Set in the early 1980s,
tells the story of two Russian spies living in America at the height of the Cold War. Philip and Elizabeth Jennings ( The Americans Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell) are the seemingly perfect American couple with two children and a beautiful suburban home. But they’re secretly spying for the Soviet Union, their home country, all while living across the street from an FBI agent ( Noah Emmerich).
Before the season 5 premiere, get caught up with this timeline gallery highlighting the 13 biggest moments from the FX series so far.
The Americans season 5 premieres on FX March 7
1. Meet the Jennings
(“Pilot,” season 1, episode 1)
The pilot episode introduces all the major players — Philip, Elizabeth and their two children, Paige and Henry (Holly Taylor and Keidrich Sellati); FBI agent Stan Beeman (Emmerich) and his family; Nina (Annet Mahendru), Stan’s eventual lover who is at times a spy for the U.S. and also the Soviet Union; and Philip’s source inside the FBI, Martha (Alison Wright), with whom he is having a romantic relationship as part of the ruse. The “OMG” part? “OMG, this series is excellent!”
2. Amador’s Death
(“Safe House,” season 1, episode 9)
In order to keep their cover, the Jennings must kill FBI Agent Amador (Maximiliano Hernandez), who just so happens to be Beeman’s friend and partner. The episode is a look at both how far the Jennings will go to protect the mission, and also at Stan’s increasing detour into behavior inappropriate for an upstanding FBI agent (he later avenges his partner’s death by killing, in cold blood, the Russian whom he believes to be responsible). The effects of that killing are still reverberating with Stan three seasons later.
3. Paige’s Discovery
(“The Colonel,” season 1 finale)
Despite everything else, the Jennings’ marriage is always at the heart of The Americans. The relationship starts off as merely part of their cover, but over time the ups and downs of having a family bring them closer, with the stress of their spy missions simultaneously driving them apart. In the Season 1 finale, they finally get to a place where it seems like they could have a real marriage — just in time for Paige to become suspicious of what her parents are up to all the time. She then begins snooping, setting a plot in motion that continues to be a huge part of the show four years later.
4. The Connors’ Assassination
(“Comrades,” season 2 premiere)
In the Season 2 premiere, another Russian spy couple, the Connors, is murdered along with their young daughter, which not only sets the Jennings off on a mission to find out who killed their friends, but also impresses upon them just how dangerous their work is and what it could eventually mean for their innocent children.
5. Death Sentence
(“Echo,” season 2 finale)
After a season of investigating who killed the Connors, the Jennings are shocked to find out it was the Connors’ own son, Jared (Owen Campbell) — but they’re equally shocked to find out the reason. Jared apparently knew what his parents were and wanted to join the KGB as a spy, but they said no, so he killed them. Philip and Elizabeth can’t believe the KGB would recruit children, but then they hear from their handler, Claudia (Margo Martindale), who tells them the KGB is interested in recruiting Paige.
Meanwhile, Stan comes extremely close to handing over an important piece of information to the Soviet Union, but he can’t go through with it and instead turns Nina in for treason against Russia, which sends her back to her home country and an almost certain death sentence.
6. The Mole
(“Walter Taffet,” season 3, episode 7)
In an incredible callback, the bug Martha planted in FBI Agent Gaad’s (Richard Thomas) office in Season 1 comes back in a big way when it is discovered midway through Season 3. The man investigating the bug works for the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility, which is the office Clark (a.k.a. Philip’s cover persona in his relationship with Martha) has always claimed he works for. Martha’s entire world comes crashing down.
We also learn that Philip has a 20-year-old son from a pre-spy relationship, something that is going to come home to roost in the upcoming fifth season.
7. Coming Clean
(“Stingers,” season 3, episode 10)
The Paige storyline comes to a head in “Stingers,” as the Jennings’ daughter finally demands to know just what the heck is going on with her parents and is told the actual truth. The teenager now holds a dangerous secret that she can never tell anyone — a resolve that lasts all of three episodes until she tells her pastor.
8. Coming Clean—Again
(“I Am Abassin Zadran,” season 3, episode 12)
With the walls closing in on Martha at work, Philip decides to drop the disguise and reveal his true self to his fake wife. His new cover story is that he works for a rival federal agency monitoring the FBI, and she buys it. For a while.
Whereas in a different spy relationship Philip might just kill Martha, stuff her body in a suitcase, and be done with it, this is another example of just how much he has come to care about her and what kind of relationship they have, which is very different from his relationship with Elizabeth.
9. The Cover-Up
(“March 8, 1983,” season 3 finale)
After a visit to the Soviet Union to meet Elizabeth’s dying mother, Paige cracks under the pressure of keeping such an enormous secret and blurts out to Pastor Tim (Kelly AuCoin) her mentor/father figure at church, that her parents are secretly Russian.
In an effort to protect Martha (and also himself), Philip frames an FBI computer tech for planting the bug in Gaad’s office and then stages the tech’s suicide.
10. Goodnight, Nina
(“Chloramphenicol,” season 4, episode 4)
This episode features perhaps the most shocking Americans death of the entire series when Nina is killed in Russia. It isn’t shocking because it happened — frankly, it seemed like Nina was going to be killed two seasons prior, and it always felt like she was living on borrowed time since being sent back to Russia. But Nina was so resourceful in keeping herself alive that what was shocking was the unceremonious way her story came to an end.
Nina’s appeal of the treason charge was denied and she was shot in the head execution-style moments later, her body crumpling onto the dirty floor of a Russian prison. A sad, sudden end to such an interesting character.
11. Goodbye, Martha
(“The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears,” season 4, episode 8)
In another heartbreaking ending for a wonderful supporting character, Martha finds out that Philip is actually a Russian spy and in order to keep herself safe, agrees to flee the U.S. for Russia. It really boils down to how much she loves him, even insisting during their goodbyes that he try not to be alone and lonely.
12. In Cold Blood
(“Dinner for Seven,” season 4, episode 11)
In Season 4, Paige morphs from freaking out over her parents’ real occupation to becoming their junior spy. But it comes from such a mixture of teenage rebellion, wanting to make her parents proud, raging hormones, the exhilaration of doing something you’re not supposed to be doing — it doesn’t come from a place of true Russian loyalty, or a true understanding of what her parents’ world really is. That is, until Paige watches her mother kill a man right in front of her.
13. Return to Russia?
(“Persona Non Grata,” season 4 finale)
After having time to think about what she really wants, Paige is ready to learn some self-defense moves from her mother and dabbles in a relationship with neighbor boy Matt Beeman in order to keep an eye on Stan’s movements.
Meanwhile, Gabriel (Frank Langella), the Jennings’ handler after Claudia left, thinks that it may be time for the family to return to Russia — but neither Philip nor Elizabeth can picture raising their children in Russia, which is quite the conundrum for a couple of Russian spies. And that’s where Season 4 ends.