Once again, comrades, it’s time to bid farewell to another season of The Americans.
As always, the show continued to shock and surprise viewers in its fourth season. This drama never does the expected. Ever.
As we head into the finale, Stan is this close to catching William, while Elizabeth and Philip continue to wrestle with Paige’s need for the truth—and the fact they could be exposed at any moment. Plus we’ve got the blossoming romance between Paige and Matthew, and Henry’s bromance with Mr. Beeman. Before the season finale tonight (10 PM on FX), let’s take a look back at some of the season’s most jaw-dropping moments.
Turns out the good reverend has about nine lives. In last season’s finale, Paige told Pastor Tim the truth about her parents, which put a huge target on his back. We assumed that, upon learning that this seemingly quintessential American couple were really KGB spies, Elizabeth and Philip would have to kill him, right? Well, not so fast. Elizabeth plans to have gas leak in the cabin where Pastor Tim goes to write his sermons. But just as the plan is put in motion, Paige confesses to her mother that she has told Pastor Tim the truth. They can’t follow through now, because Paige is smart enough to put everything together and figure out that her parents have killed the “one person in the world that she trusts.” Later, when they learn that Pastor Tim has told his wife, Gabriel plans for Pastor Tim and Alice to get into a car accident while the Jennings family visits Epcot. But the trip to Epcot is canceled when Philip and Elizabeth are inadvertently exposed to a deadly virus… and Pastor Tim lives again. We’re at the end of the season and it seems nothing can kill this man or his awful hairstyle—not even getting lost in Ethiopia.
Nina has escaped death so many times that I had almost stopped worrying about her. Even when she is given a death sentence for trying to smuggle a note out to Anton Baklanov, I still thought Nina—ever wily, ever cunning, ever resourceful—could escape. But moments after she is told that her death sentence will be carried out shortly, she is unceremoniously shot in the back of the head, her lifeless body wrapped in a burlap sack. An ordinary end for an extraordinary character.
Not only was Gaad’s office bugged, but his secretary had married a KGB spy. Gaad is forced to retire, yet seemingly happy when he sees Stan. But The Americans rarely lets anyone stay content for long. After receiving the tip-off from Philip that Gaad was traveling in Thailand with his wife, KGB agents invade his hotel room and send Gaad crashing through a glass door and to his death. One final good night to Agent Gaad.
The true genius of The Americans is making that which is inevitable play out in utterly surprising ways. Although Philip tried to protect Martha by framing Gene as the one who planted to bug in Gaad’s office, Stan isn’t convinced. He hatches a plan with Dennis to learn the truth about Martha—is she a lonely government employee having an affair with a married man, or something more? In an incredibly tense episode, both the KGB and the FBI search for Martha. Through it all, Martha has a blind loyalty to “Clark” never realizing (or comfortable in her world of denial) that her marriage is a sham. She gets on a plane to the Soviet Union, a country she doesn’t know, where she doesn’t speak the language. Her final words are worry for Clark. “Don’t be alone Clark alright. Don’t be alone,” she tells him before she boards the plane. And thus, Martha’s storyline ends in the saddest possible way.
Last season, Oleg and Stan joined forces in a (failed) attempt to rescue Nina. They have a shaky alliance at best. Oleg, still grieving his brother and disillusioned by his work and his country’s technology, tells Stan that the KGB has someone on the inside of a biological weapons firm. This info is enough to lead Stan straight to William.
While time jumps have become somewhat commonplace on TV shows, it was still a little shocking when, in the season’s eighth episode, the action skipped ahead seven months. The show had been moving at a breathless speed with one episode tumbling onto the next—and no break for the audience or the characters. “Things have to change,” Gabriel tells them. And they do, with Philip and Elizabeth taking no new assignments for seven months, giving them and the audience a little time to recover.
Paige spent the majority of the season interrogating her parents about the true nature of their work. Her parents make her begrudgingly report to them about her visits with Pastor Tim. But then, without prompting, Paige starts reporting on what Matthew is telling her about his dad. This is what Elizabeth has always wanted… or is it?
When threatened outside of a soup kitchen, Elizabeth, in full mama bear mode and also in a fragile state, kills her attacker with her bare hands. A witness to it all, Paige can no longer believe that her parents aren’t dangerous people. Elizabeth has revealed her full hand.
Elizabeth works a long con on Young Hee to get to her husband, and get the codes to access the biochemical weapons. But a funny thing happens on the way to blackmailing Don and ruining the couple’s life; Elizabeth finds that she truly enjoyed Young Hee’s company. She had—and this is a word Elizabeth doesn’t use lightly—fun.
What do you think the most shocking moments were this season on The Americans? Talk about it below.
Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal ®, is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and a regular contributor to Paste. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter or her blog.