Spoiler Alert: Do not read if you haven’t seen The Americans Season 1 Finale – “The Colonel”.
After an outstanding first season The Americans came to a close this week doing what it does best: giving us a tense spy drama as mere backdrop to the tenser personal relationships at the heart of the show. The action has always taken a backseat to the character development, which is what has made the show so consistently great. So, even with last week’s set up of the (maybe) trap meeting we should have known that the real revelations would be happening on the home front.
That said the action was once again top notch as well. The FBI was in fact setting up the Directorate S agents, just not the way everyone suspected. The meeting with the titular Colonel was legit, but, thanks to the housekeeper’s confession, the pick-up of the tape was not.
Elizabeth’s slow approach to the watched car was suspenseful enough, but prior to that the ratcheted drama came from the argument about who would take the kids to Canada and who would (most likely) be captured and tortured by the US government. In the end Philip chose to be (most likely) captured and stole the meeting with the Colonel from his wife.
Elizabeth’s insistence that Philip take the kids while she took the fall is the most self-aware thing she’s done all season. She has worked hard to convince everyone else and herself that she can commit herself to her family, but when the time came to really make that choice, she knew her kids would be better off with Philip while she would fare better as a political prisoner. It was only when she was delirious from her injury that she invited Philip back. Perhaps as an attempt to really connect as husband and wife or perhaps as yet another attempt to convince herself that’s what she wants. I guess we’ll find out in season two.
But it was Claudia who received the most development this week. Since her introduction her motives have been hard to read, but this finale proved that she’s been telling the truth the whole time. She may not care for Elizabeth personally, but she does care about what happens to her agents, she just cares about following orders more. A lot of Claudia and Elizabeth’s head butting is a result of them being so similar. They are both women trained in a man’s world who take their jobs all the more seriously because of it. They are both loyal to their mission and their country, even if they may disagree with what it asks of them from time to time. For this reason I hope the Jennings rescind their complaint against Claudia and she’s back again next season.
And it was another (newly minted) female spy’s loyalty to country that resolved the crisis in the end. For a moment it looked like Nina was contemplating sitting on the information from Stan and accepting the offer of exfiltration. If this “big move” had happened just a week earlier she would have eagerly accepted the offer (even if it does only come as a way for Stan to get his girlfriend out of town so he can try to focus on his wife), but her oath was still fresh in her mind. So Philip and Elizabeth were saved in the eleventh hour and Stan might finally have to wise up when he start thinking about who could have tipped the Russians off.
I applaud The Americans for not taking the easy road and ending the season with a giant cliffhanger or surprise death. Instead it neatly wrapped up its spy game threads (brilliantly set to Peter Gabriel’s’ “Games Without Frontiers”) and neatly introduced next season’s drama. True to form, next season will likely include bouts of action and suspense, but the real tension will come from the family. It was only a matter of time before the kids started to get suspicious about their parents’ odd behavior. Paige doesn’t know what she’s looking for yet, but she’s looking. And if she has half the natural skills of her parents, it won’t be long before she uncovers the truth.
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