The Final Season of The Americans
It’s 1987 in DC. The State Department is preparing for the summit at Reykjavík between America and the Soviet Union — the one that will be critical in bringing about the end of the Cold War. Both sides are in private disarray — the State Department fears that Reagan may be going senile, the KGB, alarmed by what Gorbachev’s rule has been doing, doesn’t want thing to change.
As for the Jennings’ — the Russian sleeper agents at the core of The Americans — there is much internal chaos as well. Philip (Matthew Rhys), who finally was approaching burnout at the end of Season 5, has essentially retired from his double agent, and has set his sites on running the travel agency. He looks happier than we have ever seen him. Elizabeth (Keri Russell), in the meantime, is looking like she is finally on the verge of burning out. Desperately trying to hold fast to the ideals she was raised with, she has finally been called by her KGB handlers to try and undermine the summit, and for the first time, is being called outside her usual people. Paige (the remarkable Holly Taylor) has, in the three years since, being trained for the special program that their handlers have been trying to work for since the end of Season 2, but despite the best efforts of Elizabeth and Sylvia (Margo Martindale, finally promoted to series regular), its more than clear she doesn’t have the stability for the job. Elizabeth has already killed one man to keep her daughter safe, and it’s clear she’s having trouble holding it together.
There are other shifts alongside the geopolitical ones. Stan Beaman (Noah Emmerich) has moved into the part of the FBI dealing primarily with the war on drugs, and though the viewer knows just how badly that’s going to go, Stan is personally relieved to just be ‘dealing with murderers, drug dealers, and crooked politicians’. But it is inevitable that he will be called back into the field, as Oleg (Costa Ronin), who spent the last three years away from the KGB in Moscow, has been called by a similarly-minded official to go back to America and try and do something to help the summit along. He has been called upon to visit an agent who has similar feelings to him — Philip.
The Americans has occasionally been accused of being a slow-moving series. But as the show goes into its final stretch, you get the feeling that the writers are finally beginning to pull all the strings — some of which have been left hanging since Season 2 — together in a way that could be even darker than we might expect. There are all kinds of possibilities that are hanging open, and when Elizabeth had to kill a high-ranking military official at the end of last night’s episode, you can get the idea of where they might be headed. Will the Jennings’, whose contrasting views on the U.S. have been a constant source of tension, be forced to work against each other? Will Stan, who has had no idea that his next door neighbors are Russian double agents, finally realize the truth? And what will happen to Paige, who has been a subject of tug of war between parents, and in the same way, capitalism and communism, finally end up? From the hindsight of history, we know what’s going to happen to the USSR by the end of the season. We also know it will not be the end of the conflicts between America and Russia. But I care less about that than how the writers bring about the conclusion of what is certainly one of the best series of the 2010s. Depending on how the last few episodes go, we may be about to lead this show to rank with some of the true greats in TV.
My Score:5 stars.