When describing FX's The Americans, it's been said more than once that the family that spies together, stays together. But what happens when one of them stops spying? That's how things pick up as the final season of the outstanding drama begins.
Years after the events of the Season 5 finale, which saw Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) nearly go back to Russia before changing their minds and remaining in America for one last mission, Philip has finally escaped the family business, dropping out of espionage and picking up the family coverup business of being a travel agent. But Elizabeth, who has always been more committed to the cause of Mother Russia, is still spying strong.
Sure, finding the perfect vacation package to Greece can be stressful, but when compared to the physical and mental demands of being a covert agent in enemy territory, it's nothing to complain about. What's more, an ideological divide appears to have formed between the couple as Elizabeth is more devoted to the job than ever before, while Philip is less concerned about the Cold War and more occupied with leading a normal life. Unfortunately, this divide will chip away at the Jennings' marriage, despite the relationship having been bolstered to its strongest point in Season 5.
"When we join Philip and Elizabeth in the beginning of Season 6, the chasm [between them] is enormous, and that's because Elizabeth has remained true to her mandate," Rhys told TV Guide earlier this year. "Whereas we've seen in the [previous] five seasons, Philip has wavered from his initial indoctrination and kind of questioned who he is."
Of course, Philip won't stay away from spying for long, something which could create even more conflict for the two as some of the things Philip is assigned may go against what Elizabeth is trying to accomplish. This push-pull within the Jennings marriage, as well as the questions of compromise and solidarity, keep the relationship grounded in a relatable reality, despite the couples' extraordinary circumstances.
"I think all of those things are incredibly real and relevant in relationships," Russell told TV Guide, "and that's just the place they start in this season."
Adding to the marital stress, this season finds Paige (Holly Taylor) continuing her education into espionage with her mother. While this creates a bond between the Jennings women, it also pulls Paige away from her dad, creating further strife within the family.
"Elizabeth continues her training of Paige and spending time teaching her about everything, culture and history and also what she does, to some degree, [but] I don't think she lets her in on everything at this point," Russell says. "Their relationship gets much closer and it puts a strain on Philip and Elizabeth, and Paige and Philip, and leaves Philip out of a lot of the intimacies that the women are sharing."
As always The Americans, the FX drama will also explore how real world events affect this family in the final season, which is set when the Cold War was approaching new levels with Mikhail Gorbachev, glasnost and Perestroika threatening the stability of the Soviet Union.
"The current political climate of 1987 is woven heavily into the final season, so much so that it genuinely affects Philip and Elizabeth's marriage and stability in the relationship at many times," Rhys explained. "It's great, it's always grounded in these very real events that bizarrely affect this TV marriage, where you kind of think, 'Wow, they're being affected by glasnost and Perestroika.' It's a very clever way to bring conflict into a TV drama."
"When there's social anxiety and social unrest, it's hard to ignore it, and you do take it in. It makes you more on edge, and your anxiety at home grows," Russell said. "This whole idea that Elizabeth is still fighting for this thing back home that is possibly not there anymore creates so much stress, and certainly stress between the partnership."
The Americans' final season premieres Wednesday, Mar. 28 at 10/9c on FX.