Is the period of peace in Philip and Elizabeth Jennings’ marriage over?
RELATED | FX Renews The Americans For Season 3
On Wednesday’s Season 2 finale of The Americans, the husband and wife spies found themselves at odds after it was revealed that Jared killed his own family over a disagreement with his parents about his true nature: He was a KGB operative, seduced into the life by handler Kate, which they did not support.
Now, the Center wants Philip and Elizabeth to tell Paige the truth about themselves and begin her training as a second generation spy. While Philip is staunchly against the idea, going so far as to issue an in-person warning to Rezidentura head Arkady, his wife recognizes that their daughter is searching for a purpose.
Meanwhile, Nina finds herself headed back to Russia when Stan fails to give up the Echo program.
Below, executive producers Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg discuss the Jennings’ growing marital division, Nina’s status on the show, the shocking Jared reveal and more.
TVLINE | Season 1 was very much about Philip and Elizabeth’s marriage, while Season 2 brought more of their family into focus. What’s the theme for Season 3?
JOE WEISBERG | We ended up there, as you see at the end of Season 2, with a little bit of a growing disagreement about what they’re going do with Paige. So it’s going continue to have a lot of focus on the family and what to do and growing divisions. Their marriage has been going very well, and they’re very much in love. What happens now when you have serious conflict with your partner about what to do and how to deal with raising your children?
TVLINE | Elizabeth and Philip were pretty united this season, compared to last season. But now they’re on opposing sides of this Paige issue.
JOEL FIELDS | That’s right. In the first season, the show was able to explore the question of marriage and what is marriage and is their marriage real after all these years? By the end of that first season, the question was answered with Elizabeth’s, “Come home.” The second season explored the challenges of them as a committed married couple dealing with the implications of their work and their lying on their children, their family life. What’s suggested for the third season that’s interesting to us is: Now what happens to people who are committed to being married who do want to make it work, who do love each other and yet, who find themselves [with] opposing world views about the most important thing in their lives? How do you get over that level of conflict in a marriage?
TVLINE | Even if they agreed on it, I can’t imagine that Paige would willingly go along with the plan.
FIELDS | [Laughs] She does seem to be her own person, and she’s a teenager to top it off.
TVLINE | When Philip goes to see Arkady, is that the first time they’ve ever seen each other?
FIELDS | That’s right, yeah. They would never meet. It’s a highly risky and unapproved act on his part.
WEISBERG | They’ve only ever seen each other in their peripheral vision.
TVLINE | I imagine that’s going to have to impact Philip and Elizabeth next season, because he does something pretty big there to get his point across.
WEISBERG | Well, if you’re Philip and Elizabeth Jennings and you’re the prize assets of the KGB, what’s interesting is that you can really get away with certain things. I mean, what are they going to do? Are they going to fire you? You’re too valuable to fire. So I think Philip understands that.
FIELDS | We might think about it in the following sports analogy. I’m about to mangle a sports analogy. [Laughs] Imagine Philip and Elizabeth are the superstar players on a basketball team – the most prized, incredible star players on that team. And imagine that their handler – whether it’s Kate or Claudia or Gabriel – is the coach. They’re important and they are very prized, but [the coaches have] to learn how to control those star players. It’s usually the coach who will get bumped before the star player. And then imagine the Rezidentura is the owner’s box.
TVLINE | Speaking of handlers, is Claudia now their handler again since Kate is dead?
WEISBERG | No, she’s not officially their handler. She’s coming in on a temporary basis as needed.
RELATED | FXX’s Legit and FX’s Chozen Cancelled
TVLINE | Are we going to see a new handler for them next season then?
FIELDS | We’ll see. We’ve certainly been talking about it. But that said, we also love the character of Claudia and we love Margo [Martindale]. Fortunately, the team at CBS and The Millers has been very generous and supportive of letting her continue on in some capacity, so we hope to see more of her as well.
TVLINE | The Jared reveal was so shocking and heartbreaking. What do you think Philip and Elizabeth learned from that ordeal?
