THE AMERICANS Season One Finale Recap: “The Colonel”

     May 1, 2013


This is how The Americans ends / This is how The Americans ends / not with a bang but a whimper. The Americans was renewed for a second season, which is good since pretty much everything that was happening before is still in play. “The Colonel” could technically have worked as a series finale I suppose, though the only thing that made it feel like a season finale rather than a regular episode was that several subplots were wrapped up neatly and nicely — “nice” being the operative word. For a show that has been so languid and complex, things in “The Colonel” moved rather rotely. As it was, the big build up to the “is it or isn’t it a trap” moment was as predictable as anything the show has ever done. Hit the jump for why “you know you’re not allowed to wake up mom.”

Once it became clear early in the episode that the setup was not the meeting with the Colonel but in the retrieval of the transmitter, the game between Elizabeth and Philip over who would take the “dangerous” Colonel mission was interesting to watch unfold, with the knowledge that the “easy” mission would be the one that might result in a capture. The transmitter plot was one of the biggest payoffs of the season, with the housekeeper from an early episode finally coming clean about her placement of the device, which the FBI smartly used to lure out the operatives. So it made it all the more unsatisfying to see it never have a chance of working.

the americans the colonel margo martindaleThe relationships all tied up neatly, too. After a season-long struggle between Granny Claudia and Elizabeth (resulting in Claudia’s reassignment, though her conversation with Arkady — a rare one not involving Liz and Phil — shows that Elizabeth was wrong, she really is on their side), Claudia keeps watch over her operatives and saves Philip from the setup … only to figure it out was Elizabeth who was in danger. Will her relationship with the Jennings be different from now on?. Maybe. It would be a hell of a shame to see Margo Martindale leave the show though (also further proof of Claudia’s truths: she killed Zhukov’s assassin and mentioned at least the first part of their “relationship,” whatever it actually amounted to).

After a season of marital back and forth, Elizabeth also finally accepts Philip back into the family, which next season will complicate his “marriage” to Martha. I suspect, perhaps, that Martha might come clean to Gaad about the bug once Philip/Clarke dumps her, just like the maid eventually confessed, as did Nina to Arkady. Nina surprised me by surviving the season and actually becoming a player — I’ve enjoyed watching her progression more than anyone’s. That final scene where we know she was playing Stan was magnificent. His greatest boon turned out to be his biggest problem. The FBI should have exfiltrated her while they had the chance!

the americans the colonel keri russellNina is also right though that “turning” Stan is impossible, which means that relationship will have to end (again though, I predict it will be Nina who suffers, but I could be wrong as I have been so far!) Speaking of Stan, I find it hard to believe that, with his instincts, he wouldn’t put two and two together about the Jennings disappearing on the night “the couple” escaped, also given that he has suspected them of something since the start. Of course, it’s too early for him to start figuring that out yet, and the Jennings relationship with him is clouding his judgement, a helpful by-product.

As for the Jennings, things look like they will continue as normal into next year, even though the Big Reveal from the Colonel to Philip was that the Americans have no secrets worth reporting — it’s all a front to work the Soviets up into another arms race but in space, and one that is so impossibly crazy neither side has a prayer of making it happen. Will this make Moscow back off, or go in harder? The show also made another political comment with Arkady saying the info from the meet could be the best thing since the atom bomb, which Claudia says “they always say that, followed by “it was so obvious.” (Moscow! Will they ever learn?)

The only door left cracked is one I suggested might have an impact at some point: The Paige Issue. Paige is old enough now to become suspicious of her parents’ comings and goings (and disappearances) and night-time laundry. Like most TV kids, she doesn’t accept her mother’s explanation because she didn’t hear the washer, and then later goes back to investigate what might have gone on in there. What does she suspect? And might her connection with Matthew and Beemans work against her parents’ objectives? We’ll see next year!

Episode Rating: B+ / Season Rating: A-

Musings and Miscellanea:

the americans the colonel matthew rhys— “The Colonel” had a much better pace than most of the episodes this season, but story-wise I rated it lower for telegraphing all of its moves. Bottom line, I found it underwhelming.

— I had always wondered why the kids never noticed their parents were gone at night (and when do the Jennings sleep?), but I’m glad the writers threw in that reveal about not being “allowed” to wake them.

— I liked that we finally got a moment of Elizabeth being emotional when listening to a tape from her mother.

— So Sandra suddenly reappeared, but is still made with Stan and doesn’t even want to go to Jamaica!

— Poor Martha, who didn’t featured much this week, except to be seen in marital bliss. A friend would have suggested a background check on Clarke.

— Granny takes no prisoners.

— So that’s the end. The Americans hasn’t been one of my top favorites this year, though it certainly had some very worthwhile and “real” moments. I’ll be interested to see where the show goes next year to keep things exciting. Until then, here’s some Peter Gabriel!