What to watch for in season 5 of The Americans

The Americans Season 5

Tune in for some intense televideniye

The Russian playwright Anton Chekhov said that if a gun appears in act one, it has to go off by act three. When the fifth season of The Americans premieres on Tuesday, there are whole arsenals—literal and metaphorical—lying in wait, ready to cause havoc at the slightest provocation. Philip and Elizabeth have never had an easy time as Russian spies living in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. But four full seasons into this thoughtful domestic drama and spy series, their lives are cracking at the seams.

The season 5 premiere promises to be heart-stopping, and you can watch it Tuesday at 10/9c on FX. If you don’t currently get FX, you can subscribe to America’s Top 120+.

Here is just a quick list of threats left looming at the end of season 4.

  • The FBI was just steps away from discovering Philip and Elizabeth and their mission to smuggle American bioweapons to Russia. Their “illegal” colleague William had been captured, and for all Philip and Elizabeth know, he gave them up.
  • Oh yeah, there seem to be be a bunch of deadly viruses floating around in various vials? William was working at a lab that handled dangerous samples of glanders, which Philip and Elizabeth actually contracted in season four. When the FBI captured him, William was carrying a vial of the lethal virus Lassa. He promptly infected himself and soon expired.
  • Paige has learned her parents’ true trade, and she’s struggling to get a hold on what it all means for her. She’s having headaches and nightmares as the world she had been living in takes on whole new dimensions. It would be pretty weird to be a teenager and figure out you were rebelling against the wrong kind of people entirely.
  • Paige had joined a church group and told her pastor that her parents are Russian spies. He then told his wife. Hello, security breach. They could disclose what they know at any point and Philip and Elizabeth try very hard to convince Paige to maintain her relationship with them to ensure they keep the secret.
  • Paige is trying her own hand at spying. She takes it on herself to start a romantic relationship with Matthew, the son of FBI counterintelligence officer Stan. They live across the street. Philip counsels her that what she’s doing is extremely dangerous.
  • Philip and Elizabeth’s identities are so compromised that their KGB handlers suggest they return with their family to Russia. Of course both had contemplated this possibility, but the prospect of going through with it puts a strain on their relationship.
  • The prospect of returning to Russia reveals the long, long way Philip especially has moved from the idealism that led him to change his identity to spy for his country the first place. Elizabeth, by contrast, is trying to instill Paige with zeal for her parents’ work.

Each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, says Leo Tolstoy. It would be hard to imagine another family being unhappy in quite this way: trying to maintain sanity while living under assumed identities after decades in a foreign country, running high stakes missions while their next door neighbors are literally employed to track down and capture them. That’s a lot of stress!

Anything could give. Philip and Elizabeth could be turned in to the FBI. Paige could decide she doesn’t like living a double life, or betraying the nation she thought was hers all along. They could, quite simply, get caught. Or turned. Maybe one of them already has been! Or maybe they will succeed beyond all expectations. It’s spying—anything could happen.

Tune in for what promises to be a real roller coaster ride at 10/9c on Tuesday March 7 on FX, DISH channel 136.