The Americans doesn’t have much in common with Game of Thrones, even though they’re two of the best shows (if not the best shows) on television. One’s a slow burn with a focus on character, the other kills regulars by the dozen. One doesn’t have dragons, one does. But there is one similarity: the season finale. Game of Thrones famously saves its biggest moments for episode nine, a week before the finale — The Americans doesn’t really ever do “big moments,” especially in the finale. There are no “small talk” scenes, nothing that will have you tweeting the “OMG” emoji. “Persona Non Grata,” a fantastic episode in a fantastic season, is a tease. It treats the viewer the way Gabriel treated Elizabeth and Philip: a bomb is dropped, but it hasn’t yet landed.
In this case, the bomb is the Jennings being allowed to return home. Not Paige and Henry’s home, but Elizabeth and Philip’s, back in Mother Russia. After everything that’s happened this season — beginning with Martha, and ending with William Crandall (a never-better Dylan Baker) being brought in by the FBI — it was inevitable that such a moment would arrive. Even Gabriel (and all of EST) knows that Philip’s heart isn’t in his job anymore. But it was still stunning to hear it come from his mouth. Not that we know how Elizabeth and Philip are going to answer. That would be the landing. It’s too immediate. Better to let the shock slowly sink in, like a deadly virus.
Let’s break down five key elements of “Persona Non Grata”: