In the wake of President Reagan’s “Evil Empire” speech last season on The Americans, the possibility that Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth Jennings’ (Keri Russell) true identities will be uncovered continues to mount in the fourth season.
“This is a season in which a lot of stuff is going to converge,” executive producer Joel Fields said at the Television Critics Association’s press tour on Saturday. “A lot of the ticking time bombs that were set in season 1 even are going to either have to be diffused or they’re going to go off.”
One of those time bombs is the fact that their daughter, Paige (Holly Taylor), immediately revealed to her pastor that her parents are Russians. Even into episode 9, which the series is currently shooting, “That debate still comes up in arguments,” Russell said. “There still is resentment between [them] and anger about, ‘You wanted to tell her, we should’ve known.’”
For her part, Russell said the upcoming season really opens up Elizabeth’s perspective on her family. “This season feels a lot, to me, about the emotional cost… of the choices over the last three years that they’ve [made],” the actress said. “There is a big opening for Elizabeth in a new way, especially with Paige and seeing how it’s affecting her. That’s a very parent thing — you try your best and think you know what’s right, but you have no idea how they’re going to react as an individual. There is a bigger sensitivity to the fragility of her family this season.”
What also doesn’t help: Philip’s loyalty to the cause has been wavering basically since the series began. “That’s certainly been a big question in their marriage, but ultimately he’s always chosen to put the marriage first and the family first,” Fields said. “One of the beautiful things about that relationship is, despite its conflict, they find a way to move forward together. This becomes a season about the consequences of their actions and what they do.”
With the new season focusing on “bio-weapons and the danger of them getting out and killing everyone on the planet,” Fields says those consequences are paramount. “For both of them, the danger of those bio-weapons is going to loom very large.” No pressure, but Elizabeth will also be running an operation “that’s going to challenge her in new and even more difficult ways,” Fields says, noting that Russell’s real-life pregnancy won’t be written into the show.
Given their current circumstances, recruiting Paige for the Second Generation Illegals program is less important now. “The game has certainly shifted in terms of parenting Paige,” Fields said. “The question of focusing on her recruitment is secondary to how to manage this family’s survival.”
There’s also the continued pressure that the FBI is quite literally across the street with Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich). “There’s an inevitably to the return of that dynamic, but I also think it will accelerate at what we hope is the right pace,” said Fields, who hinted that the growing relationship between Stan and the Jennings’ son, Henry, will play a big role this season. “[Henry’s] actually spending more time with his neighbor, which is both fun for us to play and a little subtly threatening for his family — and a little not so subtly threatening,” he said. “There will be more to do for him as the season unfolds.”
But Fields played coy on the fate of Nina Krilova (Annet Mahendru), who was sent back to Russia after failing to turn Stan against America. As part of her punishment, Nina was spying on scientist Anton Kalanov (Michael Aronov), whom she grew close to over the last season. “For a woman who has been experiencing the same cycles in her relationships, will those break?” Fields said. “Will she transform or not? And if she does, how will that play out?”
At some point, however, it seems inevitable that the Jennings won’t make it out of the espionage game unscathed, but when that actually happens is up in the air. “It feels like we’re coming toward the end of the second act,” Fields says of the show’s trajectory. “Whether it takes a fifth season or fifth and sixth season to tell that story we’ll discover… as we start to dig out of this season. We’ll do what’s right for the storytelling.”
The Americans will return on Wednesday, March 16 at 10 p.m. ET.