Spoiler Alert: Do not read if you haven’t seen The Americans Season 1, Ep. 12 – “The Oath”.
The exciting thing about what “The Oath” set up for the finale is that it could go a myriad of ways. But, of all the possible outcomes, it’s impossible to see what will be left for the second season. The Jennings are milliseconds away from being discovered by Stan, Stan is milliseconds away from being compromised by Nina (and not in the way he enjoys), and Claudia and Elizabeth are milliseconds away from ripping each other’s faces off. All of these scenarios would yield a highly satisfactory finale, but none leave much room for storytelling into the second season. Luckily, the writers of The Americans have proven that they are just as deft at getting out of corners as the characters they write.
So enough about what might happen, let’s talk about what did happen.
First, I have never had such a strong mixture of pity and annoyance for a character than I do for Martha. The lonely secretary turned unwitting spy source has taken yet another turn that will likely land her her own Lifetime movie in a couple years (I’d go with The Spy who Married Me or I Didn’t Know I was a Spy). I pity her because, really, who wouldn’t feel bad for someone unknowingly married to a KGB spy? But it’s annoying because she’s so desperate for this perfect mad to be real that she’s overlooking some pretty bright red flags. If she spent any actual time on a pro and con list she should realize that any man asking you to plant a bug in an FBI agent’s office isn’t being totally upfront with you. But love blinds you I suppose, now if it could only pay for therapy.
Our other previously desperate lady has taken matters into her own hands. For weeks I’ve suspected that Nina was already feeding information to the Russians about Stan, but it actually took an oath of loyalty to mother Russia (and the sneaking suspicion he killed her friend) for Nina to give up her traitorous ways and offer up her services to her homeland. But, I expect an experienced FBI agent like Stan may catch on if she suddenly starts asking him questions, but then I’d also expect him to better at lying about killing his mistress’s friend.
It looks like the final mission of the season will be Philip and Elizabeth meeting with the newfound source; a man very high up on the nuclear weapons food chain. Is it a set up? Possibly (especially considering how this covert war ends), but it also doesn’t matter. This show has never been about the covert war. Not really. It’s about how these spies live in the context of the Cold War and what they find in themselves as a result. The oaths taken in this episode (Martha and Philip to each other, Nina to her country) have changed people’s perspective. Elizabeth now better understands what a true marriage should mean and perhaps is interested in taking those vows and Nina was reminded of her identity and that she doesn’t need a savior; she can save herself. These are the intriguing questions that await in the finale, not will the Jennings get caught (probably not), will Martha die (I can’t see how she couldn’t) or will Paige get the boy (I sincerely hope not. She’s better than that).
The finale may be action packed, but I’m looking forward to seeing how these characters deal with that action. And just how they’re going to sustain a spy narrative beyond where they have brought it already.
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