FIELDS | It’s a nuanced question, because there are so many levels at which Philip and Elizabeth can learn things. They’re such emotionally inarticulate and out-of-touch characters that, in a lot of ways, the things that we would think they learned the most, that could have the greatest impact on a subconscious level, they probably can’t articulate or fully be aware of. One of the obvious ones is the potential result of the life of lies that they live in their family is catastrophic. They’ve now seen firsthand and real large the possible outcome of all of that in the worst way.
WEISBERG | And how they’re going to learn that and when, how that’s going process through them – the same or differently or at what speed – is part of our story to tell.
TVLINE | Was Jared always the killer from the very beginning?
FIELDS | Yeah, he was always the killer. From the first moments we broke that story, we knew that was the character story we wanted to tell. If you look at that first episode, you’ll notice for example, you never see Jared inside that hotel room and discovering the body. You just see what turns out to have been his performance outside in the hallway. All of those were conscious choices along the way.
TVLINE | Did the actor know?
FIELDS | He knew eventually. Uncharacteristically for us, that was something that Joe and I talked a lot about and decided to not share with him until the final third of the season when he had to start playing the reveal.
TVLINE | He played the sad Jared very well.
FIELDS | Yeah, we decided that part of the story was that he was such a good actor, he would be able to hold that back. However, we told all the directors. Even in that first episode, where the actor Owen Campbell didn’t know, Tommy Schlamme, who directed that episode, he knew the whole story. He was able to guide the actor in the right direction. And then, as we said, when we got to the final third of the season, we brought him in and told him everything he needed to know.
TVLINE | Did Stan’s love of country outweigh his love for Nina? Or did he suspect that she wasn’t being completely honest with him?
WEISBERG | This is one of those questions that we love to not answer because we want people to come up with their own answers. I will say that as we tried to develop that story, we did see in our minds that the most interesting dilemma for Stan to face was if he was in love and had to make a choice between that and [being a] patriot and a man true to his country. But on what level, even an unconscious level, he might’ve suspected something funny was going on, that is an interesting question to ponder. We had that dream sequence where he saw Vlad having sex with his wife. In his unconscious mind, Martha was stealing files from the mail robot, which goes to show that Stan is still a good detective in his subconscious.
FIELDS | And even in his conscious subconscious, seeing Vlad have sex with his wife, what would a good analyst say about who and what his wife represents and what Vlad represents? And to what extent does that mean that somewhere very deep in his subconscious he has his suspicions about Nina? Who knows? But ultimately, it seems like it was a pretty patriotic sacrifice — at least on the face of it — but there should be a lot buried underneath.
TVLINE | Oleg warned Nina that if Stan didn’t come through, she needed to run. Is there a reason why she didn’t? Was it just not feasible?
WEISBERG | In our minds, she could’ve at least tried to run. We didn’t try to set it up that she couldn’t have had a chance of getting out. So much of the character of Nina and her choices is complex and open to interpretation, so we’re sort of reluctant to give a final answer as to why, but we think it was a very powerful and interesting choice. But at the moment, it is not working out.
FIELDS | Look, had Stan given up the Echo program, it would’ve been very wise of her not to run. It’s easy after seeing what happened to say, “Well, why didn’t she run?’ But had he given up the Echo program, and [had she tried] to disappear into Canada with $3,000 in cash, she wouldn’t look so smart when she could have gotten the big promotion inside the KGB and been a hero. Part of what’s interesting about Nina is that she’s managed to dance on this tightrope for two seasons now and avoid going too much in the wrong way. Well, it’s easy to think that that’s because you always know the right answer. But in this case, it doesn’t seem to have gone the way she would’ve hoped.
TVLINE | Will Nina will still be part of the show next season, even though she’s being carted off back to the motherland?
FIELDS | Yes.
TVLINE | Will we see her back in Russia, or is she going to find some way to stay in the states?
WEISBERG | She’s in a car on the way to the airport. It’s hard to turn that car around. We’ll put it that way.