The Americans: Start
May 30, 2018 10:28 PM - Season 6, Episode 10 - Subscribe

The Jennings face a choice that will change their lives forever.
posted by bleep (147 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
The entire episode was P&E shedding their American life piece by piece. Home. Stan. Keepsakes. Henry. Paige.
Oh, so many moments, so many images of just one character, or only one actor in closeup.

Paige in that "safe" apartment alone, downing a shot of vodka. A woman without a country or family. I seriously have no idea WTF would happen to her. (I could do a mini essay on the contrasting paths she and Oleg took, only to both perhaps spend years in an American prison.)

Then there's enigmatic Renee in the driveway. Oh, how I cackled. What were the writers going to do with Renee, we asked. They were NEVER going to tell us about Renee, that's what. Now you- like Stan - can just wonder.

And the entirety of scenes. The garage.
The burying of that American stuff, including Henry's fake passport.
The phone call to Henry.
The Heroic profile shot of Mischa and Nazheda staring at the Russian cityscape.

And the surprise, jaw-dropping image of Paige on the platform. Not even a Fucking dos vedanya, mama and papa.
And Philip then rushing to Elizabeth's side as she wept.
And THEN Elizabeth's dream of telling Gregory she didnt want a kid,
and seeing the haunting "mother" painting.
posted by NorthernLite at 10:57 PM on May 30, 2018 [14 favorites]


For a few years now I've wondered what this last episode would look like. Who might die and who might survive.

I never had any doubt it would be heartbreaking. I had hoped it would somehow be surprising.

This last episode contained everything I had hoped for. I'll miss this show dearly, but I'm heartened by the sense that it feels complete and whole.
posted by vverse23 at 11:09 PM on May 30, 2018 [8 favorites]


Wow, just wow. I'd say this entire series would be worth watching for that scene in the garage alone.

And then we get the train. Who knew U2 could be so absolutely devastating? No--I can't give Bono that much credit. This show deserves every award a show can get. Especially for acting.
posted by cudzoo at 11:10 PM on May 30, 2018 [7 favorites]


I'm relieved it wasn't a bloodbath ending. In fact, not any violence this episode! I think I'm good with how it ended so I can put it away. Though the one stinker was they shouldn't have looped the Bono wailing another time. They already were taking some serious license using the song anyway, but should've been more economical with it. I also expected the FBI to bust in on Paige almost immediately, so that was kind of left up in the air. Though she really got to seal her newfound femme fatale status with the freezer vodka shot. But I think a great closing episode that sold the emotions and motivations they'd be dealing with.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:10 PM on May 30, 2018 [3 favorites]


I was wondering about Paige. They definitely can't tie her to any crimes, so I think in reality she could go back to her life, go back to school, go back to Henry. It's really pretty amazing that she had so much loyalty to him, even trying to make sure at least Stan would look after him, even before they had escaped that situation.

It's also amazing how, now that it's over, I can't imagine it any other way. I didn't have any theories but I couldn't picture a shoot-out, or deaths, or Philip & Elizabeth not getting away, or any last minute shockers about Renee. This ending just feels so right.

Do you guys think Oleg will really be in jail for 20 years? Also, the Russian agents were SO careful, why was Oleg walking around with something incriminating that would turn up in a patdown? Couldn't they have disguised it as something else?
posted by bleep at 11:28 PM on May 30, 2018 [2 favorites]


I actually got a slightly ominous vibe from Renee when she turned away from looking at the agents swarm and where Stan left it it seemed to me he was going to play along now but check her out later.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:32 PM on May 30, 2018 [3 favorites]


Yeah I do think that last shot of Renee looking at the house was meant to be meaningful, but what, only the fanfic knows now.
posted by bleep at 11:33 PM on May 30, 2018 [2 favorites]


Heh, indeed. So much room for fanfic. Phillip and Elizabeth went on to lucrative private security gigs after resettling in Moscow.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:35 PM on May 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


Oh man, the reaction when she realizes Phillip is right about Henry. That guttural sound she makes. That was the scene I thought was the standout among a whole show full.

This show was so good for so long it's just crazy. Save for some of last season, it was nearly flawless.
posted by lattiboy at 11:44 PM on May 30, 2018 [5 favorites]


If there is a better single scene in the history of television than the parking garage scene in this episode it is not coming to mind
posted by The Gooch at 12:01 AM on May 31, 2018 [13 favorites]


No one died!

Stan sure has a soft spot for Russians. And the question of Renee is going to haunt him (and us!) forever. I guess the Jennings would be considered the ultimate spies if they worked Stan good enough to let them go after they ruined almost every bit of “good” he tried to do with his life.

Paige is definitely going to jail. She committed treason. Her fingerprints are going to be all over that safe house.

Henry seemed nonplussed.

Is it espionage to report back to your country about your own citizens doing illegal spy stuff?

I’m disappointed we didn’t get more Martha this season.

There were only two shows that I watched live with commercials since I got a DVR, this and Breaking Bad.

If there is a better single scene in the history of television than the parking garage scene in this episode it is not coming to mind

I actually think the scene where Phillip fought Paige was more powerful but yeah, six years worth of payoff for that garage scene. I like that Elizabeth was saying the words of Elizabeth Jennings but had those stone cold eyes of a professional serial killer.
posted by LizBoBiz at 1:11 AM on May 31, 2018 [6 favorites]


This was a surprise, and I think I'm pleased with it. In a show that has brutal violence as an occasional day-to-day part of its characters' routine, having a completely non-violent episode as the final one seemed like a twist.

I was so worried in that garage scene. I was worried Stan would flip out and shoot Philip, but I was mostly afraid that Elizabeth would maneuver herself close enough to Stan that she could disarm him and brutally murder him in front of her daughter. I think she realized Stan represented some hope for Henry, though.

Paige skipping out at the train station surprised me. In fact when she ran into McDonalds by herself, I was pretty sure P&E were going to speed away and abandon her for her own good.

Paige got away, but she's hanging out at Claudia's safe house? Does this mean she's going to keep being a spy? Or was it just a really risky choice of a place to stop and rest?

Renee: yeah, now I now the writers were using her to toy with us the entire time. And Philip saying "By the way there's a chance Renee is one of us" to Stan really seemed like a mean thing to do, even if it's true.

I thought we'd still see Stan struggling with whether to pass on the message about Gorbachev, but since P&E ended up with Arkady I guess the message got through.

See you all in the spinoff, where Stan has happy bonding father-and-son moments with Henry over hockey and video games while Renee sneaks into the back alley and has covert meetings with Mail Robot...
posted by mmoncur at 2:48 AM on May 31, 2018 [7 favorites]


Amazed by the entire episode, but the thing I keep coming back to is: I can't believe they actually got away! And maybe even now they didn't--when they got in the car with Arkady, and Arkady knows they Russian government will be coming for him... P&E are in a precarious position back in Russia, too. There was so much heartbreak in this finale, but at the end I was waiting for the supreme bitterness that P&E would end up in prison for life *in Russia* for what they did.
posted by Sublimity at 3:58 AM on May 31, 2018 [5 favorites]


Aside from Henry being left behind, an unexpected and powerful ending.

If Paige turns herself in to the FBI, she may get off with light/no jail time but she is going to find out that her parents killed a lot of people.

Mail Robot made it into the finale, but just barely.

My only accurate prediction was from before the season started:
Soundtrack watch: The Joshua Tree is released in 1987

I think they'll be ok in Russia - presumably they got the critical message to Arkady and we know that Gorbachov is not overthrown.
posted by mikepop at 4:20 AM on May 31, 2018 [4 favorites]


I liked that this episode left everyone alive (who has made it that far). No one gets a "happy ending," all the major characters' lives are still as likely to be ruined as not, but everything is ambiguous. I have no idea what's next for Paige. She could be arrested, she'll certainly be questioned, but I don't think the FBI has anything on her, assuming Stan sticks to his line on what he knew about the Jennings. Similarly, things look bleak for Oleg, but if Philip and Elizabeth made it back to Arkady, there's a chance the KGB conspiracy gets revealed and Gorbachev would make a trade for him after all. There's also a chance we saw Philip and Elizabeth last before they and Arkady are rounded up. But Gorbachev isn't overthrown in reality, and Tatiana's death following the negotiator with a weapon will be pretty good corroboration, so I like to think they'll be ok. Just haunted forever by their previous lives! I think it's appropriate this episode leaves so much up in the air to haunt the audience as well.

Phil and his honesty, man. I never really bought Renee as a spy, but it seems unlikely Stan's relationship will survive the suspicion. And that last shot of her in the driveway was foreboding.

I like that Elizabeth was saying the words of Elizabeth Jennings but had those stone cold eyes of a professional serial killer.

Yes, this exactly. I felt terrible for Stan and Phil in that scene, but I couldn't take my eyes off Elizabeth.
posted by the primroses were over at 4:32 AM on May 31, 2018 [3 favorites]


If Paige turns herself in to the FBI, she may get off with light/no jail time but she is going to find out that her parents killed a lot of people.

I noted that P&E kept up the lie to Paige even in the parking garage with Stan.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:32 AM on May 31, 2018 [7 favorites]


This was a surprise, and I think I'm pleased with it. In a show that has brutal violence as an occasional day-to-day part of its characters' routine, having a completely non-violent episode as the final one seemed like a twist.

This season was especially brutal, one Liz murder after another (even more so since I binged it all today), so the Nobody Dies ending was fantastic and a fitting turnaround since even she was really, really tired of her job. I love that Elizabeth's relentless duty to country, which was always her huge problem and blind spot, became her saving grace and the thing that destroyed the Centre.

Also, the 5-season running joke of Henry's inconvenience was transformed into a really great poignant story arc this season.

It was always obvious to me that, like Henry, Paige was NEVER going to Russia, so no shock there, but I like how she made it happen. Not only because that was the only practical way to do it, but it reinforced the fact that she has skills. She still has her Canadian passport, and/or the Centre/Embassy can hook her up with another identity if she wants to stay under the radar.

I like that the ending scene on the bridge was sort of anticlimactic and "we don't really know how to feel" and amorphous -- especially great because that's exactly how I feel when a show like this ends and there's a whole new absence to adjust to!

Just brilliant all around. I'll miss you most of all, Mail Robot .*sobs*
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:35 AM on May 31, 2018 [3 favorites]


Paige even got to have one last moment of priggish self-righteousness when she called Elizabeth a whore. "Let's have a little chat about your father, young lady."

Nice Pastor Tim cameo as well. After all the hullaballoo, he doesn't really narc on them in the end.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:40 AM on May 31, 2018 [4 favorites]


I wonder how much of Paige staying is for Henry and how much not being able to handle yet more revelations about her parents' lies and misdeeds. Phil said something about sleeping with people in his speech to Stan that I thought I caught a look from Paige about.

And I forgot to mention how much I liked the phone conversation with Henry. Phil and Elizabeth getting all verklempt after warning Paige she had to be totally normal. And Henry's reaction was perfect. I have had that "I love you too, now maybe you should stop drinking for the night" conversation so many times with my own parents. The stark difference between the emotional weight on the two sides of that phone call was the perfect goodbye to Henry, I think. I'm glad we just got the long shot of Stan's conversation with him later.
posted by the primroses were over at 4:43 AM on May 31, 2018 [3 favorites]


Philip Jennings is the MASTER when it comes to reading people and saying just the right thing to persuade them do what he wants. If he had let his friend and pursuer go from being Stan Beeman, best friend and neighbour to Stan Beeman, FBI agent for just a moment, they would have been cuffed and in the back of a car within minutes. But Stan never had a chance in that garage confrontation. I do believe most of what Philip said was honest feeling, but he also steered Stan deftly enough away from his factual questions and kept the conversation focused on the personal, and the cost of what they do, to keep him thinking about the heartbreak of the situation rather than the legality. And his ‘But we’re getting into that car, and driving away’ was (like everything else) so perfectly delivered, and with such certainty, that once he said it nothing else could happen.

This FUCKING show.
posted by myotahapea at 5:35 AM on May 31, 2018 [22 favorites]


That was such a satisfying end to an incredible show. I would have been pleased had the show ended with the P,E,&P driving out of the garage after the dialogue with Stan. That was such a strong moment. I chuckled at Philip's "I wish you had stayed with me in EST. You'd know what to do right now." to Stan. Philip's mention of Renee possibly being a Soviet agent was heartbreaking. From Philip's perspective, he was warning/helping his friend. From Stan's perspective, it was yet another kick in the side of his already-spinning head.

I think that was the most we've ever seen the Jennings' actually acting and speaking together as a family, including the call to Henry. Crisis brings a family together, I guess.

I thought the police checking IDs on the train, and not matching the sketches to P&E, was a bit off. Sure, they had disguises, but I thought they still looked enough like themselves to raise suspicion. At least enough to be detained for questioning. Of course, that would have sent the show in a different direction, and not down the wonderful path we took.

Paige returning to the Claudia-less safehouse and starting to work on a bottle of vodka was poignant and, ultimately, very sad.

As far as we know, P&E don't know if the information about the plot Oleg carried was ever communicated. So, they really have no idea what sort of welcome awaits them in the motherland. Once they crossed into Russia, I was preparing myself for them to meet Nina's fate.

My wife and I had a small disagreement over the period-correctness of the McDonald's they stopped at. Specifically, the sign out front. I recall McD's signage of that period looking pretty uniformly like this. I don't recall the style of sign used in the show appearing until closer to the turn of the century. Given that the show has always been pretty scrupulous about its attention to period-correct detail, it stood out to me. Obviously, I could be wrong, and will gladly accept being corrected on this tiny, senseless point.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:43 AM on May 31, 2018 [5 favorites]


Not with a bang, but a whimper. It was a good conclusion to the show, true to its six seasons and its roots as a dismal spy story. I'm glad they didn't do some stupid action sequence at the end. (Could you imagine, we were speculating about a shootout at the FBI with Renee as a hostage!) OTOH it was so sad in the end, and empty, and bleak. Frozen Moscow from a distance across a river as your final reward. At least it was Arkady who picked them up, not Claudia.

