‘The Americans’ Celebrate An Unhappy Thanksgiving in ‘Rififi’


A review of tonight’s The Americans coming up just as soon as I buy my car from Penny Saver…

“You can take your Forum bullshit, and you can shove it up your ass.” -Elizabeth

Early in “Rififi,” Aderholt breaks some big news to Stan: the Gennadi operation really did prove fruitful (if fatal for Gennadi and Sofia) by uncovering the identity of one of Philip and Elizabeth’s counterparts in Chicago, code-named Harvest. Excited, Aderholt explain to his former partner that they’re not just onto Harvest, but onto the method that all the illegals use to avoid detection, procure assets, etc. If they look for the same behavior in other cities, Dennis suggests, they could sniff out the whole network.

“It’s gonna happen fast,” he promises Stan.

It’s a striking comment because we’re now in the back half of this final season, and thus any reference to the pace at which the endgame might play out is notable. But it’s also striking because so much of this final season has been slow-playing that endgame.

This has been a strong season so far (last week’s episode especially), but it hasn’t been a breathless sprint to the finish in the way that, say, the final seasons of Breaking Bad or The Shield were. It has, in fact, been paced more or less like any previous season of the show, all of which had more episodes to play with, none of which had the burden of having to wrap up the entire story. And every time it seems like the plot is finally ready to move as fast as Aderholt promises Stan, we move back to the Russian literature mode: tons of dread, but only incremental plot advancement.

Of course, this has always been The Americans‘s primary mode, where those other dramas were crazier to begin with. (Breaking Bad famously started at an amble, but by its last couple of years had burst into a sprint.) So I can’t blame Fields, Weisberg, and company for sticking with what’s almost always worked for them, even in a slightly abbreviated final season. But it’s been fascinating and occasionally frustrating to watch these episodes keep tiptoeing up to some apparent point of no return, then find a way to step back and move around it for the time being.