‘The Americans’ Season Finale – Wars Without Tears

by Ernie Estrella on May 2, 2013 · 23 comments

in The Americans, TV Recaps / Review

The first season of The Americans came to a thrilling end in “The Colonel,” a gratifying resolver that still left plenty to ponder for Season 2.

the americans ej

Our favorite Directorate S agents were given two separate orders, Elizabeth (Keri Russell) was to meet the Colonel (Victor Slezak), with intelligence on President Regan’s Star Wars missile defense system, while Phillip (Matthew Rhys) was ordered to retrieve a the latest recording from Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger’s study bug, which audiences learned from last week, was compromised by Agent Gaad’s (Richard Thomas) task force.

Orders came from Claudia (Margo Martindale) in another icy exchange with Elizabeth, sparking suspicion from her and Phillip, that the meeting with the Colonel was most likely, a setup due to its sudden urgency and level of intelligence exchanged. It was finally agreed upon that they carry out the orders as planned–until Phillip changes the plans at the last minute, building up to the episode’s tense final 20 minutes that saw Phillip out-driving the FBI, Elizabeth getting seriously wounded, and Stan almost getting close enough to identify them.

EDITOR’S PICK: Read our interview with The Americans’ Stan Beeman Noah Emmerich

The body count was already high from Vlad (Vitaly Benko), Gregory (Derek Luke), Amador (Max Hernández) and General Zhukov (Olek Krupa) and the tensions were funneling towards another one. The bad blood between Elizabeth and Claudia was bubbling over and Nina (Annet Mahendru) had become expendable once she told Arkady (Lev Gorn) she was the mole. Either character could have easily died for the cause; great characters always seem to have limited run on a well-written serial like The Americans, but I found it a relief that the season didn’t end with a major death or cliffhanger.

Instead Nina’s story gets more complicated now that she’s been asked to be a double spy and extract information from Stan, and to try and turn him–those are tall orders! She ultimately comes through for the Motherland, telling Arkady she felt like a big plan was in play once Stan (Noah Emmerich) told her that her exfiltration would be approved soon. This second turn in her character makes Nina far more interesting, in fact it’s more plausible she would die for the cause than succumb to Stan’s heroic charm. Instead of being saved from it all and betraying her country, she plunged herself in a larger web of lies and now we’ll see just how good she is manipulating Stan and keeping all of her stories straight, while feeding lies to Stan.

the americans claudia

As for Claudia, she finished what Elizabeth couldn’t, killing Richard Patterson (Paul Fitzgerald) with frightening expertise. Then she saves them by recognizing an abort order cleverly put in motion by Arkady (who I’ve become a big fan with each episode). Phillip and Elizabeth pegged Claudia all wrong but will their request for a new handler goes through, or are we going to find this working relationship gets better from here? My hope is for the latter as we’ve now established enough about Claudia that Elizabeth might want to learn from her. And also to selfishly hope Ms. Martindale finds a permanent TV home for a while.

All of the women on this cast should be commended on helping introduce TV to characters we’ve been starving for, but there doesn’t seem like enough can be said about Russell’s performance. One episode she’s basking in a late night parade with Sandra Beeman (Susan Misner) the next she absorbs the guilt thrown at her by her teenage daughter for forcing their father away. Another episode finds Elizabeth comforting her past lover before he sacrifices himself for her, and the next she’s paralyzed in communicating with the man she created a family with and fights beside for 20 years. There are so many sides to Elizabeth Jennings, some real, some false, and one very true.

EDITOR’S PICK: See our PHOTO GALLERY of the cast of The Americans at FX’s Upfronts

Up until now we’ve been able to draw comparisons between Stan and Elizabeth, both loyalists to their respected countries, so much so that the importance of their work defines what their priorities must be. But something revealed in the finale was a tape recording of her mother speaking to her about how proud she was of her, and how wonderful it was for her mother to hear that Elizabeth had a family. Curled up on the floor, alone in the laundry room, Elizabeth savored the recording. Normally she must keep a front, so fierce and strong for her family, for her cause. But she never looked so scared that she might lose either Phillip or her children because of the spy game, or that she’s led a life away from everyone she cared about–without any tears falling down her face.

the americans stan

And was there a more perfect way to end the season than with Peter Gabriel’s Cold War anthem and critique of nationalism and war, “Games Without Frontiers”? From the high pitch whistles to the growling guitar licks, every note and lyric seemed to echo Phillip’s questions from the pilot, how much are he and Elizabeth willing to lose to help win a secret war?

“If looks could kill, they probably will in games without frontiers, war without tears”

Looking up at Season 2, the ante is raised with Phillip needing to maintain the charade of his marriage with Martha (Alison Wright) while trying to build his other “fake” marriage with Elizabeth back up. Either that or he has to find an unceremonious way to end it with Martha. The Beemans look like they’re in for more difficult travels, and someone as astute as Stan could want to be such a hero that he doesn’t realize he’s being played. Paige’s (Holly Taylor) curiosity is piqued and anyone who can recall being her age, she’ll keep snooping around until she finds something. And let’s not forget how much information Sanford (Tim Hopper) could spill to the feds on Elizabeth.