The parking garage scene was fantastically written. And acted, both by Rhys and Emmerich. How many takes does it take to film something like that right? I particularly liked the camera work, switching between close-faces to give us the emotion and then the occasional distance shot to show how grimy the whole thing was. Also that Stan was a good safe distance from the Jennings, that Elizabeth wasn't going to get inside and disarm him and choke the life out of him.

The one real surprise in this episode was Paige's leaving the train. That felt really solid to me, and true to her character and situation. I fear she's in for a world of trouble in the US although maybe she's distant enough from the center of espionage she can avoid trouble. But Stan knows the truth, I'm not sure whether he'd keep that secret forever.

Speaking of Stan, poor Stan and Renee. That was the cruellest thing, Philip telling him his suspicion-but-not-certainty about her. I know in the moment Philip meant well but the reality is going to be awful for Stan. He won't be able to live with it and certainly not with her.

My only real complaint with the show is I felt like in the end that the Jennings should have been punished somehow. They murdered a lot of people, some truly innocent people. I've been fine with the way we empathize with them, admire the writing. But I felt like the moral arc should have bent towards more punishment.

They had a good opportunity, with Paige. Stan snaps her back to reality about Russian spies, she learns her parents really did murder people. And so she rejects them, soundly, and tells them on the train. Or on the drive before the McDonalds. She rages at her parents one last time and leaves them and she's gone to them forever. It would have been awful and it would have seemed like a just form of punishment.
posted by Nelson at 5:55 AM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


My only real complaint with the show is I felt like in the end that the Jennings should have been punished somehow. They murdered a lot of people, some truly innocent people. I've been fine with the way we empathize with them, admire the writing. But I felt like the moral arc should have bent towards more punishment.

I felt this way too, initially. Reminds me a great deal of the end of The Shield, which ends almost anti-climatically. Except, consider: They spent a lifetime on a mission that, ultimately, failed. For a country/state that won't exist in a few years, and for all intents and purposes no longer exists when they return. Clearly it was not the country they remembered. They have each other, which... probably won't be a lot of consolation after they settle in, assuming they're not imprisoned or killed before the USSR collapses.

Like The Shiled the punishment may not be a swift retribution, but a slow and grinding reflection on failure, alone.
posted by jzb at 6:18 AM on May 31, 2018 [4 favorites]


I do believe most of what Philip said was honest feeling, but he also steered Stan deftly enough away from his factual questions and kept the conversation focused on the personal, and the cost of what they do, to keep him thinking about the heartbreak of the situation rather than the legality.

I think this was (like Elizabeth's ending) also one of Phil's "flaws" -- his morose navelgazing, or at least that's how Eliz perceives it -- becoming the thing he could use to save the family. There were like two or three times in earlier S6 episodes when she was all "oh yes, I know you love to TALK about our FEELINGS but I need to SLEEP, Philip." so of course it's that very tendency to indulge in EST-y talk about feelings and his failures that got them out of that garage.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:21 AM on May 31, 2018 [6 favorites]


Paige even got to have one last moment of priggish self-righteousness when she called Elizabeth a whore. "Let's have a little chat about your father, young lady."

To expand, if I could have added one scene, it would probably have been, "Have I told you about the time I attended your father's wedding? as his sister?"
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:25 AM on May 31, 2018 [7 favorites]


They spent a lifetime on a mission that, ultimately, failed.

Yeah, that is a kind of punishment, echoing Claudia's statement from Previously about how Elizabeth threw her whole life away. Also this theme came out really painfully in the parking garage when Elizabeth(?) says that in the end the only thing they really discovered was one of their own, Russians, plotting to take down their own leader and destroy the future. Ouch.

That fact is also what seemed to finally turn Stan's mind, too, because it corroborated with what he'd learned from Oleg.
posted by Nelson at 6:36 AM on May 31, 2018 [7 favorites]


Watching the garage scene closely, I also noted that a lot of what Philip was saying to Stan...his real feeling about his life, his work, etc...really took Elizabeth by surprise. Her reactions were as if she was seeing a completely different person in Phil. Someone she didn't recognize. I couldn't tell if this brought her closer to him, though.

Even as they stood on the bridge overlooking Moscow, her demeanor seemed to still be hard and distant. Her crying when Paige left them was really the only true emotion she ever showed, but, as I reflect on it, I'm not certain if she cried because she had lost her daughter, or she had lost the daughter she trained for the cause. Was she hurt by having to leave her son behind, or was it more of a "you don't abandon a comrade" issue for her? Elizabeth will always remain an enigma to me, when it comes to family.

The possible fanfic based off this one episode is deep and endless. It's far more satisfying than tying-up every loose end. Just like life.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:36 AM on May 31, 2018 [3 favorites]


Even as they stood on the bridge overlooking Moscow, her demeanor seemed to still be hard and distant. Her crying when Paige left them was really the only true emotion she ever showed, but, as I reflect on it, I'm not certain if she cried because she had lost her daughter, or she had lost the daughter she trained for the cause. Was she hurt by having to leave her son behind, or was it more of a "you don't abandon a comrade" issue for her? Elizabeth will always remain an enigma to me, when it comes to family.

I figured that, having turned her back on the mission and taken a wrecking ball to her Great Heroic Legacy, Elizabeth would naturally console herself with what little she had left, and her family is just about it. But then she had to give up Henry, and Paige walked away from the family. Not much left to hold onto now.
posted by duffell at 6:45 AM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


The ending with Paige made a lot of sense to me. I think a lot of her staying is for Henry, to do what her parents couldn't do, because they were spies. It makes sense that she would come clean now. I think she could get off pretty light if she said she recently became aware that they were spies and they took her to some locations, etc. but didn't involve her. She went to the safe house to say goodbye to that phase of her life. It will always be part of who she is (I guess she likes vodka now) but she is moving on. She probably knows that she will be taken into custody if she returns to her apartment or the Jennings house, but I'm a little surprised she didn't try to see Henry since she will probably be in custody for a while.

I don't know what I think about Stan letting them go. It was an incredible scene and I liked that he let them go, but I just don't know if he really would have done it. I know Philip was his best friend and he was pretty isolated, making that friendship a very large part of his life, but there was so much working in the other direction, too. The betrayal, the friends he lost in the FBI to them, the agents killed in Chicago (although I guess that effected Aderholt a lot more than Stan), his own ideology (so strongly expressed at Thanksgiving). I wonder if he would have arrested them if he could have done it without a bloodbath or without a bloodbath in front of Paige. They did bring in his fatherly feeling toward Paige in relationship to her feelings for Matthew... Obviously there was so much pulling him apart in that scene. I liked that he recovered enough later to cover his ass with Aderholt, telling him that he went by Paige's apartment but didn't see anything.

I have no idea why Philip said what he said about Renee to Stan.

Poor Oleg. I couldn't tell from Arkady's "Da" if that meant "Yes, the mission was successful" or "Yes, the mission failed." Probably preventing the execution of Nastrenko was enough to prevent the full plan of the hardliners, but I'm not exactly clear on that part.
posted by nequalsone at 6:49 AM on May 31, 2018 [2 favorites]


Of course Elizabeth loved her children and was grieving for the loss of them. Just because she didn't acknowledge those feelings or express them strongly or often doesn't mean she didn't have them.
posted by nequalsone at 6:54 AM on May 31, 2018 [16 favorites]


Watching the ep this morning, no one I know is into this show, just finished the scene with all 3 Jennings and Stan in the garage. Jumped into this thread and immediately scrolled down to the bottom, cuz I just have to say to someone who will understand.

HOLY FUCKING SHIT!!!!!! That was AMAZING!!!!!!!!!

OK, back to the rest of this show!
posted by Frayed Knot at 6:59 AM on May 31, 2018 [8 favorites]


I think this was (like Elizabeth's ending) also one of Phil's "flaws" -- his morose navelgazing, or at least that's how Eliz perceives it -- becoming the thing he could use to save the family. There were like two or three times in earlier S6 episodes when she was all "oh yes, I know you love to TALK about our FEELINGS but I need to SLEEP, Philip." so of course it's that very tendency to indulge in EST-y talk about feelings and his failures that got them out of that garage.

That was part of it, sure. But I was thinking more of the several times in the past we’ve seen Philip be so convincing with the people he works with, the amount of guile he can deploy to manouevre people into doing what he wants. I noticed it first in an early S1 ep with Martha; Clark had asked her to do something for him and she resisted, but instead of pushing harder he dropped it. They then had sex, and in the post-coital bliss he told a carefully calibrated tale of workplace dynamics woe that then caused her to offer to do the thing he wanted. Or Fred, in S2, after ‘Fernando’ electrocutes himself in Fred’s home and comes out of unconsciousness bound and held at gunpoint; using only his words he not only convinces the guy not to kill him, but Fred then voluntarily frees him and becomes his agent. Or his years of working with Kimmy and managing to develop a close relationship with her without sleeping with her (until, well, he did). His conversation with Željko Ivanek’s character. Other examples I'm likely forgetting. Philip has an incredible intuition and natural touch with people, and it wasn’t just the est navelgazing that got Stan to let them go.
posted by myotahapea at 7:25 AM on May 31, 2018 [7 favorites]


My wife and I had a small disagreement over the period-correctness of the McDonald's they stopped at. Specifically, the sign out front.

Rather than the "billions and billions served" language on the sign you linked, I actually remember the signs of my early childhood actually (purportedly?) tallying the number of burgers served. This article says they stopped counting in 1993, since the signs didn't have the capacity to roll over to 100 billion from 99 billion. I have vague memories of knowing something about this counting business as a child. Though I also have a vague memory of a sign with what looked like some kind of adustable dial for these numbers, and I can't seem to find anything of the sort on google. This is close, though!

All of this to say, I agree, the sign wasn't quite right for 1987, and yet this is my only nitpick. I'm too busy reflecting on the masterpiece of perfection that was the rest of the finale.
posted by terilou at 7:44 AM on May 31, 2018 [2 favorites]


Emily Nussbaum has a good review of the finale, and her description of Philip in the garage perfectly expresses this:
And then Stan makes his great mistake. “You were my best friend,” he says to Philip, wounded, unable to believe that their relationship wasn’t real. He offers a bridge that Philip crosses. And Philip, who is a master at such moments, transforms, like a werewolf, his eyes softening, into the most powerful form of himself: the tender, honest, authentic, connected Philip—the sensitive modern man, hurt and confused, a persona that he uses to damage others. (Philip might have been sincerely seeking help when he went to the self-help seminar EST, but he only ended up sharpening his tools.) He quickly creates, for Stan’s sake, the illusion of an authentic surrender—and he begins to tell the truth. He’s like the world’s best crisis negotiator, except that he’s trying to get the other man to jump.
The finale was nothing that I expected and left me both completely satisfied with the story told and sad for all the characters in it.
posted by gladly at 7:45 AM on May 31, 2018 [23 favorites]


And in retrospect, I really shouldn't be that surprised that Stan let Philip go after how he behaved toward Oleg in the past, just out of guilt, fair play, and professional courtesy, not even intimacy.

Best Twitter take on garage Philip: “I'm also just a travel agent standing in front of an FBI agent asking him to let me go.”
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:05 AM on May 31, 2018 [19 favorites]


The Vox review reminds me that the episode title strongly suggests that we should consider Philip and Elizabeth's final mission, stopping the coup, to have been a success. The episode is titled START after the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, signed in 1991 by GHW Bush and Gorbachev. If Philip and Elizabeth (and Arkady and Oleg!) hadn't been successful, Gorbachev wouldn't have been in a position to sign the treaty, whether he was completely removed or politically constrained by the hardliners. Symbolically at least, the treaty allowed an end to the Cold War that was not direct nuclear confrontation. The signing of the treaty in July, the coup in August, the breakaway of almost all of the constituent states of the USSR starting in late August, and the resignation of Gorbachev, formal dissolution of the USSR, and formation of the Russian Federation by December of that same year all followed quickly upon each other. This is obviously not the mission Philip and Elizabeth signed up for so many years before, but playing a role in leading Russia not to victory of communism over capitalism but to a softer landing than it might well have reached at the end of the Soviet period is not a small thing.
posted by nequalsone at 8:36 AM on May 31, 2018 [4 favorites]


The camera shot pulling back from Paige as she sat at the table drinking vodka seemed to show an open French door, implying she could see what was on the other side. I was expecting a Paige POV shot, or for the camera to keep pulling back to reveal Claudia having shot or hung herself.

Pretty brazen of Paige to ditch her disguise and return home, where she may not be an official FBI target but Stan certainly knows what's up.
posted by emelenjr at 9:27 AM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


Pretty brazen of Paige

Brazen, or characteristically stupid?
posted by terilou at 9:28 AM on May 31, 2018 [8 favorites]


It's interesting to think about that Stan is a really good detective, good enough to figure it out and therefore obviously good enough to be able to locate his best friend. But Aderholt isn't a good enough detective to piece together that of course Stan found them and let them go. But Aderholt being pretty good, but not that good, is what allowed him to rise in the organization without getting so heavily weighed down by everything the way that Stan does. Stan gets so weighed down by everything. I also thought the scene with him and Oleg when Oleg was like "Get this through your thick skull" Stan was trying to do the macho, I don't give a shit, stop fucking manipulating me thing. Stan has been through a lot of betrayal and loss at the hands of the Russians, it's not really surprising that he has his shields up. And it's also not surprising that his shields were powerless against Philip, who was combining his years of training and experience with actual 100% genuine care&sincerity which must have been a devastatingly effective power play.
posted by bleep at 9:37 AM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


Yeah I do think that last shot of Renee looking at the house was meant to be meaningful, but what, only the fanfic knows now.

