Season 2 of "The Americans" is about more than KGB spies and sex in bars. The critically-acclaimed FX show starring Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as undercover Soviet operatives who pose as travel agents in mid-'80s Washington, D.C. returns for a second season on Feb. 26. Season 1 introduced viewers to Elizabeth and Philip Jennings' intricate web of lies. But Season 2 will further complicate the deceptive honey trappings, geopolitical conflicts and -- oh yeah -- those insane wigs.
On a recent visit to "The Americans" set in Brooklyn, executive producer Joel Fields and members of the cast spoke freely about the portrayal of women, sex and violence in Season 1 and what we can expect from the super secretive Season 2.
Elizabeth turns her focus to her family. She wants to be a better parent.
At the end of Season 1, viewers saw Elizabeth (Keri Russell) get shot and since then, she's been in recovery. Russell teased that in one of the opening scenes of Season 2, she's in a dramatic, messy and violent scene. "She spends all these months away and just wants to get back because it's [her son] Henry's birthday," she said. "She's involved in this really sketchy scene and that's her entrance back into reality, but then they're like, 'Oh, it's good to be home for his birthday.'" In another early scene in Season 2, Russell said Elizabeth does something "really hardcore" to her daughter Paige. "It involves waking her up and making her clean in the middle of the night," she said. "The direction was like, 'Yeah, just a Russian mother." Even though this doesn't sound like the best parenting advice, she's trying.
Stan is lonely as hell, and his relationship with Nina probably won't end well.
Noah Emmerich, who plays the Jennings' neighbor and FBI agent on the hunt for Russian spies, Stan, insisted his character is not a bad guy, despite starting an affair with his Soviet informant, Nina (Annet Mahendru). "He's a victim of circumstance to some degree," Emmerich said on set. But after he began his sexual relationship with Nina, Stan kept more and more secrets from his wife and son. "In Nina, he encounters someone who's equally sort of lonely and isolated in a foreign land," he said. "The first thing that draws Stan into that possibility is the sense of being known, of being seen, of a shared experience, which we all need in life. Stan is drowning in a sea of loneliness and he bumps into a fellow traveler and they hold onto each other."
Curious teenagers cannot be stopped.
Paige knows something is up. At the end of Season 1, viewers saw her poking through her parents' things, hoping to find some answers. "In Season 2 it picks up and I just become more and more curious," Holly Taylor, who plays Paige, said. "It's kind of really suspicious that my parents are travel agents and they're out at 4 a.m." She comes into her own and questions everything. "Paige can't cope with the fact that she doesn't know what's going on. It's really frustrating for her." If Paige finds out her whole life is a lie, who knows what she'll do or who she'll tell.
KGB sex training was real and would have impacted both Elizabeth and Philip.
When asked why the creators wrote Elizabeth's rape scene into Season 1, executive producer Joel Fields said, "On some level, both of these characters are sexual abuse victims." During this time period, the KGB had extensive sex training for both male and female spies and Fields and creator Joe Weisberg felt it was in keeping with reality. "The show, in not too overt a way, but certainly in the second season, deals with the dynamic of sexuality in marriage, the sexuality in relationship and sexuality that's challenged by past and current other experiences."
Things get messier.
It's clear that in the beginning of Season 2, Elizabeth and Philip are trying to find their footing. After Elizabeth's injury, she's just not all there yet. "I think she's faltering and I think in the first half of the second season, she's definitely not on her game," Russell said. As Elizabeth and Philip try to mend their marriage and make it real for the first time, their comfort levels seem to change. "There's the other thing of really being in love with someone and then having to constantly use your sexuality for someone else," Russell said. "I don't think she's so comfortable in that anymore."
Women will continue to kick all the ass.
Margo Martindale will be back to reprise her role as Claudia, the Jennings' KGB handler, and Elizabeth is bearing down, despite her earlier missteps. "The Soviets were matriarchal in their outlook," Mathew Rhys said. "[Russia] was always referred to as the Motherland, you know? So, it's incredibly feminine and was viewed incredibly strong."
The sex gets sexier ... and maybe a little kinky.
Hair and wardrobe must perform miracles in order to get those crazy wigs to stay on the actors' heads, especially in the sex scenes. But, Russell teased that while Elizabeth and Philip become closer, her character gets intrigued by her husband's disguises. "She's like, 'What do you mean that you do that with this person? What does that person like? Why don't you do that with me? It's this weird blurry thing that happens.'"
Forget everything else. "The Americans" is really about Elizabeth and Philip.
"At the end of the day, it's a character show," Fields said. "The spy stories that we have, we want them to be interesting and engaging and to heighten the stakes, but they're really there to amplify the character dynamics."
"The Americans" Season 2 premieres Wednesday, Feb. 26 at 10 p.m. EST on FX. Season 1 is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.