[Spoiler alert: The following interview discusses plot details of “The Americans” Season 4, episode 13, finale, titled “Persona Non Grata.”]
“The Americans” fourth season wrapped with a hint of romance — though just what Paige’s flirtation with Matthew Beaman, the FBI agent’s son living across the street, means for her KGB spy parents is up in the air for now. Philip certainly isn’t happy, but Elizabeth may see it as another sign Paige is picking up on the spy game. Meanwhile, the FBI caught up with William Crandall, who immediately infected himself with the deadly virus he was carrying and wasted away in FBI custody (Dylan Baker, we hardly knew ye!). And there are big changes afoot at the Rezidentura, with Arkady Ivanovich Zotov being forced to step down.
What is Philip’s biggest fear about Paige and Matthew?
Fields: The number of potential ways that could go bad are hard to enumerate. That she’s called up Pastor Tim and poured her heart out, so she’s unreliable once and could be unreliable again. Or just being around that house too much and she flips and something comes out. I think the biggest thing in play for him, although not conscious, set aside those fears which are so practical and urgent, there’s also a depth of emotional turmoil over the fact that his daughter whether consciously or not thinks getting involved with this boy on some level can help them. What that represents to him as a father is a pretty painful thing to consider.
Weisberg: I don’t know if that’s on Philip’s mind right now consciously. Philip’s whole past is such a circus of horror, I don’t think Philip himself thinks of it that way, but it’s all unconsciously in there to a degree. That’s not just the finale story, but the whole story of the show. And then what happens when you start to contemplate the possibility of your kids repeating your mistakes or following your life choices. And of course the idea that Elizabeth feels positive about these choices and wants the kids to follow, and Philip feels negatively about them and doesn’t want the kids to follow. That’s another angle to this.
We started to see some cracks in Elizabeth’s convictions. Will that continue, especially if Paige starts acting differently?
Fields: I think it’s fair to say that she is growing too. She’s growing at a pace that is different than Philip, but she’s got her own life journey. The fact that her husband has been changing a lot that can’t help but impact her on some level, that’s what it means to be in a relationship, to be married. We’ll see how all that unfolds for her. It’s been very safe and protective for her to remain unchanged. We’ll see how things go as she starts to transform a bit.
Why was now the right time to introduce Philip’s son in Russia, Mischa?
Weisberg: We’re running out of time! There’s not much time left. We’ve got two more seasons and the final season is going to be a shorter one.
Does removing Alison Wright’s name from the credits mean Martha’s time on the show is over?
Weisberg: We’ve been trying to find different ways to not answer that question.
What’s the latest one?
Weisberg: That’s it. That’s the newest way.
Fields: That was really good, Joe. That was better than the comment about spoilers.
Did you tell Dylan Baker from the beginning he was going to ooze out of his own orifices?
Fields: We told him it was going to end, and that it would be great. And we stuck to that when we gave him the specifics.
Weisberg: Joel, did that line come from research or did one of our twisted writers make it up?
Fields: I don’t know if the actual dialogue came from research or not but sadly the facts of that illness came from research.
Weisberg: I was wondering if the poetry of the words came from research.
Fields: I hope that came from us, but I don’t know.
Was there anything that changed during the course of this season from where you thought it would end up at the beginning versus where it actually did end up?
Fields: I think the way Mischa’s story got presented and started to unfold was the big surprise of the season.
Weisberg: We didn’t have that in mind at all, right?
Fields: Yeah. So much of this season was paying off stuff that we’d set in motion early on. There were little things. We knew we were going to do the big time jump but we had no idea what the dramatic device was going to be that would make it happen. It wasn’t until we were breaking the specifics of that episode that we stumbled upon the David Copperfield special, which worked so beautiful for us. On the other hand, we always knew we were going to do “The Day After.”
Weisberg: We thought going into this season that we would deal with the shoot down of the KLA Korean airliner, the invasion of Granada and the bombings of marine barracks — we thought those historical moments that were very big in the Cold War would all play huge in the season. And instead every single one of them happened during that time jump.
Was Paige and Matthew always part of the plan? He’s been around from the beginning and it seems like a natural plotline — the boy next door, the girl next door. Or was it something that just presented itself this season?
Weisberg: I really like the story of how that unfolded. From the beginning that was an idea they would almost be a Romeo and Juliet, she was the kid of the spies and he was the kid of the FBI agent. But that didn’t really pan out. It didn’t make sense and it didn’t work out that way. We dropped it and let them go their separate ways and let the story develop how it wants to develop. And then it came back. This is when it came back. Unlike my previous answer of, “if not now, when?” this came back for a very specific reason. This is the time in the story where everyone is the right age, the right things were happening with the parents, the right things were happening with her development as a teenager and as a potential spy, in her mother’s eyes and everything else, to rekindle that. There’s another version of this story where that never happens. We liked the version where it happens.
If their kids are getting together, will Philip and Stan finally start paying more attention to what’s happening at home when they’re not there?
Fields: It would be wise to but of course every father handles that moment in raising a daughter differently.
Danny Flaherty, who plays Matthew, has been in and out of the show over the seasons. Have you made overtures to make sure he’s going to be more available to you in the future?
Weisberg: I’ll just say he’s a valuable part of the ensemble. It’s tricky to answer without getting spoilery.
Things are also changing at the Rezidentura, why make those moves now?
Fields: It feels like that’s the way the stories and the character went. Without being spoilery more will be revealed as you see how the next seasons unfold. We definitely have a storyline in mind there. That’s another thing that became a surprise over the course of the season. How those stories unfolded, was not something we went into the season planning. Wouldn’t you say, Joe?
Weisberg: Yeah, ask us next year and we’ll have a more detailed answer for that.