Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys
[Warning: This story contains major spoilers from the season finale of The Americans. Read at your own risk!]
The constant threat of being caught working as a Russian spy is nothing compared to the new challenge that Phillip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) will face on The Americans in Season 3: The Second Generation Illegals Program.
Upon learning that fellow spies Emmett and Leanne Connors were killed by their own son Jared — not the vindictive Larrick (Lee Tergesen) — after the Rezidentura enlisted him to join the program without the Connors' approval, it wasn't long before Phillip and Elizabeth were also contacted to bring their budding daughter Paige (Holly Taylor) into the fold. While Phillip went straight to Arkady (Lev Gorn) to make his unhappiness known, Elizabeth actually contemplated letting Paige enter the espionage game; after all, the teen did spend all of Season 2 proving that she has the gusto to fight for what she believes in. How will this new twist affect the Jennings' relationship? TVGuide.com caught up with executive producers Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg to get the scoop on Season 3:
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Did you know from the beginning that Jared was the one who killed his parents?
Joel Fields: When we pitched the season at the beginning of the year, Joe and I had a lot of conversations in the writers' room, and we had this big teleconference with everybody from the studio and network in L.A. Unbeknownst to us, the air conditioning was broken in the teleconference room. So we started to get into Season 2 pretty enthusiastically, though always neurotically nervous, and they seemed to be nodding, but they also seemed to be getting more and more uncomfortable. We found out afterwards that it started at about 90 degrees, but with 20 people in the room, it was 130 degrees. We got through the whole pitch and did not reveal who the killer was, and they were like, "Who killed them?" And we told them. We're always open to deviating from our plan as we move forward, but this is one that stuck and never really varied over the course of the season.
Joe Weisberg: It's a story we really believed in because it made emotional sense to us on every level and that's why we did it. It's funny, the whole season we were waiting and watching to see if anybody is going to get onto it. When you know it, you're worried that maybe it's visible and people are going to figure it out. We were nervous because we didn't want the surprise spoiled.
Fields: We didn't want the audience to be ahead of Phillip and Elizabeth.
That all leads to the Second Generation Illegals Program. Phillip and Elizabeth are already disagreeing about this, so could this drive a wedge between them?
Weisberg: Ever since we shot this finale, I've been thinking that when The Americans is long over, I will indelibly have in my head the looks between Phillip and Elizabeth after the subject comes up and the dialogue is over. They convey so much with those looks. That's what those looks are, a wedge.
Fields: What people can anticipate is that there's a whole new level of conflict and challenge that Phillip and Elizabeth are going to have to navigate with each other, with their bosses at the Rezidentura and with their children. Among all of that, they're still fighting a war behind enemy lines.
Phillip has already threatened the Rezidentura to stay away from Paige. The Americans started off with him considering leaving the KGB. Could this be the catalyst for him to once again consider that?
Weisberg: We don't want to tip what's going to come, so I'm going to say that there are so many potential and possible extreme and intense emotional reactions to that storyline. Honestly, I don't think we even know what they all could be.
Fields: I would just add that during the first season the show explored the sense of a fake marriage and how the people in the fake marriage were coming to terms with whether or not they wanted to have a real marriage. The second season has really been about how they chose a real marriage and dealing with family together. Going forward now, there's an opportunity to explore what happens when there is genuine conflict between individuals who are truly married and want to be married. That's a very universal story. As often is the case on this show, the stakes are much, much higher than they are for the average married person.
You've been building up to Paige really fighting for what she believes in, to the point where she often got annoying this season. Thank you for even having Phillip mention that he wanted to punch her in the face. Was this all so she could feasibly accept her parents being spies?
Fields: Anything is possible.
Weisberg: Yeah, from the end of the first season in that laundry room scene, that was going to be a big part of the story moving forward with her getting more suspicious of them and questioning them. She has a combination of angst and anger at her parents that any teenager has, but with this very unusual twist that the secret that her parents are keeping from her is a one-in-a-billion secret, which she has no way of knowing. Where that's going to go next season, [will we] take the further steps of her getting closer to the truth, or will [Philip and Elizabeth] get out of it? That's now up for grabs in a way that we think is very exciting.
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Over the last two seasons, the enemy has been an outside force, like the FBI or Larrick this season. Will next season be more about the inside force of the Rezidentura since they want Paige?
Weisberg: Our way of looking at it is there has usually been both. There's also been inside conflict in the marriage and the threat that you can bring the walls down by yourself in so many different ways, like when they split up in that first season. The relationship between internal and external threats is one of the interesting things in the life of spies.
The FBI seemed to get a little bit closer this season. How long can you feasibly keep them from discovering the truth about Phillip and Elizabeth?
Weisberg: Well, they're pretty well-hidden, so how could they possibly be found? That's part of the genius of an illegal. They're hidden in plain sight. There's no reason to even look at them.
What challenges lie ahead for Phillip in this balancing act that he has with Martha (Allison Wright)?
Weisberg: Now he has to not get shot by her. That's new. It's always scary when your wife gets a gun, but when you're playing a long con on her, it's really bad news. I'm a lot more worried about him now. It does seem like things have gotten a little harder for him to manage.
Nina (Annet Mahendru) was on the way to being taken back to Russia, but Oleg (Costa Ronin) had given her money, leaving open the possibility that she could escape. Is that a possibility? Are we going to see what ended up happening to her?
Fields: We're not letting go of Nina's story. She's really become an important part of the show. We will see what's going to happen to her.
Weisberg: I think that was a very wordy yes. [Laughs]
Can you talk about why Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich) decided against helping Nina? Was it out of a sense of dedication to his country?
Weisberg: We think it's so open to interpretation in who this guy is and who this guy is becoming.
Fields: It didn't feel credible that Stan Beeman, of all people, would actually betray his country. By the time we got to the end of the season, the challenge we were facing was, "How can we explore this path when he obviously wouldn't betray his country?"
Weisberg: If he had gone ahead and delivered that Echo information, I don't know that anybody at that point would have trouble believing that. It might've been like, "Wow, what are you going to do with Stan next season?!"
Will Oleg be back next season?
Fields: We expect to see more of Oleg. He's turned into a really compelling and interesting guy. There are a lot of these guys that you meet like Oleg and you think they're arrogant and obnoxious, but often there's a lot of substance beneath somebody like that. You just have to get to know them better or see them in a situation where they're tested a little bit more.
Margo Martindale is still on The Millers, but can we expect to see more of Claudia next season?
Fields: We hope so. We love her as a person, we love her as an actor and we love that character, and she's certainly in [the Jennings'] world.
What did you think of The Americans' season finale? Do you want to see Paige join the Second Generation Illegals Program? Hit the comments!