In its debut season, The Americans was one of the most unheralded surprises of the TV season. The Americans didn’t come close to reinventing the wheel, but it wasn’t trying to either. What it was, was a solidly paced and impeccably acted example of what a thriller can be on television. While the second season of The Americans certainly upped the anti with its deeper exploration of family and sexuality, it lost a little of what made the show great in the first place, especially its pacing.
The second season of The Americans continues with Elizabeth and Peter (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys respectively) continuing to live in America as KGB operatives. When one of their missions put their children in direct risk they begin to think about their life in a whole new way. Meanwhile, Nina (Annet Mahendru) begins working as a triple agent as she tries to breakdown the FBI through Agent Beeman (Noah Emmerich). Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg continue as showrunners.
While a lot of the material covered in this season of The Americans could have been used for shock value (the deeper exploration of Elizabeth and Peter’s sexuality or their kids being put in direct danger), Fields and Weisberg smartly used it only to further the characterization of our main characters. The episodes that explored these plotlines were easily the strongest of the season as they never took the easy way through the episode while also providing great material for Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys (who is really growing into the role). At the same time, Fields and Weisberg allowed just enough of the shock nature of these developments to invade the show to make it seem like it was doing things that no other show on television was doing.
Unfortunately, the episodes that did not focus on these plotlines were quite dull. This was clearly a case of a 6-episode plotline being stretched over 13-episode season. For instance, the Nina and Stan Beeman storylines really struggled with being too conventional at times and overly complex at others. I think the season is ultimately good despite this massive misstep as it begins with a bang and ends with one too. Additionally, there is a lot to look forward to in future seasons as this season’s finale has put the main characters in interesting predicaments that feel surprising yet natural.
Despite showing some major flaws in its second season, The Americans is still a show to watch.