The Americans at TCA: Margo Martindale will be back, but that's about all we can say

The Americans at TCA: Margo Martindale will be back, but that's about all we can say

Margo Martindale will be in “several” episodes of the second season of The Americans, despite her commitment to the CBS sitcom The Millers, according to executive producer Joel Fields at the show’s Television Critics Association winter press tour panel. No firm number was placed on Martindale’s commitment to season two, but the news that she will be in more than one will surely come as a relief to fans of the show and to the Emmy-nominating committee, who gave Martindale a nomination as best guest actress in a drama series for her work as “Claudia,” a Soviet handler keeping careful, cantankerous watch over her charges, KGB spies posing as normal couples in American suburbia. In particular, this should mean Martindale will get to face off at least a couple more times with Keri Russell, as scenes between the two were highlights of the first season.

Other than that, there wasn’t much hard “news” out of the panel. Journalists were given a look at the first two episodes of season two—which are excellent, even above and beyond the standard the series set for itself in season one—but many of the questions asked would spoil key plot points of that season, right down to the opening one, which queried as to whether FX had any qualms about the show playing “Neil Armstrong” for depiction of a particular sex act on TV. So there’s not a lot we can share, short of just telling you what happens in the first two episodes. (Did I mention they’re terrific?)

That said, we can speak in vagaries! The second season will refocus on the Jennings household, Fields and Joe Weisberg, his fellow executive producer and the show’s creator, said, particularly focusing on Elizabeth and Phillip’s relationship with their kids. Those kids will also move to the forefront, with questions of what will happen to them if Phillip and Elizabeth should die being openly floated both in one of the episodes and on the panel itself. (Weisberg pointed to the children of KGB spy Aldritch Ames, who are technically the inheritors of a Russian dacha that they have never claimed, as an example of the sorts of ways the KGB might look out for the children of intelligence agents posted in another country.)

There was also plenty of discussion of the marriage between “Clark”—Phillip’s alternate identity—and Martha, the woman he’s seduced to get better information on what the FBI’s counterintelligence unit knows about the KGB’s operations inside the U.S. This second marriage is one of the riskiest elements of the second season, but the producers said they wanted to lean into the idea that maybe this marriage could be the best thing that’s ever happened to Martha, fake though it may be, and also play off the way that Phillip and Elizabeth are finally truly committed to each other, even as he’s carrying on a dishonest charate with another woman. And, indeed, the first couple of episodes find a Martha who’s far more assertive than the character was last season, emboldened by her relationship with Clark.

All of that, frankly, sounds like it could be potentially disastrous, but it’s that tricky emotional territory that The Americans navigates so well when it’s on its game. So while it’s hard to share too much about what’s coming, the better to preserve your experience when the series returns February 26, it’s perhaps just nice to know that the producers of The Americans are making things as difficult for themselves as possible, because it’s when they’re backed into a corner that they truly excel.