Review: ‘The Americans’ – ‘Operation Chronicle’

05.14.14 5 years ago 123 Comments

A review of tonight's “The Americans” coming up just as soon as I don't have a niece or a cousin…

“One day, it's coming. You know it is.” -Elizabeth

After the emotional explosion that was “Martial Eagle,” it feels like “The Americans” has eased back on Philip and Elizabeth's crisis of faith (in Mother Russia, not in the god they don't believe in) in favor of moving the season's big story arcs forward before next week's finale. But if Philip has mostly calmed down since his confrontation with Pastor Tim, Elizabeth's time with Jared only increases her own concerns about the risks this job creates for both them and their kids.

The season has had so many moving pieces that it hasn't had a lot of time to deal with the mystery of who killed Emmett and Leanne. For a while, we thought it was Larrick, and maybe it will turn out to be true, but the last real clue we got of any sort involved Claudia's lover many episodes. But the fact that the Centre is so concerned about Jared, and apparently was sending an undisguised Kate to spend time with him and teach him the signals, at least opens the possibility that this was an inside job – that Emmett and Leanne had done something their KGB masters did not approve of, and they had to be eliminated (with their daughter as collateral damage). That level of ruthlessness doesn't seem beyond either side of this not-so-cold war, and if that turns out to be the case, boy oh boy is that going to create some tension for season 3. And even if the killer turns out to be Larrick (who appears on course to have one last fight with the Jennings family next week), Claudia's lover, Fred (if it turns out he's not as shy as he seems) or some other player we haven't met, the job having consequences of this degree – where Paige and Henry could be orphaned, or sent to live on their own in a strange and faraway country, or killed alongside their sleeper agent parents – is definitely putting some doubt in Elizabeth the true believer, to go nicely with the ones her husband has had for quite some time.

And there is already a lot of doubt over at the Rezidentura, where Oleg is giving Nina cash to make a run for it (assuming she still has the freedom of movement to do it) even as Arkady is in the midst of springing the trap on Stan. It's an impressive pivot the show has done with Oleg over the season, from smug nepotism hire to slick spymaster to this guy so consumed with feelings for Nina that he would sacrifice both the mission and his future to protect her. Oleg has become Stan, and the actual Stan is so broken that anything could happen with him and Echo. (Note, for instance, that he kept saying the name of the system to Gaad, which could have been a guilty conscience controlling his tongue or could have been him trying to tip off his boss to what's coming.)

This season has made a wreck of all the adult characters, and at times it's made a wreck of me. There's an awful lot to deal with next season – even if Fields and Weisberg intend to stretch some of what happens here into next season, just as they did with Elizabeth's gunshot wound, Martha and Clark's marriage, Paige's doubts, etc. – but it's been a fantastic ride so far.

Some other thoughts:

* I respect that the show keeps addressing potential logic problems by having characters bring them up. At a certain point, for instance, Paige would be old enough to recognize that travel agents shouldn't have to run out so often late at night to handle travel emergencies, just as any woman married to Clark for a time would realize he's wearing a wig, even if it's the best possible wig technology available to the KGB at the time.

* Speaking of Martha, any guesses on how Philip may try to evade the kid issue? Get a vasectomy while wig-less? He can't surreptitiously give her birth control pills if he's not with her every day.

* Henry, like many “Star Trek” fans in 1982 (I was a little younger than him at the time) is rightly very skeptical of “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” given how terrible (and how unlike the TV show) “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” was. Just you wait, Henry: “Khan” may well be the best thing to happen to you all year. (That, or “E.T.”)

* Sandra's announcement that she's moving in with her lover is all the more brutal because of how matter-of-fact it is. She's not angry; she just recognizes that it's over, and so does he.

* As it did in this area throughout the winter, the snow level fluctuates wildly from outdoor scene to outdoor scene; the problem here is that they're sometimes scenes that are supposed to be taking place on the same day.

* They spent a lot of time on Stan buying the used car. I suppose there are some parallels to be made with Stan's work and professional situations – everyone knows something shady is happening, but nobody wants to come right out and talk about it – but unless that car somehow becomes a huge plot point in the finale, that could've been trimmed down, even in one of the season's shorter episodes.

Season finale next week. I haven't watched yet, but I should have both a review of the finale up a week from tonight, plus a chat with Fields and Weisberg.

What did everybody else think?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at

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