On Tuesday night the fifth season of The Americans wraps up and closes the book on a season that’s included nefarious, grain-ruining bugs, family dinners at Bennigans, and a massively depressing look at your neighborhood Russian grocery store among other things. So yeah, it’s been an interesting couple of weeks for everyone except for Henry, the Jennings’ son who is busy. Always busy. He’s either playing video games, upstairs in his room, over at Stan’s or (insert excuse to avoid having to Henry on camera here…any excuse will do, we don’t even care anymore*.)
*Actually, it turns out Henry had a trick or two up his sleeve as he was actually studying like a boss and applying to a private school (Note: this post was originally written early in the season)
Hey, Henry is the lucky one. Have you seen Paige lately?
Girl is looking stressed these days. I don’t think she’s going to make it and I don’t care how many times she rubs her fingers together or how many sacks of laundry she beats up in the garage. It doesn’t look good for yet another put-upon, troubled daughter of a television anti-hero.
But speaking of not making it, with ten episodes left it might be time to start envisioning what the end might look like for not just Paige, but Elizabeth, Philip, Stan, Oleg, poor Martha and everyone else on the show – even Henry. I think it’s time to start asking ourselves how will The Americans end?
I’m of the opinion that the closest comparison and the best way to forecast the end of The Americans, is to look to Breaking Bad. Both shows are incredibly tightly constructed and orchestrated, have relatively small casts and both are based on characters we have complicated relationships with. Walter White was a narcissistic, psychotic drug dealer, but he was in a way, doing it for his family (at first at least.) I guess we were rooting for Walter in some way, just not in the traditional sense.
The same could be said for Philip and Elizabeth – Russian spies working to help Russia defeat America. As an American, I’m not sure that’s a goal I can get behind.* They kill innocent people, manipulate and use innocent people and they’ve caused their teenage daughter to start growing gray hairs and start drinking because of their insistence she join the family business. Philip, Elizabeth and Walter are not good people. We should want them to lose.
*And here I was thinking that this was a shared belief.
On the other side of the coin are two characters that we should be rooting for based on everything we’ve been conditioned and taught since we started consuming entertainment. On Breaking Bad it was Hank – the dogged lawman, who in the 11th hour of the show, learns that the person he has been chasing all along is his very own brother-in-law. And then on The Americans, it’s Stan the FBI man, also hunting spies that are literally under his nose. When we’re talking about The Americans ending, it really is hard to not see something going down between Stan and Philip, the two have gotten so close over the years, that mirrors the moment in Breaking Bad when Hank confronts Walt about his true identity.
Does Philip then tell Stan to tread lightly and eventually Stan ends up getting shot by a gang of neo-Nazis in the New Mexican desert? Probably not. But could we see either Philip or Elizabeth being forced to take Stan out? Yes. Yes we can. We now know that they’ve been sending the Centre reports about Stan and we also know that someone in Russia seems to be hip to the fact that Oleg most likely ratted out that scientist who died last season to someone, probably Stan. Where there’s smoke there’s fire and there’s definitely some plumes starting to emerge from Stan’s chimney.
That’s a crazy thought though, the idea that Phillip and/or Elizabeth could be asked to kill Stan, because how would we react to that? If the Jennings are forced to kill Stan, it would be because he’s onto them and the gig is up. Killing Stan would then presumably clear the way for them to either keep being spies or high tail it back to Russia. Is that what we want – the Jennings to win? Do we really want Stan to lose?
Yeah, it’s confusing.
Those two questions are going to be massive as The Americans enters the home stretch and I’m going to be honest with you, I’m not sure I’m ready. It’s been a few years since I saw the final season of Breaking Bad and those last few episodes still mess with head.
A cheaper show would line it up in a way that both options are pursued and marks are hit – Stan wins because he learns the true identities of his lovely neighbors and the Jennings win because they escape without being caught. The Jennings escape back to Russia or to some third world country where Elizabeth can pursue her dream of becoming a doctor, albeit one with an absolutely terrible bedside manner. I can’t see The Americans doing that though. So far, at any sign of trouble they haven’t looked to avoid it. They’ve driven straight for it. With each episode, a final confrontation between friends is becoming both more and more inevitable and more gut-wrenching. There’s no way they are going to find a way to skirt around that. Doing so would betray everything that came before it.
So we have ten episodes, actually probably closer to seven or eight if they really do follow a Breaking Bad-like trajectory and drop this bomb before the season ends, to prepare ourselves for the end.
Are you ready? I’m not sure I am.
Oh, Oleg is also totally going to die and that’s going to be a shame.