For four seasons now FX's 80s-set spy drama The Americans has detailed the ongoing adventures of the Jennings clan, presenting viewers with a veritable clinic on how to properly ratchet up tension on TV. The series has given stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys a chance to flex their acting muscles as a pair of spies trapped in an ever-tightening vice of international intrigue, as well as becoming one of the unlikeliest family units to ever gather 'round the dinner table for an excruciatingly awkward meal. The result, more often than not, has been one of the best series on television year in and year out.
Recently, along with the show receiving a trio of long-overdue Emmy nominations – for Outstanding Lead Actor and Actress in a Drama Series and Outstanding Drama Series – FX also announced that it had renewed the series for seasons 5 and 6, which would bring the story of The Americans to a close. The news was bittersweet, as it meant fans of the series would soon have to do without its Reagan-era covert shenanigans and razor-sharp domestic drama, but it also meant the series would be able afforded the chance to go out way the two guys steering the ship wanted.
Those two guys would be creator Joe Weisberg and his showrunning partner Joel Fields. With season 5 set to premiere in March 2017, the two spoke with EW about what lies ahead for the series' penultimate season, and why they are sticking to their guns when it comes to doling out high-stakes drama at the show's own deliberate pace. Weisberg even addressed those who have called the show a "slow burn," saying season 5 may burn even slower:
"People have called this show a “slow burn.” We used to think that was a back-handed compliment, or possibly even an insult. We’ve come to embrace the slow burn — such a slow burn that it may not even be burning at all. We’re just telling a story as it unfolds. For us, the penultimate season is just another season of telling a story of this family and the people around them. It’s not ramped up. It's not hyped up. It’s not building the tension — but it will be a great season."
While it sounds as though Weisberg is having a bit of fun with the concept of putting labels on TV shows, it is encouraging when he says he and Fields plan to tell the story as it unfolds, that "penultimate season is just another season of telling a story of this family and the people around them." This anti-hype approach to bringing a critical darling to its natural conclusion takes a lot of the pressure off – especially for those wondering how they'll manage 23 more episodes of Elizabeth and Philip working for the Soviet government under the nose of the FBI and countless others just waiting to interfere.
But the show's strong suit has always been examining the psychological toll the character's dual lives have taken on them. It will likely be an emotionally fraught two seasons, but if you are a fan of The Americans, you likely wouldn't want it any other way.
The Americans season 5 premieres in March 2017 on FX.