The Americans (Season 2)

(FX, Wednesdays 10/9 Central)

Feb 25, 2014 Web Exclusive
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Season one of The Americans presented everyone's favorite KGB agents (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys playing Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, respectively), living in deep cover in the D.C. suburbs in 1980's America. While the show featured plenty of tense spy hijinks and international intrigue, the show's surprising emotional core depended on the marriage of the two main characters. The Jennings' relationship might have started as a mission-centered requirement, but it grew into much more than that, lending a gravitas to a show that might have been a little overly pulpy otherwise.

With season two, The Americans has expanded that emotional corewhile Philip and Elizabeth's relationship has reached a sort of marital detente (pun fully intended), events in the first episodes of season two show an increasing sense of danger for the Jennings' children (played by Holly Taylor and Keidrich Sellati). Taylor's Paige is especially excellent, as she portrays an awkward preteen's entrance into adolescence with wonderful subtly, even as she's growing more and more certain her parents aren't quite what they claim to be. It leads to the most awkward walk-in-on-your-parents-having-sex scene of all time, but The Americans excels at making the Jennings kids into full-fledged characters, rather than convenient spy-accessories a lesser show could have kept them as.

Another horrifying event in the first episode of the second season is also setting up a theme of parental worryElizabeth, in particular, seems to be taken aback at her capacity for worrying about her kids, an excellent echo of her surprise at finding out she had feelings for Philip in season one. Elsewhere, FBI agent Stan Beeman (played with a sort of sleazy steeliness by Noah Emmerich) continues his relationship with his Russian informant, Nina (Annet Mahendru), who happens to also be a KGB informant. This keeps the show's conceit moving, but the real heart here is the Jennings family. It's what make The Americans a better show than most, and what keeps it a show to watch heading into its second season. (

Author rating: 8/10

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