Yesterday, I reviewed the finale of the freshman season of The Americans, and though I noted my appreciation for the outstanding acting, as well as the complicated relationship drama, I did express some disappointment with the open-ended nature of the finale. But the more I’ve read about the showrunners (Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields) intentions for the season — to kind of subvert the contemporary dramatic formula and eschew cliffhangers and twists — the more I’ve come to appreciate this season of The Americans for what it is: A show about a marriage between two spies set in 1981, instead of a show about espionage between married spies set in 1981. The story that Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields want to tell is one about a relationship trying to overcome very high-stakes obstacles, and but the high-stakes obstacles are secondary to the marriage.
Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields made the rounds yesterday, talking with several Internet out fits about this season’s finale, about Margo Martindale’s inclusion going ahead, and about their plans for season two. I’ve rounded up the best bits of four interviews, and spliced them together to succinctly answer our most pressing questions.
1. On how much of the season was planned out ahead of time (via Huffpo):
We did have so much planned out at the beginning and so many places we wanted to go. And a bunch of those places stayed, a bunch of them got modified and a bunch went away completely. And yet even the things that we set out to do that we did exactly, there’s still so much improvisation to get there. There’s no straight line, in any event. You’re zigging and you’re zagging and you’re moving the pieces and you’re doing it all out of breath, on the fly.
2. On whether it ended the way they’d planned for it to end (via Salon):
A lot of things about where Phil and Elizabeth’s story ended changed, whereas Stan and Nina ended up in a place very close to where we thought they would.
3. On the fate of Nina and Martha (via Hitfix):
With Nina and Martha, we really knew where we were going. Although the way those stories played out was slightly different, they ended up as we originally broke them. Joe and I have really enjoyed reading the reviews, the critiques, the blogs, the emails and the Twitter feed during the episodes, and part of the fun has been watching everybody wait breathlessly for Nina or Martha to get it. We hadn’t really planned on making the audience expect that to happen. We didn’t think of that. There’s a certain fun in people expecting it to go differently.
It’s disturbing to think that Leslie Moonves may be in charge of the KGB in 1981. Boy, we love Margo. She’s so talented, and she’s so wonderful in that role. Sooner or later, we think Claudia should be in the show.
We’re secretly working to destroy that show … in conjunction with the KGB.
5. On going forward with a smaller ensemble cast, especially after the deaths of two minor characters this season (via Hitfix):
You want to be able to tell very emotional, meaningful, dramatic stories right out of the gate. I think, though, that we have to expand the world at the same time, both to fill in the holes that those characters left and to make the world a little broader and bigger as we go forward, just so it isn’t too small.
6. On why the damn wigs never fall off (via Hitfix)
I’m going to give you two words and a phrase: “clips,” “glue” and “a suspension of disbelief.” And you can arrange those three however you like.
7. On Paige’s final scene (via Huffpo):
With anything like that, we consider 10 possibilities … And with that, it was everything from, “There’s no such scene,” to, “She finds their guns and wigs.” And eight things in between were discussed. And we hope we found just the right thing. We found, for us, what we felt was the right thing … It came down to even editing that scene different ways, to where she’s looking at the panel [behind the washing machine], or she was just looking vaguely in that direction or…
8. On whether Phillip and Elizabeth’s marriage will continue to fall apart and come back together in season two (via Huffpo):
Yeah, I think you can’t keep doing that … [but] It’s hard to imagine The Americans without the marriage being the center of it.
9. On how long before Stan figures out that the Jennings are Russian spies (via Huffpo):
I noticed this last week that one of our regular reviewers wrote that there’s only so [long that Stan can't notice what the Jennings are up to]. Stan becomes stupid after a while if he’s not onto them. And I sort of half agree with that but half disagree. We have control over doling out what we dole out to Stan before he becomes stupid, and we can dole it out at whatever pace we want.
10. On why there was no real cliffhanger (via Salon):
We always kept returning to the characters and themes we wanted to explore. And we felt like we didn’t want to be drawn into a series of breathless cliffhanger escalation, episode after episode, that we had to keep topping. We wanted to do something that, as crazy as this world is, felt grounded for the characters. And particularly in the finale we wanted to do that.
11. On what to expect next season (via Salon)
We haven’t gotten that far into thinking about the second season yet in a really concrete way, but one thought we have is we want to get a little deeper into the family, and the child relationships.
12. But, will we explore Stan’s backstory next season (via Slate):
This season we did write a whole episodic story that explored that part of Stan’s past. Then we decided that it wasn’t right to do it in the first season. We got through that process learning a lot about what we believe is that backstory and what drives him. I’m sure we’ll get to it.