I figure she was thinking, "Amateurs."

Amazing ending. Though I'm not thrilled Elizabeth is still alive, and that she and Philip got away clean, at least they lost their kids.

I'd put this finale right up there with those of The Sopranos and Breaking Bad. It was a nice reward to the loyal fans who stuck with it until the end.
posted by fuse theorem at 9:41 AM on May 31, 2018 [4 favorites]


I also liked how in the garage scene that Philip confirmed what Elizabeth had told Paige about him having sex with people. Philip wasn't always "the good guy" and I think that it is better that Paige knows that.
posted by k8t at 9:48 AM on May 31, 2018 [2 favorites]


I cried SO HARD when they called Henry, but I kept telling myself, "After the USSR collapses, they will see each other again."
posted by k8t at 9:48 AM on May 31, 2018 [5 favorites]


I mean, Philip, Elizabeth, and Stan (and Oleg?) SAVED THE WORLD. Is there a better ending than that?
posted by k8t at 9:49 AM on May 31, 2018 [6 favorites]


Where do you think Claudia went off to (without her vodka)?
posted by k8t at 9:51 AM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


Let's connect young Elizabeth (Nadezhnya)'s poor move not helping the motorcycle victim and how her trainer told her to never leave a comrade behind. Paige did not leave Henry.
posted by k8t at 9:53 AM on May 31, 2018 [11 favorites]


Where do you think Claudia went off to (without her vodka)?

She said she was going back to Russia. Whether she did or got permanently retired first is an exercise left to the viewer.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:59 AM on May 31, 2018 [2 favorites]


Paige should be in the clear with Henry, because the only person who knows that she was working with her parents is Stan, and he only knows that because of a meeting he can't tell anyone about. Hopefully Paige understands that.

For whatever it's worth, the children of Russian spies who were born in U.S. and Canada lost their citizenship under the pretext that their parents were acting as employees of a foreign government when the children were born -- thereby overriding the children's birthright citizenship -- and were sent to Moscow.

(I tend to think the show does not envision that happening to its characters, and the fact that the spies got away may mean that the FBI would try to keep the story out the media, unlike the case linked above.)
posted by chimpsonfilm at 10:00 AM on May 31, 2018 [7 favorites]


Having two children myself, one girl and one boy, I can attest to the tight bond that can develop between brother and sister. Even though it was a surprise to see Paige standing on the train platform, it really made a lot of sense to me, too. From the get-go, she was totally focused on Henry. They pretty-much had to raise themselves, and were a team together. Best friends. They most likely loved each other far more than they ever loved their parents.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:02 AM on May 31, 2018 [4 favorites]


I've never really liked Paige as a character. I've enjoyed her getting to learn more about her parents' work and dip her toes into it herself, certainly, but she never really meant terribly much to me.

Until this episode. I think her disbelief about Henry and leaving him behind, particularly since time was of the essence when they were at her place, might have been placed there deliberately to have her grate on us by slowing them down. That was my initial reaction. Except, I also have a younger brother. And when I took a second to really put myself in Paige's shoes, despite the fact that I would certainly trust my parents to know better in that situation, I can't help but think I'd have the same reaction as she did.

And then, when she got off the train, which shocked the hell out of me for a moment, I found that I finally related to her. There's no way I would leave my brother. My brother, who pisses me off, who annoys me, makes me laugh harder than anyone else in the world. Our upbringing binds us together with a million tiny details and quirks, from having to train ourselves out of saying "close the lights" (courtesy of the French side of our family) to watching the same television shows and having the same cultural references. I feel as though I should have known that Paige wouldn't leave Henry behind -- not only due to the flashbacks to Elizabeth, but because I can't fathom a situation that would cause me to leave my brother behind.

This entire show, I've focused largely on Elizabeth and Philip and thought of the kids as more of a mechanism to bring tension to the show -- gotta hide things from the kids, gotta teach Paige, gotta keep hiding things from Henry -- rather than thinking of them as their own proper characters. I think that helped cause the moment of surprise when Paige got off the train. I was too concentrated on what Philip and Elizabeth were going to do to think about what Paige would do, assuming she would just do as she's told and follow their lead. And more, I think that's what we were meant to think about, rather than consider the kids have any agency of their own.

Well-played, show. Well-played.
posted by juliebug at 10:13 AM on May 31, 2018 [7 favorites]


Slate's matching podcast episode is out.
First Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys share their feelings about the series finale. Then Noah Emmerich and Brandon J. Dirden discuss their reactions to Stan Beeman’s and Dennis Aderholt’s behavior in Episode 610. Finally, Russell, Rhys, Emmerich, Dirden, and Costa Ronin recall their strongest memories from their time on the show.
posted by kingless at 10:14 AM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


Best use of "Brothers in Arms" in a TV show, ever.
posted by Pendragon at 10:21 AM on May 31, 2018 [16 favorites]


I would have placed a large bet that this series would have used Sting's "Russians" in the finale ("what might save us, me and you, is if the Russians love their children too.") Might have dug the knife in a little bit too deep, so to speak.
posted by Sublimity at 10:24 AM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


"Best use of "Brothers in Arms" in a TV show, ever."

I'm sorry, but I have to disagree. They used it in "Two Cathedrals," West Wing, and that (for me) was definitive. Surprised they used it here, actually.
posted by jzb at 10:30 AM on May 31, 2018 [6 favorites]


Pendragon - Tied with The West Wing, I think. :)
posted by juliebug at 10:32 AM on May 31, 2018 [2 favorites]


Does anyone know what the folk song was while Stan was on the stakeout?
posted by drezdn at 11:16 AM on May 31, 2018


I've been thinking a lot about Philip and Stan's friendship this morning, which turned out to be a more central part of the story than I would have thought. There friendship is so understated that it would be easy to underestimate it. I certainly think I underestimated it. But it was so perfectly synced with their needs. Philip needed someone to talk to, but Elizabeth, even at the high points of their relationship, was just not that person. Not that men can't have close friends if they have a close relationship with their significant other. And he needed to be able to talk to that person without revealing the things he could not reveal. And Stan needed someone to talk to but, as an FBI agent, as a formerly undercover FBI agent, and as a generally emotionally closed off person whose marriage fell apart due to his inability to reveal what was going on with himself, he needed someone he could talk to without threatening his own need to keep close control of his internal life. Philip and Stan rarely offered each other advice, didn't share a lot of fun times together, they really just listened to each other and didn't push each other to share more than they felt they could. So it didn't look like much but it was probably life changing for both of them.

I also find it interesting that a show in this century would present EST in a mostly positive light. (Almost as surprising as creating a show based on sympathy toward Russian spies who routinely use and abuse innocent civilians–and occasionally murder them.) The climax of the show was enabled by Philip's "brutal honesty" in the garage scene. It was part spycraft, part being a naturally talented observer and manipulator of people, part just knowing Stan, and part EST training that brought Philip there and brought Stan to the point where he made the decision he made. And EST and Werner Erhard are such an American phenomenon and such a 1970s transitioning into the 1980s phenomenon. And the Dale Carnegie "how to get ahead" / Don Draper "self-made man" aspects of EST automatically invoke contrast with the "submerge all individuality for the motherland" stereotype of communism that colored (but with nuance) the evolving dynamic between Philip and Elizabeth over the course of the whole show. And Philip explicitly invokes EST as a rationale for Stan to believe his own feelings and be true to himself and, in effect, betray his fatherland. I think there is probably a lot more to say about this aspect of the show. Has anyone analyzed the show specifically in regard to EST concepts and practices?
posted by nequalsone at 11:21 AM on May 31, 2018 [7 favorites]


Russian/Soviet and American friendships are really different (as someone who spends time in both places). My husband is a former Soviet citizen and responded to the Stan/Philip dialogue with "they aren't best friends" to which I replied that this was as good as Americans get and in particular Philip.

I recently wrote an academic paper about post-Soviet friendships and there is so much good stuff written about it that I'd love to pop in here but I don't love linking my public self with mefi. :)
posted by k8t at 11:42 AM on May 31, 2018 [9 favorites]


How amazing was Paige's first wig/disguise?
posted by k8t at 11:50 AM on May 31, 2018 [4 favorites]


Surprisingly, a good end to a generally good show. Glad we invested our time in this.
posted by turbid dahlia at 12:31 PM on May 31, 2018


How amazing was Paige's first wig/disguise?

I called it Nerd Dorothy Hamill.

Weisberg, Russell, Rhys and two former CIA agents attended a view party/ discussion at UCLA. There were two "Americans"-related events at the Split Screens Festival in NY too. Perhaps there's some video / reports floating around social media.
posted by NorthernLite at 1:55 PM on May 31, 2018 [3 favorites]


Larry Wilmore had creator/executive producer Joel Fields on his podcast to discuss the show and the finale. Lots of great tidbits on how the show was made, which parts were based upon true stories, etc.
posted by bluecore at 4:15 PM on May 31, 2018 [3 favorites]


I love how the garage scene in the finale, which ended up without any bloodshed, mirrored the horror garage scene where they chopped of body parts a few episodes back. It would be interesting to compare the staging and shots of the two scenes.
posted by jetsetsc at 4:16 PM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


It was a huge pain to shoot
posted by k8t at 4:42 PM on May 31, 2018 [5 favorites]


Well that article answers my question: "It was the only scene we shot that day. Including rehearsing it and shooting it and executing everything that we needed to get, it took about 13 hours to shoot."
posted by Nelson at 5:21 PM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


My daughter, who was sitting next to me playing on her phone as I watched this episode, ended up having to console me from the garage scene onwards. And the final scene, with that "we could have met on the bus"? I just completely lost it.

God what masterful TV. So glad I have every season saved to marathon all at once. До свидания, товарищи.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:15 PM on May 31, 2018 [6 favorites]


"they aren't best friends" to which I replied this was as good as Americans get and in particular Philip

And I would say and in particular Stan, too. It's always resonated with me that Stan's one-sentence backstory in S1 was that he'd just come off a multi-year deep-cover operation with something like a drug dealing/Aryan biker gang? So here's a man who's likely got some real fresh PTSD and has been steeped in horrors and a very particular form of "brotherhood", now trying to reconnect with his family and start fresh with them and his work, at which he entirely fails on all counts. Thanks to Law Enforcement Culture and toxic masculinity the best he can do is semi-adopting the "perfect" family across the street, which includes the only adult man in DC in the 80s who has ever been in touch with a feeling (is it because he's Russian? Is it the EST? Another mystery we'll never know.). Matthew Rhys makes a semi-joke in one of the interviews out today that Stan's been in love with Philip all this time and that's what plays out in the garage, but he's not wrong - the two most sincere connected relationships in maybe Stan's entire life (he once references a crappy childhood) that didn't get someone killed have been with Philip and Henry. (I am blown away by how well this was written and woven into the heart of the story.)

Which is exactly how Philip gets him. Not that Philip didn't love him too, but emotional manipulation is Philip's forte, and he's trying to keep himself and his family alive. I don't think there's anything Philip wouldn't have said to Stan in the garage if he had to, though lining him up to look after Henry was a reason to tread carefully.

I am also blown away by what a voluptuously unhappy ending this is. Stan is ruined, he lived across the fucking street for 10 years, they have to assume he was compromised all along even IF his wife is not one of them too. And Oleg, nothing left to lose now, knows about Nina, which is another nail in the coffin. Stan is done, it would almost be a kindness if Renee was an illegal and turned him or got him on a plane to somewhere safer.

(And Aderholt will not hesitate to throw Stan under every bus, to survive and deflect his own association with Stan and passing relationship with the Jenningses.)

Mikhail and Nadezhda are personally ruined, they literally abandoned one child and were abandoned by the other and can never look at each other again without thinking of them, and Arkady references it lightly but their potential lifespan is minutes, maybe hours, unless they manage to suss out safe harbor in a country they have never lived in as adults and do not understand by design. Because that little old anti-Gorby KGB faction? Included a scrappy little dude by the name of Putin. The team they joined at the last minute loses, spoilers, and sold the country to the highest bidders.

Paige? Ruined, unemployable except by some skeevy think tanks unless she reinvents herself as a sort of Blackwater debutante. Henry? Destroyed. You don't get over your parents fleeing the country eyeball-deep in felonies and a completely manufactured life instead of picking you up from school. Claudia? IF she ever even made it Home she's still going to be stuck in the political showdown, probably not taken care of in the way Gabriel was, maybe smart enough to survive but at what cost?

Oleg and his entire family.

Whatever Illegals are left in the US.

Even Mail Robot's got skeletons in the closet. Honestly, Martha got the happiest ending. Or maybe Kimmy, and Pastor Tim who I have always suspected was also an Illegal (come on, who disappears in a Communist country for like a week and then just shows back up "oops ran out of gas haha", seriously?) but we'll never fucking know and he seems fine.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:10 PM on May 31, 2018 [12 favorites]


My read is that Arkady's angst over Oleg's fate was all before he knew that P&E had successfully foiled the summit plot. So Arkady's faction is on the right side of Gorbachev, who remains in power. P&E in fact return as heroes. Maybe Oleg spends some time in prison, but likely his father petitions Gorby with the knowledge that Oleg was instrumental in saving him. My bet is Oleg is swiftly returned to his fam.

Paige was so Paige in this episode.

I'm guessing Philip, distraught over Henry, will quickly reconnect with his son, and I wonder whether he would seek out Martha.
posted by OHenryPacey at 8:23 PM on May 31, 2018 [2 favorites]


> And THEN Elizabeth's dream of telling Gregory she didnt want a kid,

I had to stop and ask my wife, "Did she say 'I don't want a kid anyway' or did she say 'I don't want this kid anyway'?" and she confirmed 'this kid' and that is just a really messed up dream right there, especially after having literally lost that child.

