For its first few seasons, FX's The Americans served simultaneously as a gripping spy thriller and a compelling metaphor for marriage. But when young Paige Jennings found out about her parents' true occupation, that metaphor extended beyond spousal relationships to include the whole family — and these spoilers for The Americans Season 5 from showrunners Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg hint that the younger generation of Jennings' is going to be a large part of the show's focus in its last two seasons.
With only 23 more episodes before the end (13 this year and 10 in the sixth and final season), it stands to reason that the fates of Paige and Henry will be a major plot point moving forward. Given that the former knows the truth about her Russian heritage and is slowly being trained to follow in her parents' footsteps, and that the latter knows absolutely nothing about any of this, the dynamic in the Jennings household is going to be very interesting in Season 5.
Just like Philip and Elizabeth's spy craft has been used as fodder for examining the secrets and power dynamics of a typical marriage, so will Paige's recruitment into the KGB be used to examine the struggles that typical teenagers face every day… you know, just with extremely heightened stakes. In a conference call with reporters in advance of the Season 5 premiere, Fields uses Paige's burgeoning romance with Matthew — the son of next door neighbor (and FBI agent) Stan Beeman — as a perfect example. "Paige has chosen to date the one boy in the world who her parents really don't want her to date," the showrunner says. "How universal is that!"
The collision between Paige's personal life and her super-spy life will also extend to that most dreaded staple of any teen's life. You know; the talk. "It's hard to think of too many specific conversations that our group of writers spent more time talking about," Weisberg recounts. "The thing that seemed to grab us and we focused on was: What would be Philip and Elizabeth's attitudes about their teenage daughter having sex, apart from all the other issues involved?" The writers' fascination with this topic stemmed from two factors.
First was the Jennings' history as "victims of sexual exploitation," as Weisberg put it, "because of the jobs that they've chosen," which frequently involve being ordered by the government to sleep with targets in order to get close to them. "How has that all colored their view?" Weisberg ponders. And second was the fact that Soviet Russia actually had "a very liberal attitude towards sexuality" borne out of the socially leftist nature of communism. "So if you put those things into a pot and mix it with our characters, what would they think about their daughter having sex?"
But Paige won't be the only Jennings offspring getting focus this year. Although you may have forgotten unless you recently completed your Season 4 rewatch, the finale of that season introduced a secret third child into the equation: Mikhail Semenova, also known as Mischa, after his father… who we know as Philip Jennings. The cast's new addition, played by Orphan Black's Alex Ozerov, was last seen being released from a Soviet mental institution (where he was being held for speaking out against the Soviet party) and receiving a package of passports and cash from his grandfather to help facilitate his search for Philip.
The showrunners tease that Mischa will be an integral part of Season 5 — even though that particular turn of events was never part of their original plan. "Going back a couple of seasons, Mischa appeared in the story more as a theoretical possibility than an actual character," Weisberg recalls. "If you'd asked us, we probably would have said that was the end of that story. And then, as we were breaking story for last season, you often go back to everything in a character's life to see if there's anything rich or good or complicated, and the idea of having this character appear back in the show to pull all the heartstrings he can pull, it just seemed like a natural idea."
And no, I didn't forget about poor Henry. The youngest Jennings is the only one who remains unaware of his true origins; but now that his sister is being brought into the fold, it's going to be harder and harder to keep the last family member in the dark. Fields and Weisberg were loathe to provide too many details on the character's arc, but Fields did promise that, "There’s going to be more Henry story unspooling this season."
Will the final, most unsuspecting family member finally discover that his travel agent parents are actually Russian spies? How much havoc will Mischa wreak on his father's carefully constructed life? And how will Paige handle the simultaneous pressures of spy training and teenage romance? Find out when The Americans Season 5 premieres this Tuesday at 10:00 p.m. ET.