Previously on The Americans, “The World Council of Churches”
This finale summed up this entire season quite well. The season was uneven and repetitive. The finale was frustrating and circuitous. Granted, to enjoy this show you must be some level of masochist. We watch to be emotionally disturbed, deeply conflicted, and darkly amused. And this Season 5 finale fulfilled some of those needs. It left me disturbed and conflicted. But most of what I felt was for the episode itself and not the content. What I’m taking a very long time to say — spitefully, mirroring the season itself — was “The Soviet Division” delivered, but when we opened the bag it was lukewarm and unappetizing.
This show is great at building tension, but in this finale (and season, as well), it felt like it was thrown in just for exercise. From Elton John onwards, they subtly and artfully ratcheted up the anticipation. By the end of the episode, my shoulders were up to my ears but as the credits rolled, I had no idea why.
This finale needed some finality. It needed a decision. Instead we were left in the same purgatory we’ve experienced all season. The Deus ex Promotion was just frustrating. It gives them somewhere to go next season, but whether it’ll be more interesting than The Americans in Russia is doubtful.
We know the writers are masters in clever, twisted humor. Its particular brand, so emblematic of this show, has been scant this season and absent in this finale. The small scraps of lightness we were thrown didn’t quite make up for thirteen episodes of Philip’s frowny face. Paige getting punched by her mother doesn’t count. Ok, maybe a little (guilty) bit. Sorry.
Now for a little more objectivity.
Morozovs v. Jennings
The Morozovs were introduced as a mirror for the Jennings all season. We spent most of the season with little investment, but the writers did a good job to give us the emotional connection we needed in the last few episodes. “The Soviet Division” wisely eschewed the season’s penchant for multiple storylines and focused in on these two Russian families.
Pasha had one reason why. Attempted teen suicide is a hard way to start this episode, but we knew it was coming. The blood and his parents’ reactions were done well and brutal to watch.
Pasha has the one thing Tuan lacks. Family. They made a wise choice in keeping Pasha alive as any empathy for cyborg Tuan would have been obliterated, otherwise. It would be devastating and intriguing to see what such a death would have on Tuan’s character, but this show is not about him. As (very well) performed, we see the hint of vulnerability behind Tuan’s stoic character when he talks to Pasha and the fragility behind his seemingly heartless words when he tells his fake parents he told on them in his report. This is something Elizabeth identifies within herself and she speaks to him, machine-to-machine, and tells him he will fail unless he is assigned a Philip. Will Paige be Tuan’s Philip?
It’s to the show’s and actor’s credit we feel empathy for Alexei, who spent much of the earlier episodes repeatedly denouncing Russians to all and sundry. He obviously cares dearly for his family. He knows they will be better in Moscow, but he cannot go back. He has to let go.
Philip is more agitated than Alexei at the Soviet division, clearly projecting his own family worries. Family to Philip is everything and he can’t imagine being separated from his them…even poor, neglected Henry. Though he identifies with Alexei, Philip is, in many ways, more of an Evgheniya. He puts family first.
Anvil: We didn’t need Philip yelling about the family staying together to understand Philip’s feelings. Matthew Rhys has a special variation of Philip Face to express just that.
Evgheniya Morozov is by far the most empathetic and empathized of the Morozovs. She has to deal with a sulky-turned-tragic teenager and a whiny-turned-absent husband. Her guilt over her affair and attempted suicide is understandable and human and nicely acted by Irina Dvorovenko.
Elizabeth plays a mother and a wife, but she has been programmed to execute (sorry…easy pun), and she’s good at it. We’ve watched this show long enough to know there is truth in every identity the Jennings take on, and there are signs of true empathy in her interactions with Evgheniya. Her love might be tough, but she cares for Tuan and knows how to parent/get through to/manipulate him. Elizabeth cares for her family, but her mission comes first. While it’s a highly irritating story point, her decision to stay says a lot about who she is, as does her concern for Philip’s well-being. She believes, to the point of blindness, in the resiliency and toughness of her children (well, Paige at least). But she sees her husband’s delicate state clearly.
Anvil: We didn’t need Philip telling Elizabeth he needs her to know that she does. Her conversation with Tuan was enough.
Linings of Silver
- Martha – We know how badly Martha wanted kids. It was such a well-earned moment to see her look upon her daughter-to-be. Watching Alison Wright’s face register the news was heartbreaking and sweet. A wonderfully acted small moment. And much needed.
- Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – This montage of (potential) melancholy farewells worked emotionally – Paige to Pastor Tim. Philip to Stan (Philip was literally replaced). Elizabeth to Capitalism. The song choice as perfection. Read the lyrics.
- Meta—This show is so artfully directed and the performances are beautiful. We could pick up the entire story were it on mute. Actually….
- The Soviet Division – is the title foreshadowing rift in the Jennings household? I know they’re insinuating it, but they also insinuated Big Trouble for the Jennings with last week’s cliffhanger and nothing came of that.
- Other titles – There have been a couple of conspicuously specific titles this season. Both The World Council of Churches and The Committee on Human Rights are references to fairly minor details within their respective episodes. Will they resurface to play a bigger part, next season?
- Amber waves – So, did we drop Super Grain Tai Chi and Lotus 1-2-3 or what?
- Mama Oleg – She was raped repeatedly by an officer while imprisoned. Do we know the officer (Philip’s dad)? Did she get pregnant (Philip/Philip’s brother)? If we know the father and it’s Gabriel, I might scream.
- Hockey Courier – He passes the polygraph, but so did Nina. Little clenching is all you need.
- She–Philip – Who needs Philip when you have Rene? She reels Stan back in to the FBI. KGB is too on the nose. She works for the Americans, da?
- Oh Henry – Elizabeth (at least) is staying. Um. So. About that boarding school….
The Americans S5E13
"The Soviet Division"
“I’m tired of feeling shitty.” I believe in the showrunners. I love the actors. It’s beautiful to watch. I’m glad it’s over. I need a break from the torpid heaviness that was Season 5 of The Americans. But much like Stan and the Jennings, I’ll get pulled back in.