> six years worth of payoff for that garage scene. I like that Elizabeth was saying the words of Elizabeth Jennings but had those stone cold eyes of a professional serial killer.

yeah after the first few seconds I was like, "Stan, I know you're looking at Philip because A.) he's your friend and B.) you're tied up in traditional masculinity and you think because he's the man that he's the primary threat but would you look at that dead-eyed viper to your left jesus christ you're going to die."

> Paige got away, but she's hanging out at Claudia's safe house? Does this mean she's going to keep being a spy? Or was it just a really risky choice of a place to stop and rest?

I think they for sure showed - by using no background music and no background noise other than basic foley - that that apartment was dead and abandoned, as good as burned. There's no Claudia there. It's just literally the only place that Paige knows to go that's not home or her parents' house.

> The camera shot pulling back from Paige as she sat at the table drinking vodka seemed to show an open French door, implying she could see what was on the other side. I was expecting a Paige POV shot, or for the camera to keep pulling back to reveal Claudia having shot or hung herself.

I did wonder if we'd get a dead Claudia. More than that, though, it reminded me of all those shots in Martha's apartment when the camera was in the bedroom looking at the kitchen. Oh, Martha. I can't tell you how badly I wanted to see her this episode.

And speaking of Martha, and Philip's emotional side - I about died when Elizabeth said, "I might have worked in a factory. Managed a factory. And you ..." and she trailed off. Like, she literally doesn't even know this man well enough to know what he would have been good at doing? Now that their job is gone and their kids are effectively gone I don't know what's going to hold them together. "Maybe we would have met on the bus?" More like maybe Philip is going to see Martha on a bus, you know what I'm saying?

I mean the ending image didn't even show Philip and Elizabeth together, not touching, not holding hands. They may have physically made it, but I don't think they're going to make it.

> And I forgot to mention how much I liked the phone conversation with Henry. Phil and Elizabeth getting all verklempt after warning Paige she had to be totally normal.

I'm pretty sure that this was the first time in at least a couple of seasons - if not ever - that we've heard Elizabeth Jennings say "I love you" to one of her kids.

> My wife and I had a small disagreement over the period-correctness of the McDonald's they stopped at.

Yeah, I thought something felt too modern. The main thing that stood out for me was the circular drive-through arrow painted on the ground, which I don't remember them having back in the day.

> I have no idea why Philip said what he said about Renee to Stan.

At first I was pulled into Philip's being-Philip act and I really and truly felt that it was him saying, "Here's proof that I love you as a friend. Here's something that will hurt, but the ramifications if you don't know could be so much greater. It's better to know than not know."

but after I had a chance to recover from that amazing scene I decided that it's just Philip seeing an opening. His opponent is reeling and they need to leave, now, and so he chooses to throw a haymaker and really stun him long enough that they can make their exit.
posted by komara at 8:29 PM on May 31, 2018 [8 favorites]


That was my read on Philips comment about Renee. Stan was still armed and Phillip needed to make sure he was so stunned that his family could actually drive out of that garage.
posted by Sublimity at 8:43 PM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


I don't think Phillip admitted to sleeping with people in front of Paige in the garage scene. After reading that comment here, I went back and rewatched the scene. He uses the language "screwing people over" but I think he means it in the non-sexual way--just manipulating people to get what he wants regardless of whether it's good for them or not.

I'll admit I wasn't expecting Stan to let them go. That was a big surprise. Mind you, as said above, Phillip is a master manipulator who pulled every one of Stan's strings with precision.

Speaking of strings, that music that played over the journey into and through Russia felt like a bit of cheap audience manipulation that the show didn't really need. There is just somebody about strings at that tempo that says foreboding doom and impending death, and while Phillip and Elizabeth's ending wasn't exactly happy, it certainly wasn't the hail of bullets that music was leading me to expect.

There are very few shows I can think of that managed to keep the quality of the writing and the acting so consistently high throughout the entire run. The entire team deserves kudos and all the awards Hollywood can throw at it (although, sadly, I don't expect that last part to actually happen).
posted by sardonyx at 9:23 PM on May 31, 2018


yeah after the first few seconds I was like, "Stan, I know you're looking at Philip because A.) he's your friend and B.) you're tied up in traditional masculinity and you think because he's the man that he's the primary threat

I dunno this idea raised by Matthew Rhys that Stan is in love with Philip really casts the way Stan looks at him in a whole new and very interesting light.
posted by bleep at 9:39 PM on May 31, 2018 [3 favorites]


We watched the episode this morning but I am gonna re-watch it.
posted by k8t at 9:55 PM on May 31, 2018


My sense of the garage scene was that it was mainly Philip trying to save Stan's life. Part of the speech was pitched towards Stan, but much of it was trying to calm Elizabeth down, "Let me do it my way..." But though I bought its effects on Elizabeth and Paige, the speech had to persuade Stan too, and I never quite bought that. In the Vox interview the writers talk about how they wrote and rewrote that scene, knowing where it had to get to and the beats it had to hit along the way. But the reason it's so hard is that it's basically impossible. And much of the reason it's impossible is that Stan no longer makes coherent sense as a character at this point. For 5.5 seasons we've had to suspend our disbelief that he would suspect nothing about his neighbors -- a suspension of disbelief as central to his character as the mole we pretend doesn't exist (lovely though it is) on Elizabeth's lip which would have given away all of her disguises from day 1. But then for the final half-season we have to cast aside our disbelief-suspension, as the exact same sorts of clues that should have triggered Stan years ago suddenly tip him over now. The tipping-over makes sense, but the non-tipping all those years before never did. And that was fine -- suspension of disbelief is one of core virtues of great art. But unsuspending it leaves Stan broken and incoherent, a mixture of trust and doubt that is exploited by Philip, but also a mixture that means that no result of the speech is either fully plausible or fully implausible. Stan is broken not just as a man, but as a character, and there is no way for truly solid stepping stones to be built through those 10 basement minutes.

As I've said before about this show, only great shows have great flaws. This was one of the best. It may not have been the back of a bus to Mexico a la The Graduate, but a slow train to Canada and a final, ambiguous side-by-side stare is pretty close to what I had hoped for.
posted by chortly at 10:30 PM on May 31, 2018 [3 favorites]


That was a truly satisfying ending to a great series!

That said, I don’t really buy Stan letting them go. Stan defines himself as a good lawman, and all good lawmen know you can’t be even a little bit dirty. Maybe he resigns from the bureau and becomes a traffic cop in Anchorage or Bakersfield or somewhere?

Actually, I was half expecting Paige to shoot him for the Motherland.
posted by monotreme at 11:35 PM on May 31, 2018 [2 favorites]


Stan defines himself as a good lawman

But that doesn't make him a good lawman, obviously.
posted by Pendragon at 12:44 AM on June 1, 2018 [4 favorites]


Maybe he resigns from the bureau and becomes a traffic cop in Anchorage or Bakersfield or somewhere?
Calling it now - Stan is the star of the next series of Fargo.
posted by coriolisdave at 3:57 AM on June 1, 2018 [6 favorites]


Speaking of strings, that music that played over the journey into and through Russia felt like a bit of cheap audience manipulation that the show didn't really need.

The score began as Paige was drinking vodka in the apt., and was the Tchaikovsky piece that they had listened to there, no?
YMMV on the particular piece's schmaltz, but to me, there was nothing more fitting than Russian classical music to end the show.
posted by NorthernLite at 5:01 AM on June 1, 2018 [8 favorites]


I don’t believe Stan would have let them drive away like that. Not in a million, billion years. Nor did I believe that P&E would simply abandon theirs years of spycraft and just walk in the front door of Paige’s building.

The ending would have been so much more plausible and ambiguous if P&E were met by a group of KGB officers and escorted away, fates unknown.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 5:33 AM on June 1, 2018 [2 favorites]


The score began as Paige was drinking vodka in the apt., and was the Tchaikovsky piece that they had listened to there, no?
YMMV on the particular piece's schmaltz, but to me, there was nothing more fitting than Russian classical music to end the show.
posted by NorthernLite at 5:01 AM on June 1


Normally I love Russian romantic composers, but I guess I've just been conditioned that while watching TV and movies certain instrumentation at certain tempos leads to very bad things. I'm not sure what I would have put underneath those car scenes as a score, but my instinct is nothing. No music. Just the atmospheric noises of road travel. I think that emptiness would have worked better for me, giving a real sense of uncertainty.
posted by sardonyx at 6:17 AM on June 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


I don't think Phillip admitted to sleeping with people in front of Paige in the garage scene. After reading that comment here, I went back and rewatched the scene. He uses the language "screwing people over" but I think he means it in the non-sexual way--just manipulating people to get what he wants regardless of whether it's good for them or not.

Thank you! I was completely confused about what people were referring to when they were saying that.

I kept thinking during the garage scene that Philip was inching toward Stan so if coming clean didn't work, he could jump at Stan, forcing him to shoot Philip but giving Elizabeth time to take out Stan and save Paige and herself. It's interesting to see Philip's gambit with Stan instead as him saying to Elizabeth "there's another way."

That said... I'm kind of reaching my breaking point of listening to people calling Elizabeth a psychopath, dead-eyed killer, etc. without saying the same about Philip. Just because Elizabeth doesn't wear her heart on her sleeve like Philip does, doesn't mean she doesn't have feelings. She was just better at rationalizing them away, burying them under her ideology and sense of duty, in a way Philip was unable to. Philip is the one who beat a kid to death when he was still a child! If you think Elizabeth is a psychopath, you haven't even watched this season really.

This conversation reminds me of the "Heisenberg is a boss, Sklyer is a bitch" talk around Breaking Bad and is so beneath the generally insightful conversation about the show here. It is evidence of a real double standard. If a man does something it is bold and decisive and if a woman does it she is a cold-hearted bitch. If Philip would have killed Stan (and I think he would have if he had to and had the means) he would have been protecting his family, but if Elizabeth had killed Stan it was because she was a viper? Because she doesn't care about her family too?
posted by nequalsone at 7:46 AM on June 1, 2018 [23 favorites]


I think that sentiment about Elizabeth only came up because of the body count this season.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:48 AM on June 1, 2018 [4 favorites]


One small note: before 9/11 an American could take the train to Montreal with a driver's license; a passport was preferred but not absolutely necessary. I was a little surprised that the agents weren't also looking for Paige, but maybe she ducked off before they boarded.

Everyone should read Emily Nussbaum's review, linked above. I know someone like Philip, and Nussbaum's description of the mechanics of the long con is spot on.

Lord, I'll miss this show.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 8:05 AM on June 1, 2018 [3 favorites]


I think that sentiment about Elizabeth only came up because of the body count this season.

I'm not sure if I agree. I think it has been present since early on and increased throughout the run. Even if it only relates to the body count this season, is it somehow less of a double standard? The arrangement this season is that she takes on Philip's work and Philip's work is not nice stuff.

Here are some (out of context of course) quotes from from the FanFare discussion of Season 3, Episode 2:

"...this is the first time I've been able to see my way toward sympathizing with Elizabeth..."

"Elizabeth continues to be a really creepy character, IMO."

"Elizabeth ultimately can't be trusted; she will sacrifice her kids if it's in a way she can rationalize."
posted by nequalsone at 8:08 AM on June 1, 2018 [7 favorites]


Nthed on the descriptions of Elizabeth as a "viper" et al. If you must paint characters with such a broad brush, I think you're missing half the appeal of this show.

And, it's sexist. Philip's killings were just as gory and brutal, and sometimes he wounded folks just because: remember the skeevy dude in S1 who made suggestive remarks in 13-year-old Paige's direction at the clothes store, and Philip couldn't do anything about it because they were in public? I doubt anyone much laments that the dude got his ass handed to him later in the episode, but we never saw Elizabeth take a risk like that out of a personal vendetta - she even walked away from her rapist when she very well could have killed him.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 8:19 AM on June 1, 2018 [9 favorites]


before 9/11 an American could take the train to Montreal with a driver's license; a passport was preferred but not absolutely necessary

True, though I suspect it was easier for them to use one form of identification for both the border crossing into Canada from the US as well as the plane from Montreal to wherever they flew to. Weren't they still using the same disguises on the plane as they had on the train?
posted by juliebug at 8:23 AM on June 1, 2018


> I'm kind of reaching my breaking point of listening to people calling Elizabeth a psychopath, dead-eyed killer, etc. without saying the same about Philip. Just because Elizabeth doesn't wear her heart on her sleeve like Philip does, doesn't mean she doesn't have feelings.

The show has taken great pains to show us that Philip struggles emotionally with what he has done / has been asked to do. How many times have we seen Rhys being asked to act all sad because he killed someone? This absolutely doesn't absolve him of killing, not in any way, but I think it excuses the viewers when they say that Elizabeth is being portrayed as emotionless, because she literally is being portrayed as being emotionless (when it comes to murder).

And you're right, Elizabeth does have feelings. We saw her eyes well up with tears when thinking about her children in this episode. But when have we watched a scene where she's losing herself in emotional conflict over anyone she's murdered?

Again, I'm not absolving either of these characters of their actions. They're equally terrible and equally complicit.

In a lesser show these roles would be reversed and the woman would be the one who couldn't shoulder the emotional burden of murder after murder and the man would be the one who would be portrayed with the ability to kill with abandon and still sleep at night, and I don't know if we'd be having this discussion about whether or not it was unfair to call him a psychopath or a viper.

I don't think the Skyler comparison is apt. Breaking Bad had her almost always trying to do the right thing and she was unnecessarily and unceasingly beat down by the fan community for it. By contrast Elizabeth is always doing terrible things with no apparent remorse, and the show calls her out for it, and we go along with it. I don't see people celebrating Philip for his murders (like people celebrated Walt for all his assholery). I don't think people are like, "Man, Philip's the good guy and that bitch Elizabeth is just keeping him down."
posted by komara at 8:28 AM on June 1, 2018 [9 favorites]


You and I might agree that she cried for the loss of her daughter but right in this thread a poster suggests that she might have actually been crying for the loss of an asset to the cause.

