This was the season I started losing interest in The Americans, and that’s a true shame because season four was one of the best written, most gripping creations on television.
The problem with the show this year is that it gave us the impression that it was leading up to an explosive finale, but sadly we’re left with an underwhelming hour of television that hardly offers closure and doesn’t even bother to weave in the season’s various subplots. From the unsettling Kimmy storyline to Mischa’s unsatisfying developments, there was often too much going on at once and only a few of it was worth our time.
Of course, Keri Russell and Mathew Rhys are still incredible as they’ve always been, more so than ever in this finale. Russell’s facial expressions alone as Elizabeth realized how American her life had become while standing in front of her closet or staring at her dishwasher are cheer-worthy. I’ve often praised Russell’s nuanced performance in the past, but never has the show let her face do all the talking, and the result is one of the most gripping scenes on television. It’s truly fascinating how much can be conveyed without a single line of dialogue, and no one is better equipped at carrying the weight of a scene like that than her.
The parallels between the Jennings and Alexei/Evgheniya are just as remarkable as both families struggled to make the move back to Russia, but sadly Tuan’s entire existence continues to be the most infuriating thing about this season. Not only did his off-screen talk with Pasha nearly cost a teenage boy his life, but also he justified it in the most despicable way ever. If there’s one thing that made this entire season worth it, it’s watching Elizabeth tear him down in glorious fashion. God I love her.
Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention Martha’s cheerful development. After years of watching her story take one tragic turn after another, it’s immensely satisfying to see she’s getting a daughter. The unusually hopeful look on Alison Wright’s face is impeccable as she watches the orphans play around, a flawless juxtaposition to the show’s depressing and gloomy tone. Outstanding.
Bits in Disguise
– The finale was written by creator Joseph Weisberg and producer Joel Fields, and again I expected something a little more satisfying.
– That cold open with everyone finding Pasha with blood all around him while the Cello of Grief plays in the background was horrifying and brilliant. Wow.
– Stan and Dennis putting Sofia’s fiancé to a lie detector test is another subplot that went nowhere.
– Philip hanging around Kimmy and her friends will never stop being unsettling. At least that finally seems to be over. Good riddance!
– Can we have more Elizabeth/Paige training scenes next year please?
– Another case of perfect juxtaposition: Elizabeth telling Tuan he needs a partner to get through this job, then telling Philip at the end that she can do it on her own if he wants to be just a travel agent.
– Poor Henry. He wasn’t even in the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road montage! What a shame.
– Renee pushing Stan to stay at his job (plus the fact that’s she moving in with him) is all the proof I needed that she is indeed a spy. Now that’s a storyline I am dying to see more of next season.
– The final shot of Elizabeth and a depressed Philip is a stunning closer to this imperfect, slow season.
Quips from the Motherland
Elizabeth: I think we could tell Paige before. She can handle it, maybe even help with Henry once we’re there. It’ll be good. All of us together without all this shit on our backs.
Philip: Okay. That’s it then. We’re going.
Elizabeth: Since we’re being honest here, I think there’s something you should know. You’re not gonna make it.
Tuan: What do you mean?
Elizabeth: It’s too hard. The work we do. To do it alone.
Tuan: Not for me.
Elizabeth: You will fail. Something will happen, you’ll get caught. Or you’ll die. One day it will all come crashing down. You need someone, Tuan. A partner. To do this with, to get through it with.
Philip: (to Paige) I’m sorry you didn’t get to grow up with all the regular stuff, like just a dog or a boyfriend who lives across the street. You should’ve had that.
Elizabeth: Maybe you should stop. You need to keep getting the recordings. But other than that, I think you should just stop. Run the travel agency.
Philip: You need me, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth: Not for this. I’m making you stay. And it just keeps getting worse for you. I don’t want to see you like this anymore.
While beautifully written and impeccably performed, this is still an underwhelming finale to a slow and uneven season. Let’s hope the final season doesn’t disappoint.