In “Stealth,” The Americans got down to brass tacks. The season’s biggest arcs are all coming together and, seemingly, coming to a close. The stakes are actually starting to look a lot like those in Game of Thrones: you don’t just win or lose, you win or you die. It’s easy to feel disconnected from that reality when watching The Americans, because the Jennings are not presumably going to suffer the same fate as Emmett and Leanne. But that gruesome death, which set the tone for the season, also assured viewers that things are not going to be simple. And at the very least, the amount of emotional carnage will be high. Hit the jump, you young pioneer!
The Americans has always shown how hot the Cold War really was, in hushed corners and on darkened alleys. It was a war dictated by secrets and spies, and the show has reflected that in many personal ways. All season, Philip and Elizabeth have been confronted with the emotional fallout of their profession, and their own suspicious behavior has filtered down to their children. Both Henry and Paige have had their secrets, too.
“Stealth,” though, was an hour filled with overt revelations, all connected in a domino effect. Sandra returns from her lovers’ weekend afraid to commit to a divorce, even though she and Stan both know that’s the only option left. Stan’s emotional state over the break-up of his family makes him more committed to Nina than ever, but so much so that he might be willing to betray the country he has wanted to fight for since he was a child? This kind of emotional obfuscation is something The Americans has toyed with a lot this season, particularly regarding Philip and Elizabeth’s individual missions. Does love or conscience override one’s professional duties?
Nina is hoping so, because he freedom depends on it. Arkady very wisely puts the burden of that revelation onto Oleg, to make him responsible for her (since he has connections and protection). Oleg, rattled but not put off by Nina’s former treason, tells her to make it work, or to run. Even he might not be able to get her out of things if she fails to get Stan to turn. All of this has some bearing on Stan’s quest to find out more information about the KGB’s network of illegals, which brings him back to an old case, with the sketches of Philip and Elizabeth in disguise. Unfortunately for the Jennings, it happens to look a lot like the wig/glasses combo Elizabeth also used when she went to see Jared.
Jared is currently the lynchpin of the entire operation. Stan needs him to be able to identify the Jennings or say more about his parents, and the Jennings need him to stay quiet. Kate’s relationship with him is unknown; as Elizabeth sees for herself, Kate was meeting with Jared without a disguise. What were they discussing? Was the Center just one step ahead of things, as Philip suggested? The message Kate left for whoever came looking for her after Larrick’s B&E was to “get Jared out.” What did Kate know about Larrick and his relationship with the murders of Jared’s parents and sister?
There are still many unanswered questions about Larrick, as well as how things with Stan and Nina will play out, but not only has The Americans woven together these major arcs beautifully towards the end of the season, it’s also infused this season with so much emotion even outside of the Jennings’ marriage. (In fact, their marriage has been one of the most stable parts of this run of episodes). The episodic missions haven’t been as interesting if they didn’t fit in particularly with that emotional plot (like in “Stealth,” Philip getting secrets about the stealth tech), but it’s still been part of the show’s important — though not overwhelming — use of cultural and historical touchstones.
“Stealth” set up the domino-like connections. In the final two episodes, we’ll start to see which parts start to fall.
Episode Rating: A
Musings and Miscellanea:
— The Americans can be dense and sometimes hard to follow when it comes to the point of the missions, but “Stealth” was very clear about what RAM and Echo were, which Americans had the answers, and why the Russians wanted them.
— The show continuing to highlight Anton’s experience back in the Soviet Union is an interesting and necessary contrast to Philip and Elizabeth’s life in the United States.
— Excellent scene where Paige advocated for the freedom of her mind (if not her person), and Elizabeth allowed her to go to the rally, finally seeing in her some traits she also recognized in herself.
— The Americans has always excelled at crafting family scenes, particularly around marriage, and the dissolution of Stan and Sandra’s marriage has been particularly heartbreaking, especially in this hour. Seriously … damn. Also, I liked Gaad’s unhelpful comments that a good marriage is luck of the draw.
— Neat spy moment when Kate knew someone was in her house, both preparing for it (unfortunately, not well enough), and leaving the message.
— I liked that Elizabeth admitted her reticence over burning Leanne’s letter, now that Jared might be learning the truth anyway … from the Americans!
— Microscopic iron balls, suspended in bat-killing, cancer-causing paint. America!
— Although Stan seems as obsessed with Nina as ever, him talking to Henry about how he’s wanted to be an agent since he was a kid, and lighting up talking about those comics, makes Nina’s missions much less certain.