We're less than a week away from the return of The Americans, the best show currently on TV that is not ashamed to advertise itself as the best show currently on TV (see ad below). And why should it be ashamed, anyway? Because, as mentioned before, it really is the best show on TV, and that is something with a suitably stacked field of contemporary shows including the likes of (DEEP BREATH) Fargo, Atlanta, American Crime Story, The Leftovers, Game Of Thrones, Transparent, Veep, and BoJack Horseman all in the conversation.

In case you haven't had time to pick up the show yet (WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU, DON'T YOU KNOW IT'S THE CRITICAL-CONSENSUS BEST SHOW ON TV RIGHT NOW?!), the bare bones are as such: the show takes place in Washington, D.C. in the 1980s and concerns the tensions revolving around the secret Russian Illegals Program. There are amazingly bad wigs, triple agents, period-appropriate soundtrack cues, and complicated spy shenanigans, but this is no goofy nostalgia trip—the show brilliantly uses its Cold War backdrop and suspenseful action sequences as a jumping-off point to deeply explore the struggles and complications of love, identity, marriage, patriotism, and parenting.

It has become the spiritual successor to the Breaking Bad throne (the most thrilling show on TV, one that has gotten better and tenser every season), with long-simmering plotlines coming to a boil more and more frequently in heart-stopping and heartbreaking ways (Martha! Nina!). It is a show that is often at its best when it takes the big fears and underlying paranoia of the Cold War and lets that subtly poison and distort its lead characters. The work that lead actors Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys perform is emotionally agonizing and spectacular—every look between the two contains multitudes.

And it has added immediate resonance now that Putin has become a special adviser to the president. This viral marketing has really gone too far!

But let's say you did watch everything up until now, and need a quick refresher on where everyone stands going into season five. That's why we're here!! Just scroll below!!


In season four, both Martha and Nina's storylines came to sudden, devastating endings. Nina is dead, having been executed in a Russian prison; Martha, who had long been a mole inside the FBI for her husband "Clark," was discovered, and had to hightail it to Russia for a life without peanut butter. Her fate after she left the country is not yet known (she wasn't in any of the final episodes of last season), but actress Alison Wright told the Times, "They’ve told me that I can say something they’ve said many times themselves: She’s alive — and if you’re alive on The Americans, there’s always hope for you. Which is fair enough, but it’s certainly something that everybody is dying to know. I’m asked on a daily basis."

Stan found biochemical warfare scientist William (guest star Dylan Baker, doing Emmy-worth work) thanks to his relationship with KGB equivalent Oleg Burov, but William died after purposefully inflicting himself with deadly glanders. Stan and his partner Aderholt do pick up on the fact that the Russian illegals they're chasing after have two children and are fully integrated into American society. Stan is still pretty sore over the fact that Agent Gaad, his longtime boss, was killed in Thailand by the Russians (it was an accident, but he doesn't know that).

The only thing Stan has really got going for him in his personal life currently is the fact that his son Matthew has been making out with Paige a lot. In a season filled with misery for the people we love, Paige may have had the toughest time: she got further sucked into her parents' spy lifestyle, she almost got Pastor Tim killed, she was traumatized after watching her mother kill a couple goons, and she's now started actively reporting on Matthew and Stan's activities to her parents.

The season closed with a very ominous shot of Philip warning her that she had no idea what she was getting herself into. The same could be said for Philip and Elizabeth, who continue to juggle the responsibilities of keeping their family safe with their dedication to their country. By the last episode, the couple is finally on the same page with one another regarding Paige's training (they seem to be warily embracing it with lots of reservations and worries), and closer than ever as a unit. At the same time, Elizabeth had arguably her toughest mission yet (betraying her one friend) and Philip doesn't yet know that his long-lost Russian son is on his way to America to find him. And of course, they just were told by their handler Gabriel that they could/should go back to Russia and hang up their spying shoes, which is a pretty big thing hanging over them to end the season.

(As for Henry, well, nobody cares.)

For a slightly less wordy summation of all that, please consult the FX official season four recap below. The Americans returns at 10 p.m. on FX on Tuesday, March 7th.

(Very important side question: what is the TV equivalent of, 'Go back to Ohio?' Would that be, 'Go back to watching Modern Family'?)