Culture

“The Americans” review: “Yousaf”

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(Editor’s note: This being Heave’s final week of operations, the following is the last installment of Matt’s coverage of The Americans.)

Well, here we are. Although this is the tenth episode out of thirteen for The Americans’ second season, this will be my final review of FX’s newest top drama. Bittersweet. That’s all I can say about that.

So, Phillip and Elizabeth do some pretty questionable things for their job. They kill people, manipulate feelings, and sleep with whomever they need to. The pill was much easier to swallow last year. Those characters they conned were just placeholders for information, plot devices at the very best. The maturity of The Americans’ sophomore season truly shows through in this respect. Whereas season one only gave us Gregory in terms of “converted foot soldiers,” season two has challenged the idea so much further. First with Lucia and now with Annalyse, the Jennings have indoctrinated outsiders to the Soviet cause. Lucia was a good soldier. She was willing to do whatever was necessary, but her ego is what got in the way. With Annalyse, something different is about. First, it was unclear whether she knows what cause she’s supporting; Phillip appears to be playing her on that front. However, the spy game has been just that to her: a game. In the events of tonight’s episode, she’s pushed to make her own questionable decision. Having sex with Yousaf is not the worst thing she could have done, but it’s the first injection of the poison the Jennings sell. Phillip is slowly infecting her with promises of love and duty that are dominating her decisions.

And just like that, another morally ambiguous spy is born. Am I upset about that? I am, but I think that’s the point. I don’t think I’m supposed to hate the Jennings, but I believe we’re allowed to hate what they have to do. It’s taxing to watch these characters endure daily trauma. I wonder at times if the writing staff is pushing us toward an ultimate defection from the KGB. If I was in the writers room, I would be spitballing the idea of them turning in the final season. In reality, I don’t know if I see that happening. Phillip and Elizabeth will live and die by their oaths. FX loves its tragedies (i.e. The Shield, Sons of Anarchy, Terriers, that last tragedy being the early cancellation). However, they won’t deny us the wonderful villainy they will face before the FBI or whoever take these two out.

Enter Larrick. I said previously how Larrick had this instantly cold-blooded, calculated demeanor that would make for a challenging foe. For a moment, it appeared Larrick was out of the Jennings’ lives and, accordingly so, out of ours. Not so. Following the death of the field commanders at the Contra training facility, Larrick is back and out for blood. For all its tropes, the spy genre would be nothing without them, and our loyal KGB agent in the basement with a switchboard has been one of my favorites. The idea is a throwback that isn’t distracting from the tone of the show. Unfortunately, he meets his end at the hands of Larrick. Here I was thinking Larrick would just kill off all the annoying characters.

Does that include Paige? Almost. Honestly, everyone is behaving like morons when it comes to the summer camp issue. I recognize Elizabeth’s concern, but Phillip’s respect for Paige’s fortitude should have won the day. After all, what’s more communist than summer camp? Or is it fascist? I don’t know, I never made it through the full week without missing my mommy. I’m rambling, sorry. The structure of a three-month camp could greatly benefit Paige’s relationship with her faith. Even the Bible-tearing Phillip sees that in the camp. So chill out, Elizabeth.

The endless cycle of espionage has really showed this season. I don’t know if that’s just the writers running out of ways for the Jennings to wear wigs and manipulate people or the point they’re trying to convey, but it is stressful. I will tell you one thing. Following the end of this coverage, I will only watch The Americans at its airing time or the following morning. It doesn’t work as the last thing you do before bed. You have been warned, fellow optimists.

I pray that The Americans keeps its full story to a contained level. FX series can run their courses in later seasons, when the more procedural aspects bleed through. This has been Sons of Anarchy’s problem. (There was also the additional half hour every episode this past season, but that’s another story.) Luckily, the characters have been strong enough to make themselves more important than the story at times. Yet, every FX drama has its way of finishing up strong. I point once again to Sons of Anarchy. More so The Shield, but, again, best drama of all time. The Americans should be a five-season show, but it could easily run for ten.

Will we make it to the Berlin Wall getting torn down? In these period pieces, we have a way of subconsciously putting in these historical moments. Almost everyone I have spoken to expects the moon landing to occur in the series finale of Mad Men. I have no clue if The Americans will get that far, but I would like to say a few words about this season. First, it has proven that it’s not a one-hit wonder. All of the 2013 Freshman Class is being tested on that this year. Orange is the New Black, Hannibal, Bates Motel, Masters of Sex, etc. are all under this microscope. The Americans is, however, the show to beat.

Wild/Thoughtful predictions: Larrick is going to kill someone close to the Jennings. He will be defeated before this season ends. Beeman will find out who the Jennings are in season three. Oleg and Beeman will have a falling out. Henry will continue to break into houses. The United States will beat the Russians at Lake Placid. Sweet Martha will finally figure out who Clarke is….by following him home.

Imagine: Martha: “Hello, is Clarke here?” Paige: “Who’s Clarke?” Think about it.

  • oiltrdr

    So, Have Philip and Elizabeth fallen in love with each-other, and if so, how will that affect the way they approach risk?