The producers of “The Americans” could be forgiven for sounding a bit sheepish. Not only is the FX drama about Cold War-era Soviet spies returning amid a new wave of talk about Russian contact with the Trump campaign, but the network scheduled a conference call with reporters for Thursday, before the latest revelations and allegations surfaced.
Showrunners Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields said they are currently filming the Season 5 finale, and have blocked out a sixth and final season of the program. Although they acknowledged that reality has in ways intruded on their drama about a bygone period, they stressed that recent headlines have not impacted their plans for the show.
Weisberg — who worked for the CIA in the 1990s, before becoming a novelist and TV writer — said the producers actually came up with an ending during the second season, and “to our great surprise, that idea has stuck.”
As for what’s happening now, he said, “Nothing about the current situation, insane though it is, is going to alter it.” There was no interest, for example, in incorporating any references to Russian leader Vladimir Putin, who would have been a relatively low-level KGB agent when the series’ narrative unfolds in the 1980s.
The new season picks up with spies Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) in the midst of an elaborate sting, requiring the customary alter egos (and yes, wigs). The primary thrust of the storytelling, though, involves their teenage daughter Paige (Holly Taylor), who is aware of her parents’ secret identities, and has even seen mom violently put those skills to use.
The knowledge is clearly wearing on the girl, who their overlords have expressed interest in seeing go into the family business. The tension is heightened by Paige’s relationship with the boy across the street, who happens to be the son of Stan (Noah Emmerich), an FBI agent the couple has befriended.
What has consistently made “The Americans” a far richer show as it has progressed (which included earning the Writers Guild of America award as best TV drama last month) is the many layers upon which it operates. That includes the continuing storyline of Soviet bureaucrat Oleg (Costa Ronin), who has returned to Russia, which he finds rife with corruption.
Given where the history leads, with the Berlin Wall coming down in 1989, there are already signs of a Soviet state cancerously eating itself from the inside.
Even if the present-day Russian coverage hasn’t impacted the series, Fields noted that it would likely inform the way the audience perceives it. “We’re more and more aware that it’s going to affect viewers’ experience watching the show,” he said.
FX’s two-season renewal of “The Americans” (never much of a ratings hit, even with its accolades) has afforded the writing team the luxury to craft and build toward an appropriate and hopefully satisfying ending.
Whatever they come up with for a finale, at this point, the present-day truth could wind up being stranger than their historical fiction.
“The Americans” premieres March 7 at 10 p.m. on FX.