(Photo: Patrick Harbron/FX)

This post discusses plot points from The Americans’ “Amber Waves”

Though Elizabeth Jennings’ young KGB trainee Hans (Peter Mark Kendall) was a prominent part of the third season of The Americans, in the fourth he was mostly relegated to the background, quietly surveilling. And now he’s dead. In this year’s premiere, Hans met a quick and untimely fate. During a mission to exhume Dylan Baker’s William Crandall and collect a sample of his flesh, Hans slipped, cut his hand, and came into contact with the corpse’s Lassa-infected skin. He had a moment of thinking he was in the clear, and then Elizabeth took him out. Showrunners Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields pitied Hans but didn’t show that much remorse when we caught them at the Writers Guild Awards last month. “That sucked man,” Fields told The A.V. Club. “He should have been more careful although in fairness to him, he was tired, it had been a long night, and dirt is notoriously unstable.”

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But the idea to kill Hans was not one that was long in the works. In fact, it simply came up in the writers’ room. “It’s just a great thing to happen at the end of that episode,” Weisberg said. “Hans didn’t have to go.”

It was also a shocking way to end an episode that began with a surprise. The cold open, set to Devo’s “That’s Good,” evoked John Hughes to introduce Tuan (Ivan Mok), who seems just like a normal teen being friendly to an outcast from the Soviet Union. When Tuan comes home he’s greeted by his smiling parents—or the people posing as his smiling parents—Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell). “We think it’s whiplash-y and we think it’s whiplash-y in a fun way,” Weisberg explained in an earlier interview. “But it is different from any way we’ve started before and even the action, the exciting part of it, has a different feel and vibe. It feels almost like a different show.”

This is in keeping with what Weisberg and Fields are billing as a new tone for the upcoming episodes. (More on that here.) Fields also pointed out that even after the credits play there’s a sequence highlighting the stark differences between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. “It extends beyond that teaser into the beginning of first act,” he said. “We never, in the first four seasons, would have done a big montage and featured stock footage of bread lines in the Soviet Union cut against wheat fields in the United States with that music playing.” That stark contrast in food supply sets up the mission on which the Jennings are embarking.

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