If there’s one recurring theme on The Americans, it’s that everything Philip and Elizabeth touch turns into garbage. This is especially true of the people they interact with. Just run down the list: Young-Hee and her family, the Northrop employee Elizabeth met in AA, and of course, Martha. She was just a lonely secretary, living by herself and desperate for love, and by the end of season four Philip had turned her into a treasonous double agent who is still hopelessly alone, but now in Russia, where she doesn’t speak the language and she can’t even call her parents. Not ideal. Poor, poor Martha.
(While you technically can’t count it as “a person,” Philip and Elizabeth’s interference also resulted in the temporary decommissioning of the Mail Robot. It says a lot about how jaded you can get watching this show that Elizabeth literally murdered an old woman while they were bugging the Mail Robot and I was still watching like “LEAVE THE ROBOT ALONE, IT’S THE ONLY GOOD THING LEFT IN THE WORLD AND YOU’RE RUINING IT!”)
This brings us to Stan Beeman, Philip and Elizabeth’s neighbor, FBI Russian hunter, and all-in-all nice — if occasionally misguided — guy. I am very, very worried about Stan.
It feels a little weird to say that now, as we move into season five. Things are actually kind of okay in Stan-world, all considered. Especially when you think about where he was even just at the beginning of season four. Dude was a mess. His wife had left him, his son wanted nothing to do with him, and his Russian girlfriend — which was a whole thing, and involved him killing someone and almost committing treason and really just falling apart all over the place, often while partially unshaven — got sent back to Russia and executed. He even got into a spat with Philip, his only real friend (“friend,” more on this in a moment), when he found out Philip and his soon-to-be ex were out socializing after their EST meeting. It was also not ideal.
But now? Stan is kind of good now. The Nina thing still hurts, and he’s still bummed out about Gaad’s mysterious screen door demise, but he’s actually starting to put a life together again. He’s dating. Things are better at work, as his relationship with Burov has made him a Justice Department golden boy. Matthew and Paige’s budding little romance seems to tickle him in a way that is both adorable and wee bit creepy (he seems a little too excited about his teenage son and best friend’s daughter getting it on, right?), but even then, kind of adorably creepy, to the extent that’s a thing. He seems happy for the first time in a while. I’m happy for him. He’s even offering people beer in a way that seems to suggest “Wanna kick back and have a cold one?” instead of “I’m gonna drink until I cry whether you accept my offer or not.” Progress!
And that’s why I’m so worried about him. No one on The Americans stays happy very long. In fact, a character displaying any signs of peace or well-being is usually a signal that doom is on the horizon. (Think about how happy Frank looked on vacation.) It’s easy to see how this all falls apart for him, too. One of the FBI’s top intelligence operatives, whose job — nay, specialty — is to identify, expose, and hopefully flip Russian operatives, has been living across the street from two notorious Russian spies for years. One of them is his best friend, possibly his only friend. His son is dating their daughter, who is also working as what you could now safely call a Russian operative trainee. He’s had dinner at their house dozens if not hundreds of times. If Philip and Elizabeth ever get exposed (arrested or found out after they return to Russia), Stan could be thoroughly embarrassed and disgraced, even if he’s the one who catches them. There’s a very Breaking Bad Walter/Hank vibe to it all, if you think about it. I half-expect Stan to put the whole thing together one day while sitting on the toilet.