This is how you do a season finale, and we are counting down the days until Season 2 premieres.

  • Adrienne Friedberg

    the entire season is available on iTunes.

  • Rolo

    You don’t mention how the daughter shows a hint of suspicion in the final scene….I can’t wait till season 2

  • charlotte

    Why is it so long til season 2?

  • charlotte

    please let Phillip and Elizabeth defect to our side . It would be much more exciting.

  • safecare

    It’s the little things that make this series so good – like Philip calling Stan to look after the children while (he stays with Elizabeth until her gunshot wound is better) he and Elizabeth visit her ailing Aunt. Made me think of the saying – keep your friends close, keep you enemies closer. And when does the next season start? Yes, I’m already ready for it!

  • AnonymityBreedsContempt

    Nina is not a “double spy.” She’s a triple agent, which speaks to her intelligence and savvy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1465165069 Jim Price

    So…when is the DVD available?

  • http://twitter.com/ErnieEstrella Ernie Estrella

    It’s no different than Justified, Sons of Anarchy, or American Horror Story I’m afraid, or frankly any successful cable show. 2014 and the likely premiere date for Season 2 is 7 months away.

  • http://www.facebook.com/RYDER213 Alejandro Ramos

    We want more of The Americans Soon please don’t make the fans wait!

  • http://twitter.com/ErnieEstrella Ernie Estrella

    I don’t think they’re delaying it Hoag, That’s the cycle of cable television shows. They don’t go 25 episodes. They go 12 or 13 usually on the drama side, sometimes less. In rare cases more.

  • Simplicity 1960

    FYI – the show is on F/X, not FOX. I’ve already sent them my complaint at the ridiculous duration.

  • Simplicity1960

    You’re a pathetic DISH shill, and not a very good one at that!

  • Simplicity1960

    Without exception, “The Americans” is the BEST show on TV. I didn’t think anything would be as good as the pilot (when Phillip – dressed like Charlie Manson – stabbed the perv with the barbecue fork. “No more little girls…or I’ll be back to stick that in your heart”). But I was proved so wrong! Matthew Rhys (Phillip, Clark, Scott, Mischa) is amazing as a Welshman playing a Russian playing an American. Margo Martindale (Claudia, Grannie) blew my mind in what she did to that FBI man to avenge Zhukov’s death! And Keri Russell (Elizabeth)…always superb! The ONLY thing wrong with this show is that I have to wait until January 2014 for Season 2! Well done, F/X. Well done.

  • aliron1314

    Great show. I really enjoy it, but why soooooo long until the next season? These networks are going to find out you can’t put viewers on hold that long without them losing interest.

  • James Hoag

    Great, “right on” review of Season 1. Unfortunately “counting down the days until Season 2″ is more accurately counting down the months until Season 2. Eight months is an excruciatingly long time ’till “The Americans” return in January 2014. What was Fox thinking in delaying the second season so long?????

  • Jill

    FAVE now show…appointment TV if there ever was one

  • http://www.facebook.com/tkg313 Kevin Green

    markodin92, I seriously doubt you have even seen an episode of “The Americans.” You are here just to pimp out the inept DISH Network. I had the DISH Network and it sucked. And do not get me started on the customer service at DISH, there is nothing like having your phone call routed to a Third World country (taking with it American jobs) and having somebody that can barely utter a coherent word of English follow a flow chart that does absolutely nothing to solve your problem. Thank God for Comcast and keeping American jobs in America.

    Now go copy and paste your “reviews and comments” on every other thread.

  • Sue

    Spot on Review ! A great finale. This show is how TV drama should be done. Superb writing, casting, acting, production – the whole package. Thrilled it was renewed early on and can’t wait for it’s return.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=48209093 Chris Eden

    LOVE. LOVE. LOVE. What a great show this has
    turned out to be. What would life be like without FX and AMC? I dont
    even want to think about it. That was a wonderfully – and organically –
    tense hour of television that took place without “main character” deaths
    or huge, unrealistic, twists of plot. Just good old fashioned suspense
    built from a foundation of good storytelling that goes back weeks (maybe
    months). This show, for me, although its very different in some ways,
    echoes Breaking Bad. Where a scene with a few (seemingly) friendly folks
    sitting around a dinner table talking about the happenings of the day
    can be more tense than any interrogation or standoff between enemies on typical shows. I applaud the Americans for delivering on a show that I have been excited about for a long time now. So much to be excited about going into season 2!

  • Scott Payne

    I bet Liz is exta pissed off she got shot, and her deadly right foot becomes more cruel in season two -_-

    A kindly old lady came to my door asking to use the phone and I told her to get the *&^* away, glad I did! Did you check out the blast from that double taser…hehehehehe
    REV 18

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