The difference between how Elizabeth and Philip dealt with what they did was a major part of the show (text, subtext, cinematography, acting). The probably isn't that the show treats them differently, it is when we start to talk about her as less than human (monster comes up a lot) when Philip has done the same things.

It is selective memory that sees Elizabeth as suffering no emotional consequences from the murders she commits. She was shown to have had a hard time killing the artist (and struggled with guilt about not killing her earlier because she was her connection to the mark). She was obviously uncomfortable after killing the older couple thought to be Nazi collaborators and talked about quitting her job at that point. She tried to find a way to get access to the biowarfare lab without destroying Young Hee and Don's lives and clearly showed remorse for what she had done afterwards. She was visibly upset when the South African guy, the clearest villain this show has had, was necklaced. She was internally wavering on killing the lady who worked in the mail robot workshop even though she was ideologically solid on the necessity. Later Elizabeth is crying while Philip's response was "She picked a bad time."

But viewers don't credit Elizabeth's emotions, only Philip's. In the FanFare post on that episode from season 3 we see "I'm increasingly convinced that Elizabeth is nothing but a monster..... Philip by contrast I have some respect for. He genuinely feels a little bad for Martha, although he's certainly willing to keep exploiting her. He's fiercely defense of his family."
posted by nequalsone at 10:14 AM on June 1, 2018 [28 favorites]


I think one of the interesting things about the Elizabeth narrative is that it's literally her narrative. She keeps telling everyone, including Philip, how unsuited he is for the job along with the implication that he's also bad at it, because he's too emotional, too soft. He's not like me, he's not dedicated like me, he can't focus like me, he's weak.

And it's not true! Philip is a viper when he needs to be, and he's good at it. We've seen it over and over. By the end, Elizabeth has become obviously a deeply unreliable narrator on the subject of Philip. And I think we see this more and more over the seasons until the denouement in the garage - she doesn't have much appreciation for his real talent, which is that he's a hell of a people person.

It's not untrue that Elizabeth is hard. We see the case made for her hardness, because the lack of it (or cracking of it, maybe, which is where the show begins) is the thing that undermined Philip, because how else do you survive that life? It may also to some extent be just who she is; the edges slightly softened with Gregory but she was hardly a big fluffy pile of schmoop with him. I don't think the show was as good at showing her interiority in the early seasons when she was kind of a brutalist fuck-and-kill machine, but I think we do eventually see that every kill or manipulation has an impact and she's shoving it into a dangerously full well. Because she has to, but also because that's who she believes she should be.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:21 AM on June 1, 2018 [8 favorites]


> It is selective memory that sees Elizabeth as suffering no emotional consequences from the murders she commits.

You're clearly right about this and I appreciate your examples.
posted by komara at 10:21 AM on June 1, 2018 [4 favorites]


I had no idea, but apparently Masha Gessen helped the show's creators translate their Russian dialogue. She also offers some fascinating insights, too, on what may happen to Elizabeth and Philip in Russia after the show's over.
posted by cudzoo at 10:54 AM on June 1, 2018 [6 favorites]


That said... I'm kind of reaching my breaking point of listening to people calling Elizabeth a psychopath, dead-eyed killer, etc. without saying the same about Philip.

I'm also on record as being fed up with people's characterisations of Elizabeth, and everything nequalsone has said, IMO, is spot-on.


I think that sentiment about Elizabeth only came up because of the body count this season.
I'm not sure if I agree. I think it has been present since early on and increased throughout the run.


It really has. I’ve been reading comments about Elizabeth being a sociopath, serial killer, dead-eyed viper, etc., since at least the second season. As was said in an earlier thread this season, there’s more than a tinge of misogyny to a lot of the commentary.

In an earlier comment I opined that I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that a) Elizabeth is a woman, and b) Elizabeth is Not American. This is her job, she does what is asked of her no matter the cost, and self-reflection isn’t going to make any difference as long as this is still her job and she is still doing what is asked of her. Are the people who Philip makes sad faces over any less dead? Does his guilt and remorse bring the people whose lives he ruined any peace or closure? If you’re going to judge these characters by their actions, then do so — not by whether or not they cope with or process those actions in an ‘appropriate’ way.
I also feel it’s much easier for most viewers to condemn Elizabeth because she roundly rejects the American way of life. Going all the way back to the pilot, we see Philip saying the Pledge of Allegiance with Henry, trying on cowboy boots, listening to country music. He likes it in America. He fits in. But Elizabeth doesn’t; she radiates Otherness. She’s not like everyone else and doesn’t want to be. She disapproves of the capitalist world she lives in and, by extension, the world the viewer lives in, and so it’s easier to condemn her. ‘Oh, she’s just a soulless killing machine.’ ‘She’d kill her own children.’ ‘Stone-cold bitch.’ Judging her in this manner reduces her to a two-dimensional villain and makes it easier to invalidate her negative opinions about the world the viewer lives in.


But when have we watched a scene where she's losing herself in emotional conflict over anyone she's murdered?

Why does she have to 'lose herself in emotional conflict'? Elizabeth doesn't lose herself in emotional conflict over anything; that's not part of her personality. But she's clearly been affected by the acts she's had to do. Just off the top of my head:
When she shuffles, bloodied, into the safehouse, after killing Lisa.
When she sheds tears after Betty’s death.
When she asks Gabriel to find another way to get the access codes so she doesn’t have to destroy Young-Hee’s family.
When she learns they killed the lab tech in Kansas for no reason.
When she tries to abort Tuan’s mission to goad Pasha into suicide.
When she allowed Larrick to kill Lucia.
posted by myotahapea at 11:15 AM on June 1, 2018 [12 favorites]


(I wrote this out several episodes ago in response to another 'serial killer' comment about Elizabeth and never posted it; seems tangentially germane now.)

The only time she’s tried to kill someone for mission-unrelated reasons (excepting that parking-lot mugger) was when she kidnapped Patterson. If she really was the serial killer she is so often described to be, she would have executed him without hesitation. But ultimately she couldn’t go through with it and released him, even though he had orchestrated the death of Zhukov, the man who was the closest thing she’d ever had to a father, and had done so not for operational reasons, but simply for retribution.

Bonus round: If she really was a serial killer, she would have killed Timoshev herself in the pilot. She had ample reason, both personal and operational — he’d raped her as a teenager, revealed the existence of the Illegals programme to the feds, betrayed his people and his country for a $3m payout, and by simply continuing to exist he put her, her family, and the entire network of illegals in grave danger of exposure. But when he said he was sorry, she dropped the tire iron and walked away despite having every reason to believe that Philip was going to use him as leverage to defect.

Clearly this is a woman with a moral code. If she were a monster she'd have killed those two men without a second thought. Both of them hurt her deeply, and deserved to suffer some consequences for their acts. But she chose to let them both live, at great risk to herself, because her pain and need for vengeance wasn't justification enough to her for killing them.
posted by myotahapea at 11:35 AM on June 1, 2018 [7 favorites]


yeah if I had to pick a phrase for Elizabeth it would be "ideologue as soldier"; she has a very concrete vision of the righteousness of her cause, which is the only rationale that allows her to psychologically survive the burden of her horrific, grim, violent job.

and as others point out, she's really just as emotional as Philip, though she would deny it and it manifests differently. (the opening of the finale cements this -- his grim steeliness about Henry vs. her being shocked and choked up by the realization of what they have to do) she's fiercely protective of and willing to sacrifice anything for what she sees as her family (which includes her country); she's incredibly defensive with understandable trust/boundary issues that led her to lash out at Philip the nasty way she did re: Kimmy and after he confessed to sending intel about her; etc.

a great example that I thought was fascinating this season was the arc of her protecting Paige from knowledge of the sexual aspects of their work. her final "sex is nothing!" self-defense, when Paige attacks her for sleeping with that kid, is true only insamuch as it's true for someone who has already been brutalized by that part of the work and who requires the emotional shell to weaponize it in turn. she doesn't want that for Paige; she not only recognizes Paige's softness (which she would probably describe as particularly american) but, crucially, protects it as much as she can, until the facade drops.

.

god this show was a gut-wrenching, heartbreaking treasure. the finale was perfectly pitched, avoiding bombast and forcing characters to live in the wake of the destruction they've wreaked, but also allowing for moments of light and connection and honesty to pierce through. I read the final scene as both incredibly loving between Philip and Elizabeth -- her hypotheticals are basically "in any lifetime, you and I would have found each other"; her trailing off about Philip's career isn't because she doesn't know him well enough to pick one, but because his Russian childhood was so fucking wretched that she probably couldn't think of how to end the sentence beyond "dead in a ditch somewhere" -- and also incredibly tragic and bleak. two people who know each other, and for whom the other person is the only person who has ever truly known them, including their parents, who they have either abandoned or been abandoned by and as far as they know have lost forever.

I think this show depicted the act of love as the peeling away of the infinity of layers we all have, the sharing of intimacy in degrees, like slicing off pieces of yourself as tribute to another. spycraft is many things, most of them grim and annihilating, but the emotional manipulation at its center requires empathy above all (yes, even from Elizabeth) -- it requires you to know what pieces of yourself to share, and what to hold back, to open up another human's soul.

and then you actually have to share those things, with the vulnerability and loss that implies. and even in that careful, calculated giving, you still lose something. the invented backstories and invented needs Philip and Elizabeth used were fake, but the pained and longing and hopeful faces they made were genuine (this show filmed facial expressions so lovingly, so thoughtfully, in part to show how the best masks have the seams and cracks built in on purpose) and you have to give this love to these people you ostensibly hate, the named enemy, to work them the way you need to.

to see either Philip or Elizabeth as soulless or sociopathic is a bizarre read to me; it's backward to my fundamental understanding of the show. Philip loved Martha and he loved Kimmy; Elizabeth loved Young-Hee and she loved Erica. that love, for others and for each other, is what allowed them to be good at their job; it also hollowed them out inside to use that love for such destructive purposes.

I could write about this show for probably hours longer but will end there for now. I still have a lump in my throat from just how overwhelming that finale was. what a show.
posted by Kybard at 12:35 PM on June 1, 2018 [28 favorites]


Thanks to all of you sticking up for Elizabeth. Everything she has ever done has been for a better world, knowing the price and agonising over it so many times. Even her double-cross of Claudia she did for these ideals. Philip is compassionate but tends to be self involved; Elizabeth's compassion nearly always puts someone else before her self.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 1:03 PM on June 1, 2018 [11 favorites]


yeah if I had to pick a phrase for Elizabeth it would be "ideologue as soldier"; she has a very concrete vision of the righteousness of her cause, which is the only rationale that allows her to psychologically survive the burden of her horrific, grim, violent job. [...] to see either Philip or Elizabeth as soulless or sociopathic is a bizarre read to me; it's backward to my fundamental understanding of the show. Philip loved Martha and he loved Kimmy; Elizabeth loved Young-Hee and she loved Erica. that love, for others and for each other, is what allowed them to be good at their job; it also hollowed them out inside to use that love for such destructive purposes.

Thank you for phrasing this so perfectly. I agree 100%. For the words "sociopath" and "serial killer" to retain their meanings, Elizabeth and Philip simply don't fit the bill, even as unspeakably terrible as their many, many killings and other crimes are.

This is the ultimate tragedy of the show, encapsulated in that final scene of the two of them standing on the bridge: so many lives lost, countless more destroyed in ways large and small, an incalculable human cost wrought... and for what? On some level, Philip and Elizabeth may take some very minuscule comfort in the fact that they managed to stave off the coup (for now), but really, how does that compare to having lost their children? To the knowledge of having absolutely ruined the lives of people they did genuinely love? When Philip accused Elizabeth a few episodes back of not acting like a human, her snappish response -- "you don't think I'm human?" -- was grounded less in defensiveness, anger, or even contempt (as it would have been previously) and more in the creeping horror that, indeed, he's on to something. Elizabeth defied her orders to kill Nesterenko because she finally had to assert her humanity over her ideology. That's why she didn't/couldn't even fight back when Claudia icily called her a traitor in their final confrontation; Elizabeth was operating on a whole different level at that point, and the look on her face was not just one of defiance, but also shock and even bewilderment at what she had actually done.

And for all that, they're standing on a bridge, looking at a city they know isn't theirs anymore, having lost their own children, wondering if they have hours or days or weeks or months to go before the anti-Gorbachev forces in the KGB track them down, knowing that even if they're relieved to be alive, their lives will now be defined by little more than crushing, grinding grief.

---

On a more boring note: can we discuss the logistics of how they got to that bridge to begin with? I'm assuming they flew to Helsinki and drove into Russia from there. But how would they have connected with Arkady in the meantime? How would they have known what to say to the border guard to assure their passage? (I mean, assuming that they couldn't just say "please call Arkady Ivanovich and tell him Mischa and Nadezhda are here, thanks, comrade!") Their ability to have gotten a coded message into the right hands once they were in Canada seems awfully slim. Was there some way of doing it that was established between Oleg and Philip in a previous episode that I'm forgetting?
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 1:23 PM on June 1, 2018 [3 favorites]


> How would they have known what to say to the border guard to assure their passage? (I mean, assuming that they couldn't just say "please call Arkady Ivanovich and tell him Mischa and Nadezhda are here, thanks, comrade!")

