Whatever ends up happing on The Americans, the USSR will fall. While this series is not focused on future history, that is a fact that seems to be informing this final season. Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, a spy team that appeared unstoppable together, are failing on their own. It is not helping to see them at odds with each other either. Despite having accomplished so much in their years in America, this apparently wasn’t a dream meant to last. Instead, the operation is slowly turning into a nightmare, with possibly dire final results, given the current trajectory for our favorite spy couple.
I would love to be wrong in all of this. It would be great to learn that “Mr. And Mrs. Teacup” was an episode showing the Jennings at their lowest, only to realize how much better these two are together, having them come together and finally share information the two have been holding back from each other. It’s unlikely though, as The Americans has never sought out the easy answer for its carefully setup stories. Instead, the show takes a slow look at all the pieces and lets them slowly gather together for an appropriate closure each season. The difference this time is how close things are to falling apart.
Last week alerted us to the financial failings of Philip. Despite a premiere that suggested he was on top of the world, having giving up the spy life and doubling down on the legitimate business, things are not going great. Expanding the business has backfired, and now we had to watch Philip explain to his son, who is currently having a banner year at school, that tuition will be too hard to afford for his senior year. While barely being able to talk to Stan about any of this, Philip’s at least able to speak of this to Elizabeth. No solution seems to be in sight, but then we get another look back at Philip’s past.
While it’s debatable who’s had a harder go of it, Philip’s time in Russia has always seemed so dire. It makes a level of sense as to why he’s adapted to America so well, as this latest flashback shows a young Philip scraping leftover food out of cooking pots with other children. Cutting back to the present, we see a man concerned about his business, yet still in the comfort of an office, stocked with supplies, and a nice sandwich right in front of him. While not entirely the point, this is a very skewed look at white privilege. Obviously, lives are being affected by all of this, but holding onto a piece of the American pie has had real costs for Philip.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth is nowhere close to getting what she wants this week. A tense sequence towards the beginning finds her attempting to steal a radiation sensor from a warehouse. Despite her best efforts, it results in multiple security guards getting shot and leaving emptyhanded. Later on, following another art lesson with Erica Haskard, Elizabeth’s attempt to get information at a World Series party goes nowhere. Instead, Erica becomes ill, and any chance to learn information from Glenn and Nesterenko is botched. Elizabeth pushed too hard and got nowhere.
This is not how we are used to seeing the Jennings. I can’t exactly speak to how useful Elizabeth was at the travel agency, but there’d be more control, were she still involved. At the same time, Philip would be very useful in the field. The two balance each other and this season seems to be all about upsetting that balance for the sake of the series’ impending endgame. It couldn’t come at a worse time, either, as there is a possible revolt by the KGB in the works, given what Oleg informs Philip about the views on Gorbachev. There’s also this whole situation with Stan.
While it has been inevitable, Stan’s positioning in this series has always been at a convenient distance. The last time he’s gotten close to the truth about the Jennings was at the end of season one. Now events are transpiring that could have him getting much closer. I am fascinated by thinking how this series plans to handle that potential reveal and the events leading up to it, especially if that involves an actual reveal concerning Stan’s girlfriend, Renee.
Paige is also at an interesting crossroads. As she learns more about what kinds of practices this job entails, she’s starting to consider going head first into new territory, despite her mother’s attempts to keep her reasonably clean. While Paige is still in the dark about Rennhull’s supposed suicide, she’s ready to go to bed with an intern, thinking it will be a good source she can use. If the Jennings do fall apart, will Paige be the last one standing in all of this? Or will these actions get her caught much sooner than any of this?
With four weeks in and six to go, The Americans is in a position to turn up the heat on things. As much as the series still works well with its slow-burn treatment of the story, things are as intense as ever when looking at the current state of each character. And as I said, I suppose it would be great to see things turn around, but a happy ending is not what I see coming for the Jennings.
Other Things Behind The Red Curtain:
- “There’s something rotten about it.” – Oleg has been given a lot of depth over the years to lead up to his current state. I’m enjoying it.
- Kimmie is back for a scene, before heading to Greece, and Philip seems more adult than ever around her.
- Paige is taking a sociology course.
- Putting a tail on Stan is going to be a mistake.
- Glenn had a nice jacket.