The Americans has spent years whispering. Now it's starting to shout. That's a good thing.

One of the quietest shows on television is really starting to make noise

The Americans, season 5, episode 2.
(Image credit: Patrick Harbron/FX)

The Americans has historically been a fantastically quiet show (murders notwithstanding). Like Stan Beeman, the FBI agent living across the street, Soviet spies Philip and Elizabeth Jennings are unassuming and unobtrusive people; Frank Langella's Gabriel, their soft-spoken handler, is a great preparer of tea. The same is true of the people they cultivate: Allison Wright played Philip's "wife" Martha with wonderfully subdued agon. Even the show's bombshells are quiet: A teenage girl picks up a phone to talk to a pastor. A man tells a woman he's going home. Even William's arrest and self-poisoning last season was — for a chase scene — oddly unspectacular: Turning yourself into a biological weapon is a silent affair, and so is the morbid follow-up. One of the show's most interesting choices was showing how gently the FBI agents kept William company as he died of lassa fever — even, absurdly, offering him a Coke. That gentle non-interrogation pays off. Emotional management is a crucial part of everyone's work.

But things are getting louder (and hungrier) this season. There are too many adolescents involved to keep things muted, and at least two are involved in the Jennings' effort to track Alexei Morozov, a Russian dissident and agricultural expert who appears to be helping the Americans develop pests capable of decimating the Russian wheat crop. We were introduced to this mission last week in yet another silent suburb. The Jennings have set up a second identity as the Eckerts, a pilot and stewardess whose "adopted son" Tuan — a Vietnamese operative and ally — has usefully befriended Alexei's son Pasha.

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