I think it's similar to a few episodes ago where Elizabeth knocked on Harvest's car window and said (if I recall correctly), "Mother's expecting you." They certainly hadn't had time or the ability to get him a message so it had to have been a pre-determined phrase. I assumed it was a similar situation with the guard, especially considering the look that Elizabeth gave him while he was on the phone.
posted by komara at 1:47 PM on June 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


One final thought on Elizabeth … given the audience the show is aimed at and the environment the characters exist in, it’s sometimes easy to forget the most basic fact about her: she is not American. Much of the judgment toward her seems to be rooted in a value system that is worlds away from her background and experiences. Her dedication to her country and duty, her attitudes toward sex, her parenting style, her way of expressing emotion are so fundamentally different from those of the people she lives amongst, and can’t really be understood by those who haven’t lived her experience. Who are we to say that she doesn’t feel remorse, just because she doesn’t show it in a way that is common or easily parsed? Her parenting style may be distant and unrelatable, but leaving her children behind was unthinkable to her, even though there was considerable risk of being caught by going after them, and her anguish at the realisation that Henry was better off in America was obvious. As Claudia said to her, she has a lot in common with the women she fought with in WWII, and for many in that time period being a good parent was being a stoic provider, and the way you showed love to your family was not through emotional gestures, but teaching them to be strong and taking care of them at all costs.

(If anyone is reading the linked comments in my earlier screed from a few hours ago, I duplicated one in error — had meant to link to a response to a comment by NorthernLite, who was one of the first to speak up in Elizabeth's favour.)
posted by myotahapea at 1:50 PM on June 1, 2018 [8 favorites]


How would they have known what to say to the border guard to assure their passage?

I would imagine an extraction scenario would have been set up ages ago, much like what I presume the "topsy-turvy" call from Philip was. I would guess that Elizabeth gave the guard a coded phrase and he called to confirm and was like "oh shit, let them through!"

Not sure on connecting with Arkady. Perhaps once they landed wherever they did so? Or maybe that's where a passphrase to enter the country came in as well?
posted by juliebug at 1:53 PM on June 1, 2018


I would imagine an extraction scenario would have been set up ages ago

Yes, I was thinking so, too, but I think I was assuming that it would have essentially become null and void shortly after Elizabeth left Claudia's for the last time (I remember even thinking "oh shit, they can't even go back to Russia now" when that happened). I basically have an image of Claudia throwing down her soup spoon the instant the door closes behind Elizabeth and sprinting for her own laundry room to send a message to the Centre to inform them, which would then lead to changing any protocols/codes/etc. that Elizabeth and Philip could have used to their benefit. But given the amount of time that's passed between Elizabeth defying Claudia and the two of them driving to the Russian border (i.e., only a matter of days, right?), I guess it's not too unlikely that everything that would need to happen to freeze Elizabeth and Philip out of the Soviet Union might not have moved into place just yet.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 2:29 PM on June 1, 2018


I think I was assuming that it would have essentially become null and void shortly after Elizabeth left Claudia's for the last time

I had the same thought, but when I think about it a little more, it's not the entirety of the Russian government that wants to get rid of Gorbachev, it's a section of it. True, a lot of the people associated with "the center" seem to have been populated by that section, but Arkady was KGB and not part of the plot, same with Oleg. So I would presume that at least some of the higher-level stuff (rather than the day-to-day stuff) would have come from the KGB rather than just the direct superiors like Claudia. IMHO! :)
posted by juliebug at 2:58 PM on June 1, 2018 [2 favorites]


I can't quite get behind the idea that Henry is better off being left behind. He is 16 and still in high school. His tuition isn't even paid up. He'll have nothing because the Jennings' assets will be seized. I guess the assumption is that Stan will take him in, but even Stan isn't going to foot the bill for his last year and a half at Saint Edwards and college, and he's going to be known everywhere he goes as the son of KGB agents, which is not going to help. There could be citizenship issues as well.

Aderholt is a damn good interrogator. Father Andrei is a really terrible undercover agent.

And of course Philip and Elizabeth know how to hot wire a car.

Stan's partner is remarkably trusting for an FBI agent.

Arkady does not offer comfort when there is none to be offered.

Stan knows where Paige's apartment is. I wouldn't be surprised if knows her roommate's name too.

Philip and Elizabeth should have called Paige and had her meet them.

The showdown in the garage was well played by the actors, but I don't believe for one minute that Stan would have just stood aside and let them go.

I also don't believe that Renee is up to anything, and am kind of irritated with the show for teasing us with that silly angle for so long, but Philip's "Renee may be one of us too" parting shot was masterful. And cruel. He may have just ruined Stan's last meaningful relationship. At least he still has Aderholt.

When you've left your partner to hold the fort alone for a few hours for no apparent reason, you bring coffee when you return. It's the FBI version of emotional labour.

When you're a spy you keep your fake Canadian passport, wig, and glasses close at hand. But for some reason your daughter is not privy to your escape plan.

Paige is getting a crash course induction into the serious spy stuff: having a gun pulled on her, fake passports, wigs, hot wired cars.

Paige is all, "You have a change of wedding rings too when all they are is plain gold bands? I CAN'T EVEN PROCESS WHAT THAT MEANS RIGHT NOW."

Were there three seasonally appropriate changes of clothing in that duffel bag?

Henry really can't handle his parents' mushiness right now and needs to get back to his ping pong game.

That's your last McDonald's meal for some time to come, Philip and Elizabeth.

I don't believe that Stan's trust in Renee is going to be a serious problem. He'll look into her background and everything will check out and he'll realize Philip was just trying to fuck with him.

Those U.S. Border Patrol agents aren't good at their jobs. Do they not understand the concept of wigs?

I think Paige's decision was equal parts, "I have to stay for Henry" and "I don't want to go to Russia." I don't know what kind of future she faces either. I suppose she might get a lawyer and find out through the lawyer whether it's worthwhile turning herself in in order to clear her name... but how would she pay for the lawyer? Even assuming she can still be Paige Jennings, she has no resources and no skill set. She'll be notorious. And if turning herself in is not viable because it would mean a lengthy prison sentence, I don't know if she's well-trained enough to be able to navigate life on the run. There might be citizenship issues for her too.

For a minute there when Elizabeth woke up in bed with Gregory, I thought we were headed for a Newhart ending.

When Paige downs a shot of vodka with a hair toss, I almost mistake her for her mother.

Ah, and it's back to the land of stern border guards, shoddy consumer goods, and melancholy stringed music for Philip and Elizabeth!

Arkady closes Elizabeth's door for her like the gentleman he is, and Elizabeth and Philip fall asleep in the back seat while he drives because they know they're safe. I love that man.

I wonder what Philip and Elizabeth will do now. I suppose they'll be KGB, as that's the only thing they really know how to do, unless the USSR needs travel agents. Maybe Oleg's old job as a food cop is open.

And I suppose they can meet up with their kids in another country sometimes, but my guess is none of them will have the resources to do so for some time to come.

I don't believe Oleg will languish in an American prison very long. Now that Philip and Elizabeth can tell Arkady what they know, Directorate S can clean house (sorry, Claudia) and the coup can be put down. Gorbachev's position is safe again, and Igor and Arkady are both so well-placed to speak on Oleg's behalf personally. I cannot believe Gorbachev wouldn't do his considerable best to get Oleg back after he's shown such loyalty. Nor would the Americans be so reluctant to let Oleg go. He hasn't betrayed the U.S., or harmed anyone. All he did was pick up a message and try to prevent a coup in his own country.

And that's the end of it. Well, I knew the Jennings family would wind up split up somehow, though I thought it would be by death or prison. There's more ambiguity and loose ends than I'd bargained for.

I was especially hoping for more Young Hee, at last so we could find out what happened with her and Don. I hope they see Elizabeth's picture in the paper and figure things out. 'Tis a forlorn hope I know, but I can't bear what happened to them.
posted by orange swan at 8:39 PM on June 1, 2018 [5 favorites]


The Oral History linked to above mentions they almost went with "Mothers of the Disappeared" off Joshua Tree instead of "With or Without You." Jesus that would have been devastating. (If you've never heard it, it's one of the most haunting songs you'll ever hear. It's also about mothers who lost their children to brutal South American dictatorships that were propped up by the US.)

I agree that they looped the coda one too many times.
posted by dry white toast at 9:46 PM on June 1, 2018


That's your last McDonald's meal for some time to come, Philip and Elizabeth.

Actually they'll only have to wait three years, the first McDonalds will open in Moscow in 1990.
posted by mmoncur at 2:47 AM on June 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


The showdown in the garage was well played by the actors, but I don't believe for one minute that Stan would have just stood aside and let them go.

That worked for me; it felt like a very 'real' as opposed to a 'television' moment. As law enforcement Stan is used to situations like this going down in two ways — the person you’re aiming your gun at either complies, or fights. Philip changed the game on him by simply telling him ‘we’re driving out of here’. Which meant that Stan would have to shoot him/them, not in a fight where he had been provoked, but just for doing a normal action. With an anonymous suspect that may be less of an issue, but Philip had taken his emotional legs out from under him as well. Stan was spun, and I don’t think he was capable of turning the situation violent at that moment, and the Jenningses didn’t give him time to recover.

There’s a great line in the end of Smiley’s People I thought of when I watched this scene:
In every successful interrogation — as Toby Esterase likes to pontificate concerning this moment — there is one slip which cannot be recovered; one gesture, tacit or direct, even if it is only a half smile, or the acceptance of a cigarette, which marks the shift away from resistance, towards collaboration.

I don’t think that’s something we see with Stan, but because Philip kept the conversation focused on the friendship and the toll the work takes on people I’d bet there was a subconscious moment during that confrontation when something inside him ticked over and he lost the ability to do violence against them. And after Philip landed his haymaker about Renee, Stan was probably just stood there trying to figure out how the bottom had fallen out of his life in 10 minutes.

And while I grant that Stan was likely not thinking this far ahead at the time, their leaving was the best thing for him. It would have shredded him to have them imprisoned, seeing these people who used to be his friends being interrogated, listening to the stories of all the things they were doing under his nose for six years, questioning Philip’s friendship, knowing where they were incarcerated, that needling thought in the back of your head ‘should I go see him’. It would draw it all out for him, and become something he couldn’t get past. Letting them leave, in an odd way, gives him some closure.
posted by myotahapea at 3:52 AM on June 2, 2018 [9 favorites]


Only thing I didn't get about the McDonalds scene... If they were going to eat the car, why didn't they just go through the drive thru?
posted by drezdn at 5:27 AM on June 2, 2018


I can't quite get behind the idea that Henry is better off being left behind.

The Morozovs likely said something similar when they decided to bring Pasha to America.

Elizabeth herself said early on that “Henry would adjust to anything if he had to ... if something happened to us, he’d find his way”. And I wouldn't be surprised if, once he got enough information out of his parents, Henry had straight-up refused to go with them. A betrayal on that scale, and then expecting him to accept it unquestioningly and go live in an unfamiliar place because that's what they need to do, and damn the consequences to him ... Henry’s always been distinct from the rest of the family, the most American of them all. As Philip said, his future’s there, not in Russia.

I'm betting Stan will pay for St Edwards, even if it's only as a loan — he loves that kid, and just saw him get his world turned upside-down. He's not going to just cut him loose or bring him back to live across the street from his old house and go back to public school where he'd have some serious explaining to do. Henry's only a couple years away from Uni, when he would have been more on his own than not anyway.
posted by myotahapea at 5:46 AM on June 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


On a lighter note, I’ll share a quote from Uproxx’s Americans Anxiety Report:

Spin-off: Oleg gets out of prison in 2018 and he and Stan — both now well into their golden years, Oleg in his 60s, Stan in his early 80s — get a condo in Ft. Lauderdale. Like Golden Girls, but with two former spies on opposite sides of the Cold War. Mail Robot can come, too. Henry can program it to make and deliver daiquiris. Yes, I know there are about 200 logical holes in all of this but let me have it anyway, dammit.
posted by matildaben at 7:28 AM on June 2, 2018 [12 favorites]


I think that Stan will use the money he offered to Philip to keep the travel agency afloat to pay for Henry’s tuition at St. Edwards.
posted by fozzie_bear at 8:09 AM on June 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


Only thing I didn't get about the McDonalds scene... If they were going to eat the car, why didn't they just go through the drive thru?
posted by drezdn at 5:27 AM on June 2 [+] [!]


In all the rush, Paige had to pee I'd bet. She went in to do that, her dad went in to order and buy the food. A perfectly normal moment in an otherwise topsy-turvy day.
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:52 AM on June 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


It struck me that Stan said the same thing to both Oleg and Philip -- that he didn't care about the big picture, he cared about the crimes they were committing. Makes me wonder if the the show is trying to say something about our current situation, reminding us that the FBI is not in the business of geo-political intrigue, its job is to fight crime.
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:56 AM on June 2, 2018 [3 favorites]


That’s a really good point and I feel like this show made me really see the FBI for what they actually are for the first time. In tv and movies they’re always referred to as agents and just go around busting doors and threatening people so I never really thought about what their actual job is. But they are actually just national-level detectives?

Also another thought I had about Philip’s decision to leave Henry at school. Was that Philip knew that Henry had his own plan in place to work over the summer for his friend’s dad to pay his own tuition. Which told Philip that not only did Henry have a plan, but that he was mature enough to know he needed a plan and what to do. So Philip knew that Henry was going to be at least materially ok in a way that Liz and Paige weren’t aware of.
posted by bleep at 12:17 PM on June 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


Well, I'm not sure that anyone has come right out and said they were teary during most of the show so I will. Specifically as context for this: when Elizabeth took the phone to talk to Henry, I started sobbing. (Not Philip--specifically Elizabeth.) I have never watched a show that registers as deeply in the subconscious. I didn't cry after finding something sad, I cried without knowing why until I thought about it. The show has those moments, and I think that's extremely rare for TV. The only show I can think of that might have also done that to me is Six Feet Under.

