(CBR) – Being stuck in the “80s has rarely been more entertaining than in FX”s “The Americans.” And over the course of the spy drama”s second season, everything from stealth plane technology to the early threads of the Iran-Contra affair have wormed their way into the lives of the Jennings family.
At the heart of the series, actor Matthew Rhys” Philip Jennings has spent the year juggling the murder of his spy friends, tensions over wife Elizabeth”s (Keri Russell) honey-trapping ways and the teenage rebellion of his daughter. In advance of the season finale, Spinoff Online spoke with the actor as part of a press call to discover how the episode will divide Philip and Elizabeth, what personal dangers lie in a spy”s double life and how the seduction game isn”t for everyone.
“There is an enormous about-turn in the last episode that I think keys up the third season beautifully in a way that”ll bring in a greater conflict of Philip and Elizabeth,” the actor explained. “Having seen them separated for the majority of the first season because of what they were going through and then reunited for the second season, what happens at the end of the finale is, I think, going to bring such division to the two of them and will be very interesting to see how they play out.
“I think what”s so great about this season is the sort of continuity of a storyline within every episode, and the great danger off of a rogue force that they find uncontrollable,” he added of the mystery of who killed a pair of Russian agents that”s plagued the Jennings as well as a rogue CIA agent hell-bent on revenge. “I think it plays beautifully to their paranoia as a lifestyle that they can”t sustain, because they realize how dangerous their lives are becoming. Their shooting at the end of Season 1 gave way to this –– the killing of the family, beginning of the second season; they realize that they”re very fallible, they”re not untouchable and that”s going to be a great set to them.”
Of course, despite their united front this season, there is still a multitude of problems in the Jennings marriage. A huge part of the conflict stems from Elizabeth”s devotion to the Communist cause, but there are more traditional problems too, including Philip”s tension over his wife”s adept ability at “honey trapping” – sleeping with contacts to gain an intelligence edge.
“I think it shows quite clearly that he doesn”t fit well with the honey trapping now,” Rhys said of his attempt this year to manipulate his own contact in the bedroom. “Season 1 was seeing how the two of them developing these real feelings changed the game for them in Season 2. These real emotions have developed for the pair of them, and now certainly, the conflicts between that and their mission statement, their mandate, it makes for very difficult. Although it”s interesting dramaturgically – the difficult situations whereby the thought of Elizabeth honey trapping – it preys on him enormously, and that”s why he chose to use Annalise because his feelings have evolved and grown so much, and are now very real.”
On the other hand, Philip continues his long-term use of FBI secretary Martha, for whom he”s been playing the role of mysterious husband all year. “It”s bizarre because obviously there”s an ulterior motive. The other thing I struggle with is, I find myself in these situations doing these scenes with Martha, and you kind of think, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is so bizarre!” But the bizarre element is that this was an incredibly successful operation for the KGB and something they advocated enormously, which was the partnerships with managers of low-level security cleared staff that they could infiltrate. This is something very real and very true.
“But the motivation is different, it”s twofold in a way, I think,” the actor continued. “One is obviously to gain intelligence, but also if this relationship goes awry then his whole identity is compromised as is his family. Therefore the stakes are incredibly high. It”s a real tightrope walk for him in that he either has to be real, because it inevitably will and has turned into a real relationship, but he also has to remember what he needs to succeed in doing is: A) getting information; and B) not blowing his cover. It”s a knife”s edge for him, something I”d imagine causes a number of ulcers.”