You’d think I would have learned by now that The Americans never unfolds in ways you expect.
After last week’s episode, I was ready for a tense showdown between the FBI and William, with Stan and Dennis interrogating the fragile William until maybe he broke and gave them some information. But with the FBI circling him, William doesn’t try to run. Instead, he infects himself with the virus and takes away any leverage Stan and Dennis had. There’s nothing they can offer William (except a Coca-Cola) because William is a dead man.
But Philip, Elizabeth and Gabriel don’t know that. For all they know, William is singing like a canary. “He bitched and moaned and was an asshole. I guess it’s possible,” Philip says. Between William and Pastor Tim, Gabriel believes it is no longer safe—Philip and Elizabeth must return to Russia. It’s time. They have become, as the episode’s title suggests, personas non grata in America. “Go home. Get your kids and get yourself to a safe house,” Gabriel tells them. The only problem is Philip and Elizabeth aren’t so sure they want to go. They can’t picture their children living in Russia. And, once again, the idea of defecting never comes up where it could have, which is strange because Philip was all about defecting in Season One.
And are we so sure William isn’t talking? When we last leave him, he’s near delirious talking about Philip and Elizabeth in the abstract. “Couple kids, American dream, never suspect them. She’s pretty. He’s lucky.” Before he died, did he eventually tell Stan and Dennis their names? When Stan returns home to find Paige and Matthew making out, he’s downright giddy about it with Philip. But is that a cover? Does he know more than he’s letting on? Is he playing the long game now with Philip? On this show, you never know.
In what now seems like an inevitable development, we meet Philip’s son, Mischa. Mischa is in prison for speaking out against the government, but he’s being let out presumably because the KGB got involved. Mischa wants to go to America to find his father, who he seemingly believes is only a travel agent. Is Mischa coming to America, just as his father may be leaving?
Several other character’s storylines also seem to have come to an end. Arkady is sent back to Russia by the American government. “You’ve gone too far,” Agent Wolfe tells him before telling Arkady he has 48 hours to get out. It was a powerful scene, but made me miss Gaad all over again because he should have been the one to deliver the news to Arkady.
Oleg also makes the decision to return home, saying that his family needs him just as Tatiana is made the temporary head of the Rezidentura. If this is the last we see of Oleg, he’s been a fantastic character. But I really hope we see him again.
Paige, who before had just dipped her toe in the spy game, seems to be wanting to become more like her parents. She asks her mother to teach her how to defend herself. She treats visiting Alice after her baby is born as a strategic move. And she gets mighty cozy with Matthew while they watch the Super Bowl (what could be more American than that?). Again, it’s hard to tell if Paige is doing this because she really likes Matthew or because she thinks her friendship with Matthew will be good for her parents. I’m leaning towards the latter.
This was a quieter season finale for the show as it seemed to be moving chess pieces in place for the show’s final two seasons. Philip’s son. Arkady. Tatiana. Oleg.
Philip, such an expert at deception, could barely hold it together in front of Stan when he goes to get Paige. He tells his daughter she is not to see Matthew any more. “Don’t do this Paige. You have no idea. No idea.”
We have no idea what the final two seasons will hold. But The Americans continues to be one of the best television series in recent history.
Until next season, comrades.
That was just a great opening shot with the FBI and KGB both following the William/Philip drop. Did Philip and Stan pass each other? Also, how did the sound of a helicopter not make Philip suspicious that something had happened?
The show definitely seems to be playing the long game with Kimmy, who we only saw once this season. I have to assume we will see her again in Season Five.
Brandon J. Dirden, who plays Agent Dennis Aderholt, was promoted to a series regular for the final two seasons. Looking forward to seeing more of him.
I’m sure Dylan Baker can play nice guys, but he is so fantastic at playing bad ones. William will be missed.
Really liked the analogy that Philip’s disillusion with his job is the quintessential midlife crisis. “I got news for you. You ain’t that important,” the EST leader tells Philip.
As I write this, I have so much laundry to do. I really don’t understand how Elizabeth is so on top of her housekeeping.
This has got to be the year The Americans finally gets some Emmy love.
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.