What Philip and Elizabeth know best is how to live in disguise, but disguises are no longer relevant to their fate. I would like to read Paige leaving the train as Paige leaving the disguise for the last time. There is a tragi-comic element to this whole play: these are two adults that run around in disguises, and they almost succeeded in indoctrinating their daughter into the same. (Why we don't view this as more problematic, I don't know.) I would like to read Paige leaving the train as Paige realizing that these masks are ridiculous and not a way to live her life. (This very emotional scene takes place between three people in wigs!) I choose this way of looking at Paige's decision. She has hope.

Stan is a fascinating character, and I haven't seen the actor in anything else, so I don't know if that's his style or if he really went out of his way to be a largely unassuming man who has facial ticks for emotions. If the character is a significant departure from the man (or even, if not), it was a brave decision to make a law enforcement man so quiet, yearning for things he doesn't fully express. I wanted to say that Stan looks like a deer in the headlights much of time, but I don't like that expression. Then I realized that Stan was literally in the headlights in the garage, and that seems like another expression of the wonder of this show.
posted by sylvanshine at 6:54 PM on June 2, 2018 [9 favorites]


One of the things I was thinking about today was the part of the garage conversation when Stan is trying to process the betrayal of the friendship, and Philip points out (correctly) that it was Stan who moved in next to them. In other words, the entire relationship was kicked off by a genuine coincidence -- one that Philip points out actually alarmed/frightened them at first. And I hadn't really thought about it since the first season, but this means that befriending Stan is actually the least bad option for all involved: not getting close to him would have been too risky for them, because otherwise they'd never be able to assess how much of a threat he posed to them. So, essentially, "befriend Stan" or "kill Stan" were their options.

In that sense, The Americans winds up being a six-season masterclass in the old adage that weak writing uses coincidence to get characters out of trouble, while strong writing uses characters to get them in to trouble. Man, poor Stan.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 8:28 PM on June 2, 2018 [10 favorites]


I am rewatching and my god, if you think Elizabeth is soulless or a viper or an ice-cold sociopath, watch Keri (Deserves A Goddamned Emmy Already) Russell's face looking at Henry's Canadian passport, throwing E/P's rings in the hole and putting on N/M's rings, and her awkward sincere "I love you" to Henry on the phone, if that initial face-veined "guh!" in the garage when Philip tells her they can't take Henry doesn't kneecap you in the first place. When Philip is telling her this, her eyes shift back and forth over and over the way your eyes do when you're trying to pick an eye of the other person to look at in a real conversation.

And the Garage Scene, her face and her eyes. Philip, Stan, to as close to Paige as she can without moving her body, back to Stan, Philip. Startled, calculating, ready to tear Stan to pieces, ready to do whatever it takes, watching Philip work, keeping an eye on Paige.

And if that doesn't do it, her red-eyed exhale after the train passes Paige on the platform. We know from the interviews that they didn't get a ton of time to work on these scenes on the train but god, for however cold you thought she was she telegraphs 'gutted' at every step.

She always did what she had to do, for the greater good, but (thank god we never got this music cue) she loves her children too. Not in a showy way, and sometimes in a conflicted way, but there's no question she loves them.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:26 PM on June 2, 2018 [11 favorites]


I am rewatching and my god, if you think Elizabeth is soulless or a viper or an ice-cold sociopath, watch Keri (Deserves A Goddamned Emmy Already) Russell's face looking at Henry's Canadian passport, throwing E/P's rings in the hole and putting on N/M's rings, and her awkward sincere "I love you" to Henry on the phone, if that initial face-veined "guh!" in the garage when Philip tells her they can't take Henry doesn't kneecap you in the first place.

I rewatched tonight, too, and where I was largely in open-mouthed shock through most of it when I watched the first time, this time around I cried through whole chunks of it, starting precisely with that terrible exhalation she gives when she realizes they have to leave Henry behind. I was expecting that the biggest knife to the heart would be the train scene (Bono's well-timed wail when Elizabeth sees Paige on the platform!), but it was actually Stan going back to his post, glassy-eyed, while "Brothers in Arms" played that just totally gutted me. I guess that joins Badfinger's "Baby Blue" in my list of Songs Used In Series Finales That Will Now Make Me Cry Forever.

Also, on rewatch, I saw that they cross the border at Poland, not Finland. I assumed that because they were driving a Volvo, they had to have crossed via one of the non-Soviet bloc countries, but evidently that wouldn't have been necessary.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 10:49 PM on June 2, 2018


That said... I'm kind of reaching my breaking point of listening to people calling Elizabeth a psychopath, dead-eyed killer, etc. without saying the same about Philip. Just because Elizabeth doesn't wear her heart on her sleeve like Philip does, doesn't mean she doesn't have feelings. She was just better at rationalizing them away, burying them under her ideology and sense of duty, in a way Philip was unable to. Philip is the one who beat a kid to death when he was still a child! If you think Elizabeth is a psychopath, you haven't even watched this season really.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Elizabeth isn't a soldier. She'a a spy. There is a significant difference. Soldiers are bound to a moral code. It's one that sometimes breaks them when tested. Spies do not operate under such a code. Their moral code is dictated by the ends. It's amorphous at best. An amorphous moral code is what makes Elizabeth, and Philip, serial killers. Not soldiers. And Elizabeth simply had a better relationship with that code.

So, what do you call someone who will alter their deepest morality as needed to accomplish their goal? Or their boss's goal?

Paige, on the other hand, does have a clear and unwavering moral code. Elizabeth's biggest success was raising a daughter that will not compromise that code. To the point that she has to abandon her mother and father.

In the garage, I couldn't believe they were still going to try pulling the wool over Paige's eyes. She isn't stupid. At that point, it became obvious to us that leaving with her parents was not plausible and going to be a huge tragedy for her. Because she would eventually have to find out and face the truth. That her parents were killers, and would have done just about anything to achieve the goal. That all their lives were ruined because of it. Perhaps she already knows. She does know she can't take their word. The weakness of this season to this point was that Paige hadn't put two and two together as the bodies started to pile up. Seeing her on that platform was the most heroic thing I think we've seen on this show. Asserting herself. Demonstrating her strength, her dedication and her loyalty. Perhaps to her brother, but more significantly, to herself.

Not that I think it tidies up all the loose ends. It still looks like some grim reckoning ahead for Paige. But what else could there be? How does she not suffer the legal consequences of her involvement? She's an adult now. And how does she not out Stan as the guy who let the spies get away? And if Stan gets busted, Henry is going to suffer. Let's face it. She's going to be interrogated by the FBI. Probably sooner than later. Even if she keeps shut about Stan's involvement, she can't pull off the act like her parents can. They'll know that she's holding out, which will not be good for her troules. She has skills, you say? Well, she can throw a decent punch. But that's about it. She has a passport. Can she start over in Canada? I don't see that happening.

The way the P&D deal with their kids is revealing, too. I think Elizabeth comes out looking worse again. Insisting they leave as a family unit. Philip knows this is not possible. Not only is it risky for the unit, it would obviously be detrimental to Henry, at the very least. Elizabeth seems to view the children, perhaps the whole family, as assets of a sort. Or maybe an investment. It feels she doesn't really understand what would be bet for them.

I love Philip planting that seed about Renee. She's been a MacGuffin all along, and Philip coming out with that possibility felt like a bit of playfulness to the audience, bluffing with even higher stakes, with both Stan and us. Almost like he was breaking the fourth wall. And again, when we see her on the driveway. I swear, it almost feels like she was going to look into the camera and give us a wink.

That phone call!
posted by 2N2222 at 1:34 AM on June 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


Just making sure everyone sees The Secret Soviet Map of Seattle from yesterday's front page.
posted by kingless at 6:26 AM on June 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


Elizabeth isn't a soldier. She's a spy. There is a significant difference. Soldiers are bound to a moral code. It's one that sometimes breaks when tested. Spies do not operate under such a code.

I agree that there's a difference between a soldier and a spy, but I don't agree that spies lack a moral code at all. As an example, a major part of the penultimate episode was Elizabeth's memory of being told "you don't leave a comrade to die on the street." Spies may not be subject to the same moral code as soldiers, but that doesn't mean no code exists. I think this is true in reality, but certainly in spy fiction. In my opinion, all the best espionage stories are about struggling with moral codes; truly amoral spies don't make for interesting protagonists. This series is up there with the best of John Le Carré and Graham Greene for me, in terms of narratives that use the heightened stakes of espionage to examine people's reactions to those kinds of conflicting loyalties. I'm honestly a little confused as to what held people's interest in The Americans for 6 seasons if it wasn't watching Philip, Elizabeth and Stan struggling with the conflicts of their personal feelings and morality against the operational needs of the job. Other commenters like nequalsone and myotahapea have already done a better job than I would listing the genuine moral conflicts we've seen Elizabeth go through over the course of the series. But I will add that the idea that Elizabeth is viewing her children as assets in the finale because she doesn't immediately want to abandon them forever is a very strange interpretation to me.

Also, pretty sure I was the one who confused everyone by saying Philip admitted to sleeping with people as part of his garage speech to Stan. Haven't rewatched it yet, but it makes sense that he was saying "screwed people over" in a non-sexual sense. I guess I just heard what I wanted Paige to hear after her accusations that Elizabeth betrayed poor innocent Philip in the previous episode. Thanks for clarifying!
posted by the primroses were over at 8:56 AM on June 3, 2018 [8 favorites]


Captions and rewatch confirm "I'm done with that now, I have been for a long time. It was all just screwing people for...I don't even know for what", and there's no hard emphasis so he could easily be using either or both definitions. Totally ambiguous, probably by the writers' design and by the character as well. Paige never takes her eyes off Stan when they cut to her after he says it, she's entirely focused on what Stan's going to do. Elizabeth watches him through that part, though.

(Stan gets I think three "fucking"s in this scene and Philip gets "fuckin' Russians", so the word was in play. Standards and Practices makes a distinction between the swear and the verb, but I'd like to think Philip wouldn't use the verb in front of either Stan or Paige.)

Confirmed also that "With or Without You" gets you in the shock of the first watch and "Brothers In Arms" is devastating on the second and third. I am exactly the right age, as a Cold War Kid, to remember the song-and-video gut punch. If you are doing a rewatch (and I guess not on Amazon Prime, or maybe your captions aren't 90 seconds ahead like ours are on this episode?) and don't normally use captions, they always caption the songs.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:54 AM on June 3, 2018 [2 favorites]


I agree that there's a difference between a soldier and a spy, but I don't agree that spies lack a moral code at all. As an example, a major part of the penultimate episode was Elizabeth's memory of being told "you don't leave a comrade to die on the street." Spies may not be subject to the same moral code as soldiers, but that doesn't mean no code exists.

Yes, this. And as to the larger question of "is she a soldier or a spy," I guess I don't believe that they're necessarily mutually exclusive. Elizabeth was certainly indoctrinated to think of herself as a soldier in the Cold War, every bit as much as she would have been a soldier during WWII; the primary difference now is that espionage is her tool to defend her country, rather than a rifle. In other words, her identity is fundamentally as a soldier/patriot who spies.

Elizabeth seems to view the children, perhaps the whole family, as assets of a sort. Or maybe an investment.

If Elizabeth really is such a remorseless spy without any moral code, then this makes no sense: for such a person, the instant an asset is no longer useful, that asset would be jettisoned without a second thought. Elizabeth's gasp when she realizes they have to leave Henry behind is not the regret of a spy losing an asset, it is the grief and horror of a mother losing her child.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 12:15 PM on June 3, 2018 [5 favorites]


I meant to say earlier in this thread, how much I have enjoyed having you all to enjoy The Americans with. This show never found the audience it deserved, but the relatively small size of its fanbase had its benefits. Fanfare threads for The Americans were long enough to be satisfying and have a diversity of opinion, yet were of a reasonable length to read instead of getting crazy long like the Mad Men threads used to be. The show's small fanbase also meant that it was possible to interact with some of the supporting cast and even the show's creators on Twitters. I got a number of spontaneous likes and retweets from some of the actors on the show (Costa Ronin, Alison Wright, Ivan Mok, Kelly AuCoin, etc.), and even, on one occasion, from Joel Fields, which was really thrilling for a fan, and I got to link to those Twitter interactions in the FanFare threads and get people to join in my fangirl squeeing over it. I even started watching the show in the first place because a MeFite with whom I am connected on Facebook recommended it in a status update, so this has been a truly MeFi-enhanced experience. Thank you all!
posted by orange swan at 7:18 PM on June 3, 2018 [22 favorites]


Same, orange swan, and I even appreciate harder conversations like nequalsone calling us on the carpet about double standards. The Americans was very intelligently written TV and I'm grateful to Metafilter to have a community to discuss it intelligently with.

(The other show I most got enjoyed watching with Fanfare was Under the Dome, which in pretty much every way was the opposite of an intelligent show. I appreciate the contrast :-)
posted by Nelson at 8:10 PM on June 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


Not to branch off into fanfic too much, but my feeling was that Paige went back to the safe house knowing she'd be picked up and decided to drink the vodka until the Feds arrived. I don't think she'd out Stan since she thinks he's going to help take care of Henry. Stan, knowing she has leverage and also because he doesn't want Henry to be even more damaged, would play down her knowledge of/involvement in of the entire situation. Then she gets a minor book deal and manages a modest career on the lecture circuit.
posted by mikepop at 6:11 AM on June 4, 2018 [1 favorite]


Elizabeth isn't a soldier. She'a a spy. There is a significant difference. Soldiers are bound to a moral code. It's one that sometimes breaks them when tested. Spies do not operate under such a code. Their moral code is dictated by the ends. It's amorphous at best. An amorphous moral code is what makes Elizabeth, and Philip, serial killers. Not soldiers.

As other posters have said, spies have a moral code, though perhaps a different one than soldiers. However, I don't think they are so different, in the big picture. It wasn't until fairly recently that even the concept of war crimes began to hold any weight at all.

