'The Americans': The Private Lives of Spies

Keri Russel and Matthew Rhys in The Americans Season 2 Episode 2

[This is a review of The Americans season 2, episode 3. There will be SPOILERS.]


The core principle behind the Soviet Directorate S program, as depicted in The Americans, is to make the transition into American life by engaging in a façade so complete and outwardly flawless that no one would suspect deep cover Soviet spies were posing as an ordinary American couple. One of the key components to generating this veneer of sameness is to varnish it with a thick lacquer of the ordinary and the mundane that will give anyone taking a passing or prolonged glimpse absolutely no reason to pause and think about the inner workings of this predictably dull family. Of course, that means doing things that are expected of average, everyday Americans; namely, owning a home, working humdrum jobs, and, most importantly, having the requisite 2.3 children necessary for the prototypical nuclear family.

However, as season 2 has managed to demonstrate: that which creates the most convincing outward representation of a stable family unit (or a united front, as it were) is also what generates one of the most fear-provoking weaknesses in the whole ruse. The recently deceased Emmett and Leanne Connors were the progenitors of the Jenningses; they seemed to have had their convincing familial subterfuge up and running by the time Philip and Elizabeth first started trading pierogies for hot dogs. And now, with their mysterious murder still hanging in the air, the only surviving son of what could ostensibly be called the Jenningses "work friends" remains blissfully in the dark as to who his mother and father really were, despite Elizabeth being tasked with revealing the truth as far back as the late-'60s.

For all intents and purposes, 'The Walk In' demonstrates the way in which lies – or even their unconfirmed existence, the mere insinuation of them – can create undo interest or unrest in parties who otherwise should remain oblivious. It also presents, in a rather persuasive way (i.e., with a crowbar) how it is that such ignorance can work out for the betterment of those who're only tangentially involved. That could be anyone from the grieving Jared, to Derrick the factory worker, to, most troublingly, Paige, whose excursion to visit aunt Helen doesn't turn up the smoking gun of infidelity, or proof her parents aren't who they say they are she may not even know she's been looking for.

Noah Emmerich in The Americans Season 2 Episode 2

So far this season, Paige's suspicions have led to two incredibly uncomfortable confrontations with her parents; the latest has her father suggesting she bears the distinct mark of all "American youth": She does not value what she has. From Paige's perspective, though, she knows something's up; she's lost her bearing in some way. Like Henry, she's searching for true north, but her search is going to require more than a telescope and a star chart from a cereal box.

That abandonment of the uncomplicated reliance on her parents, as that thing she can always count on, hints at a widening schism in the Jennings clan that could potentially be more emotionally devastating than Stan Beeman at their door with a search warrant. Thankfully, Stan's preoccupied with his naïve "love" for Nina that has him crowing about possible medals for taking down Bruce Dameran before he could assassinate members of the World Bank. Stan may have seen through Dameran's plot, but when it comes to the women in his life, Agent Beeman remains blissfully unaware of the insanely complicated situation he's actually wallowing in.

With each passing episode, emotions and relationships have become more complicated across the board – leading to the season's best musical cue thus far with Peter Gabriel's 'Here Comes the Flood' – and proving once again, The Americans is pound for pound the best drama on television right now.


The Americans continues next Wednesday with 'A Little Night Music' @10pm on FX.

Photos: Craig Blankenhorn/FX

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