The Americans has consistently been one of the smartest and innovative series for the past few years. The very concept of telling a story from the ‘enemy’ point of view, historically, where we know what will inevitably happen in the big picture, was daring.
The character studies were intriguing. Right away there is inherent conflict in Russian spies being an American family.
Given my limited background in covert operations, I felt the plots were very realistic. Also, those who have studied the history of the time or lived through it, can see how it resonates (read James Clapper’s new book — excellent coverage of the last 50 years of covert ops).
The season finale last year was one of the most blah finales I’ve ever seen. No cliffhanger. Just — ended.
This season has been brutal with a high body count, including an axe dismemberment.
Last night we watched the finale and there were a lot of ways it could have gone. I felt that Philip and especially Elizabeth were unredeemable. That’s always ominous. And they had children.
There have been several series with ‘bad’ protagonists. Breaking Bad, naturally comes to mind. The difference there, though, was that Walter White really didn’t care about his family. Neither did Tony Soprano. They paid lip service to it, but ultimately we knew they didn’t give a shit. Philip and Elizabeth not only cared about their children, they cared about each other.
That complicates things.
Then through in Stan, the FBI agent who moves in across the street. As each says when they confront each other in the last episode: “you were my best friend.” That scene in the parking garage was intense — because Philip was both lying to manipulate, which is a main theme of The Americans, but also telling the truth. And isn’t that the hardest thing to bear? The truth wrapped in lies?
Move forward. I didn’t agree with them calling their son. How is he going to remember his last conversation with his parents: “I’ve got a ping-pong game”?
The train scene was intense. I didn’t expect what Paige did, but it makes sense given her arc. She’d already done the religion thing, then turned on it. She couldn’t turn on another core believe system she’d assumed. I expected Philip to get off the train, leaving Elizabeth to travel to ‘safety’ on her own. Which brings up a concern. As Elizabeth said: “I killed a KGB agent.” What “welcome” could they really expect in Russia?
The last couple of minutes really turned me off initially. The two of them standing, talking. I just didn’t feel it. But my wife and I talked about it. She had the same initial feeling. Blah. Who cares? What does this resolve?
But that last question is key. It really didn’t resolve anything. Because you can’t. They were caught in something bigger than themselves. They were broken people who were shaped into something even more broken. How can we expect a resolution to that?
I think the series ended as best it could for a series about a broken system and broken people. There is no nice, neat wrap up.
I do feel for Oleg though. He really tried to do the right thing. His father’s reaction when told of his imprisonment in the park was heart-rending.
And poor Stan. He’s got to figure out about Renee. There’s no doubt given the look on her face in her last scene that she is who Philip and Elizabeth feared she was.
If you haven’t watched The Americans, while there have been spoilers above, they won’t make much sense. If you need a great series to binge, this is it.
Cool Gus gives it four paws up and a belly rub.
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Originally published at bobmayer.com on June 1, 2018.