In reality though, an intelligence agency would be hesitant to risk a spy's cover except for high-value targets. The show heightened the drama by showing a lot of collateral damage for Philip and Elizabeth's mission. The real illegals were rounded up after a decade of surveillance during which they presumably did nothing to seriously endanger US citizens or US security in general, were charged with money laundering and not registering as foreign agents, and were quickly traded.

In the garage, I couldn't believe they were still going to try pulling the wool over Paige's eyes.

At that point, they were lying to Stan to give Paige the maximum level of deniability if they had to weren't able to walk away from the confrontation.

Interestingly, Paige is the one that said something like "I knew, even earlier" (even though she never knew everything), pushing the conversation with Stan toward more honesty. Establishing that her parents introduced her to this when she was legally a child would probably be better as a defense or at least a mitigating factor were a judge or prosecutor ever to have to decide what to do with regards to her involvement. I think Philip and Elizabeth (and Paige at the very end, after she leaves them on the train) are counting on Stan's connection to them and his involvement in their escape as making him reluctant to point the finger at Paige later on. I wonder if the cloud of suspicion that will now surround Stan would actually make it hard for him to help Henry (in addition to questions about his involvement with Nina and Oleg). On the other hand, even if his full involvement never comes to light, he will be treated as incompetent or compromised at this point and will inevitably retire, which would make it less of an issue. There will likely be a limit to how deep the FBI wants to investigate Stan's connection to the Jennings, since Aderholt socialized with them as well.
posted by nequalsone at 8:09 AM on June 4, 2018 [4 favorites]


In the garage Paige is also the one that says to Stan "You have to take care of Henry". It's a masterful stroke on her part, making Stan complicit in their escape. Arguably it's the lynchpin of how they get away.

I watched that scene again last night. The other thing that stood out to me was how Stan was so, so impotent. From the very beginning he's pointing a gun at them and demanding they lie down on the ground. Several times, including halfway through the scene. No one complies. Elizabeth even says "we're not going to do that when you have a gun pointed at us".

Poor Stan, he really got his life ruined. On my second watch it looks more like Philip's telling him about Renee was just another tactic too. Not a kindness at all, but a manipulation.
posted by Nelson at 8:34 AM on June 4, 2018 [4 favorites]


My sense in the garage scene is that there are only 2 outcomes: either Stan shoots them, or he lets them go. Given that they're facing capture and likely execution, the Jennings' aren't just going to march off to custody without resisting. I don't think there's a way for Stan to make the arrest single handed against 2 trained fighters and their daughter, who has some training as well. (Her father's lesson in her apartment notwithstanding.) Stan's radio is at the other garage with his partner. Does he even have two sets of cuffs?

I think if he could have pushed a button and had 10 FBI field agents come in and make the arrest peacefully, he would have. But he was stuck on his own, without backup.

I don't think this is a plot hole, I think Stan knows who P and E are, but he can't quite make himself believe it. So he confronts them in the garage without any real plan of what he's going to do.

I'm impressed with thoughtful discussion about Elizabeth being a "psychopath" above. I agree with those above who point out that Elizabeth has paid an emotional price for the lives she's taken. I think she continues with her work because she believes in the mission more than Philip does, not because she lacks empathy.

Lastly, say what you will about their output since then, but 1987's U2 holds up. What an amazing use of the song. The producers mention in one of the interviews floating around that they had American Pie in that spot, and I just can't imagine it.
posted by thenormshow at 11:56 AM on June 4, 2018 [9 favorites]


I also recoiled in complete horror when I read that about "American Pie". Oh my god no.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:58 AM on June 4, 2018 [10 favorites]


"In the garage Paige is also the one that says to Stan 'You have to take care of Henry'. It's a masterful stroke on her part, making Stan complicit in their escape. Arguably it's the lynchpin of how they get away."

With her honesty about having been told when she was sixteenn, and what she says about Henry, she proves herself to be her father's daughter. Perhaps more so than she ever was like her mother. Her small contribution has an outsized effect because the emotional signaling is completely in sync with Philip's. Her admission was maybe more masterful than her exhortation about Henry, because by repudiating her patents' lie, she is calling attention to their attempt to protect her. Philip and Paige make it impossible for Stan to see them as anyone other than the people he's known and cared for all this time.

Although both Elizabeth and Paige are idealists, their respective idealism arise from very different circumstances and are very different in character. Elizabeth's is the almost desperate idealism of someone who has embraced an ideology as their personal raison d'etre. It is not sentimental, it is ironically deeply pragmatic. Paige, on the other hand, is an idealist as an expression of her inherent sentimentality. In this she is far more like her father than her mother. She will most likely follow the same trajectory as Philip -- eventually placing the people she cares about at the center of her universe, not an ideology.

Elizabeth loves her family, but she long ago devoted her life to a cause and to be true to it is her strongest imperative.

It's easy to see how Paige, as a sentimental and idealistic child, would find her mother's fierce devotion to a cause to be so admirable. She would want to emulate her, not the least because it's apparently the only way she can truly share something with her.

In the end, though, she truly understands her father and instinctively supports him in just the right way at that crucial moment. And, again, she chooses to stay for Henry, because her father cannot. This is devastating for both Philip and Elizabeth, but less so for Philip because he understands her decision and is likely comforted by it.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:44 AM on June 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I'm still not sure whether I want to think of Philip and Elizabeth as soldiers forced to do terrible things to protect their comrades or as weaponized sociopaths. My kids are on the verge of leaving home for college, so this finale resonated on multiple levels.

Poor Stan, he really got his life ruined.

Stan's hands are not clean. I love him too, but Nina, and the embassy worker that he executed.

The only question that remains for me at this point is how long do I wait to rewatch the entire series. I've actually started amassing books on cold war spycraft and Russia because of this series.
posted by craniac at 10:03 AM on June 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


If you've never watched it, the 1979 BBC production of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is really good. It doesn't have the same period nostalgia or family intimacy. But its depiction of miserable spy life and investigation is really terrific. As a followup there's Smiley's People too.
posted by Nelson at 10:22 AM on June 5, 2018 [7 favorites]


The meta-theme of the show, the thing that allows us to see P&E as protagonists, is that the myths we buy into about our world, about our countries and what they stand for, are held up by people like them, and by the blood of the people they kill. Global power relies on carefully constructed lies, and Philip and Elizabeth are the mechanisms for preserving those lies. Yes there's sexism in judging Elizabeth more harshly than Philip, but there's hypocrisy in judging either of them when the security of the world the show depicts, that we grew up in, rested on the things people like them did.

tl;dr just watch Jack Nicholson's speech from A Few Good Men.
posted by dry white toast at 11:33 AM on June 5, 2018


so I've been thinking about my response to this finale and I think I had a subconscious association between E&P and my own parents, the details of which I will spare everyone, but I mean here are two russian spies who were (arguably?) "married for work, primarily toward the end" and umm, their final broadcast of love and remorse to their children was just [gulp].

nice, orange swan.
posted by sylvanshine at 12:18 PM on June 5, 2018


um, my mother's name is Elizabeth which I'm now just realizing lol
posted by sylvanshine at 12:19 PM on June 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


It's been a week and I'm still thinking about it (particularly this bit of foreshadowing that's been haunting me since I saw it on Twitter). I only wish we got a bit more specific insight into Henry's reaction, though I don't see where it would've fit into the overall flow of the episode. I just have to tell myself he'll be ok and that he'll have a chance to at least speak to his family again.
posted by paperback version at 1:07 PM on June 6, 2018 [7 favorites]


Oh gosh that’s a great observation about the paintings.
To be honest I felt like even wondering how Henry would pay for school is a moot point. Kids and college students get overwhelmed and fail out for much less life-altering reasons than their whole family disappearing.
posted by bleep at 1:13 PM on June 6, 2018 [1 favorite]


Now that it's over, I'm planning to watch it again this summer. I'd like to do that with scripts but so far I've only found the pilot online. Yes, there are transcripts but they're taken from the episodes so they're missing scenes that didn't survive editing. For example, the LA Screenwriter pilot script has Timoshev asking a group of young black men if they've seen any white people around. When one says no, he continues the corner before sensing danger.
posted by kingless at 7:26 AM on June 7, 2018


You Can Bid On Items From 'The Americans' Comrade

Including Martha's spy pen and Elizabeth's sketchbook!
posted by mikepop at 1:27 PM on June 7, 2018 [1 favorite]


You Can Bid On Items From 'The Americans' Comrade

Wow, rental wigs. The more you know.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:23 AM on June 8, 2018


My wife made the interesting observation on rewatch that the combination of Paige's "Can we trust him?" and her refusal to talk to Henry on the phone are all foreshadowing her staying behind and trying to reintegrate with Henry. As mentioned above, Stan's the only one that knows, and he's got skin in the game on keeping it all a secret.
posted by bfranklin at 5:50 PM on June 9, 2018 [5 favorites]


Usually the “next time on” doesn’t spoil but it did for the finale. Paige in the car asking “can we trust him?” That hadn’t happened yet in episode when we reached garage scene so I could surmise that he’d let them go, even before he did :(
posted by Buddy_Boy at 9:04 PM on June 10, 2018


I agree. Stan's "I'm gonna kill em" pissed me off so much. Somehow I had managed to avoid all next-week-on's and commercials and so came into every episode totally pure, except the last one. And it was the worst of them all.
posted by LizBoBiz at 12:25 AM on June 11, 2018 [1 favorite]


I went to ATX (Austin Television Experience) this weekend and managed to get into The Americans panel. It was poorly moderated, but the cast and writers were really informative. Apparently, early on, roughly near the end of the first season, the writers decided that one or both of the kids would not be with Philip and Elizabeth in the end of the show. They felt that would be the best ending and the biggest price for those two characters to pay.

Also, Matthew Rhys's accent takes me by surprise every single time.
posted by teleri025 at 7:49 AM on June 11, 2018


Has anyone analyzed the show specifically in regard to EST concepts and practices?


David Gerrold spoke about it a bit on Facebook, mostly that it wasn’t too inaccurate iirc, then went into it a bit more about his experience with it (I think he was a facilitator (guy with the mic person). My coincidental research on it a few years back for a writing assignment led me to the darker interpretations of it as abusive so .... ????
posted by tilde at 11:43 AM on June 17, 2018


Here ...
On the westcoast, there were groups like Mind Dynamics which explored the nature of human behavior—some of those graduates included Werner Erhard who created est and John Hanley who created Lifespring. That was where the human potential movement began.

Regardless of your feelings about trainings—and yes, the training environment was tainted by a lot of bad behaviors, but that’s a different discussion—if you could sit and talk with the trainers (I have, many times), you would begin to see that the trainings were based on a rigorously applied philosophy of personal responsibility, zen delivered with a fire hose. Can you live like an enlightened being? Can you be responsible for your choices? At the heart of it was a serious examination of what does it mean to be a human being? And that’s an area that I think science fiction is still fumbling with. But I don’t hold that against science fiction authors—the whole species is stumbling around that question. Where I think we’re failing is that people do not seem to be drawn to this subject. It gets dismissed as airy-fairy, touchy-feely, new-age, cryp
posted by tilde at 11:53 AM on June 17, 2018


My biggest takeaway from this show regarding P&E is that both start off in roughly the same place (hardscrabble postwar lives, indoctrination to Soviet ideology) and end up in different places because of their relative willingness to pay the human cost of executing their parts. Elizabeth is willing to pay any price and Philip is not. Neither is a sociopath; both are badass. Philip just doesn't ultimately see the trade-off as worth the personal cost while Elizabeth is willing to tolerate more. Whether she still feels that way post-finale is up for interpretation.
posted by axiom at 12:25 AM on July 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


Kerri Russell's reaction shot on the train when she sees, before the audience has, that Paige is on the platform--it feels like forever but is really just a second or two--abject terror, the terror you would see the on the face of any parent who suddenly realizes she is about to loser her child forever. Then we shift and see what E has already seen, Paige standing on the platform. I don't have strong feelings about U2, but that shot with that musical queue literally caused my stomach to clench. Unbelievable moment, I can't remember having a reaction like that to any tv or movie moment ever.

Paige was probably my favorite character and I didn't really care for her arc this season (third year of college is way too late for her to start pushing against Elizabeth and Claudia’s sanitized bullshit-version of The Cause), and I really thought the idea of her going to Russia would have been bad treatment for a character who doesn’t deserve it and reward for P&E who do. So glad she got her moment to tell Elizabeth that she knew that she had been lying all the time. I was almost yelling at Elizabeth in that scene about the intern she seduced to tell Paige the truth.

Stan.. oh man I love what they did with Stan. After seeing P&E walk into Paige’s apartment building, he had PLENTY of time to call for backup, or ask for surveillance units to follow P&E when they drive out of the garage—it would be insane to try to bring them in himself, one man and one gun. Stan went into that garage knowing that P&E were not going to be going to jail. Did he believe he was going to kill them? I like to think that Stan was unconsciously hoping that the Jennings would convince him to let them go. That required him to be convinced that their relationships were real. Phillip was Stan’s best friend, but more than that, the Jennings were Stan’s surrogate family. Notice how quickly he asked about Paige’s relationship with Matt (remember how goofily happy Stan was about that?)? He wasn’t hurt on behalf of Matt, he was hurt because it ruined his picture of the two houses as one family. Stan already faced this decision once with Nina, and this time he wanted to be convinced to put his personal relationships ahead of his FBI obligations. Philip pushed Stan to believe what he wanted to believe so that he would do what Philip wanted him to do.

I really loved that P&E didn’t have a gun with them to pull on Stan—the confrontation was purely emotional. Not really true to P&E's characters to be unarmed at this point, but worth it to force a better resolution to the show's biggest question.
posted by skewed at 8:34 AM on August 15, 2018 [7 favorites]




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