During the early days of its development, there was no reason to believe FX’s The Americans was going to be any good. But, despite those odds, the series audiences ended up getting was one of perfectly executed Hollywood trade craft – delivering some of the most relevant stories of our time despite the show’s Cold War setting. Now, after two seasons of gold, one must wonder if the series can continue the trend it’s been on since 2013. Well, if the first four episodes of season three have anything to say about it, the answer is a resounding yes.
Following the events of the season two finale, The Americans rejoins Elizabeth and Philip Jennings as they struggle with a new ultimatum that’s been laid before them by their commanders: whether or not to read in their daughter, Page, on the truth of her bloodline. The ultimate goal of this being to prep her for the time of one day becoming a “second generation illegal” capable of joining organizations such as the C.I.A. and F.B.I.. At the same time, Agent Beeman’s dealing with personal issues of his own while trying determine if a new variable at his job is whom they claim to be.
In a recent interview for the documentary Showrunners, Joss Whedon stated the ways in which he would push his writer’s room to chase moments instead of moves. Essentially saying his rooms would always push for scenes about characters over plot twists, something that’s proven to be The Americans’ biggest strength heading into its third year. Even though it’d be easy to fall back on the ideals of “the American government is closer than ever to learning the truth,” the show instead chooses to focus its stories on the war brewing within the Jennings family. Is Page becoming too engrossed in the “ideals of America?” Would bringing her into the spy life make Elizabeth and Philip bad parents? Is it possible to still fight for a country you haven’t stepped foot in, in over two decades? These are the questions The Americans is choosing to ask this year, and the show’s better for it.
However, the show isn’t without its drama and stakes. The Jennings are still dealing with high risk missions that could (and do) go bad at a moment’s notice, Beeman’s still always just one step away from figuring everything out and tension between the U.S. and Soviet Union is still at an all time high stateside. That said, though, the show never uses these elements to create a series that moves things too much too fast. Instead, all the stories are taken to their natural conclusion which can sometimes take an act, sometimes an episode and sometimes three. It’s long form story-telling done right.
There’s really no reason The Americans should have become FX’s new hit series and one of the best show’s on television, but it has, and there’s no reason we’re going to complain about it now. Despite all odds, the show has managed to maintain its footing in its new season, and there’s no reason to rock the boat. All we can do now is hope the series continues on the track it’s put itself on in the first third of its new season and deliver on the quality we’ve come to expect.
The Americans premieres Wednesday, January 28th at 10/9c on FX