‘The Americans’: Good, better, best

Holly Taylor as Paige Jennings in FX’s “The Americans.”
Holly Taylor as Paige Jennings in FX’s “The Americans.”Jeff Neumann/FX/FX

The Americans 10 p.m., FX

“The Americans” just keeps getting better. Right now, it’s TV’s best dramatic series.

The FX show is more riveting in its fourth season than it was in its first season, and that first season was really, really good. Now, the political and emotional stakes have become higher, and our attachment to these sometimes chilly characters has grown. The more Matthew Rhys’s Philip Jennings shows real affection for his fake wife, Martha, and the more he fantasizes about getting out of the Soviet spy game, the more I want the family to land safely and the more I root for them.


Sometimes, I wish they’d defect and become the characters named in the title of the show: The Americans.

In some ways, the entire series seems to have been building up to recent episodes, now that FBI agent Stan Beeman is angry at and suspicious of Philip and watching Martha, and particularly now that daughter Paige’s beloved Pastor Tim knows the Jenningses’ secret. “What we do isn’t so different from what you do,” Keri Russell’s Elizabeth says to Pastor Tim early in Wednesday night’s episode, making a desperate play for his silence. The Jenningses need to keep their secret without killing Tim, a move that would destroy their relationship with — and the KGB’s grooming of — Paige, played with lots of sophistication by Holly Taylor.

In the episode, written by long-ago Boston Phoenix film critic Stephen Schiff, we can see each major character angling for something. While the Jenningses work Tim, they also work neighbor Sandra Beeman, son Henry, and Paige, setting her in motion against Tim. Meanwhile, they’re all being worked by their handlers, Claudia and Gabriel. Played masterfully by Margo Martindale and Frank Langella, Claudia and Gabriel are the prime movers — or are they?


Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.