinders. I hope they stay on track in season two.