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The Americans Season 1 Finale: Family Matters

2 May

The Americans is currently holding the title of the best new show of this season (with Hannibal currently in a close second) on TV Ate My Wardrobe and it’s not just because of how wonderful the wigs and costumes are. Last night’s season finale showcased everything that has been good about this freshman season; tension, careful plotting, emotion, an excellent soundtrack and of course those fabulous wigs. I’m pretty sure I have no nails left thanks to the sequence that made it look like Elizabeth would get caught, even if it’s too early for either of the Jennings’ to be caught by the FBI. Thanks to how each mission played out it felt like this could be a possibility and this anxiety increased as Paige became suspicious about her mother’s late night laundry folding activity.

The Americans finaleThe first half of the episode had Elizabeth and Philip debating which one of them should go to meet the Colonel as they both figured that this meeting could be a set up. As the audience we are in the privileged position of knowing that this isn’t the assignment they should be concerned about (though if Prince breaks in custody then both missions are going to end up with an arrest). Philip and Elizabeth don’t know this of course and each thinks that the other is who should be responsible for the kids; Elizabeth has had weeks of their resentment after the separation and so she thinks they would be better off with their father, Philip has other thoughts and wants Elizabeth to take them.

Family is essentially at the core of what matters in The Americans and when we saw Philip discuss this with Elizabeth in the pilot, it’s a concept that she doesn’t even want to consider as country is her number one priority. As the season has progressed Elizabeth has remained steadfast to the cause, but she has also changed her perspective of what her family means to her. This started when they were taken by the KGB pretending they were FBI and her family was used as a way to break her (Philip got old fashioned torture) and has continued with their evolving marriage. The back and forth with this marriage plot has frustrated some viewers, but it has felt necessary in terms of developing who these characters really are and where their priorities lie.

One scene that really stands out in the finale is when Elizabeth sits alone in the garage of her family home —the location in the pilot where she found out exactly how far Philip would go for her as he killed the man who raped her — and has a very different experience. Here she is curled up listening to a tape from her mother, perhaps the only physical reminder of her family in Russia, talking about the family that Elizabeth has in America and what has been going on at home. It’s heartbreaking because this is all the contact Elizabeth is going to have with her mother and her mother is all too aware of this fact as she mentions the family photo she has been sent “I know I’ll never meet them, but knowing you have them… that makes me happy. They are my family too…” Keri Russell is superb in this scene as she hugs the tape player as if it is her mother and prepares to leave her family for good too. It’s also worth noting that other items in this safe include guns, wigs, drugs bottles and money; it’s basically a spy emergency getaway kit.

The Americans finale Elizabeth

Elizabeth doesn’t get to go to the meeting with the Colonel as Philip slips away before she can stop him and this inadvertently places her in the line of fire. When Philip realizes this, the fear in his voice is palpable (it’s at this point that there was no hope for whatever fingernails I have left) as he dashes to stop his children from losing their mother. While the separation storyline might have seemed like another obstacle for the Jennings’ marriage it has also given Elizabeth time to see why Philip is so important, to both her and their family. It’s why Elizabeth couldn’t ask him to come home when he got his new apartment, as it really had to mean something and this is achieved when Elizabeth asks him to come home in their native tongue as she lies in recovery after being shot. It would make more sense as a spy for Philip to leave Elizabeth in that warehouse under the watchful eye of Claudia to maintain their cover, rather than leaving the kids with Stan but he is playing the role of the husband here with no pretence. Matthew Rhys gets his own emotionally charged moment here and I hope that this show has a lot of Emmy nominations when they’re announced in July.

It’s also about time that Paige and Henry start questioning exactly what their parents are up to, they are after all the offspring of two master manipulators and so Paige’s venture into the garage makes sense. No she doesn’t find anything, but her instincts are telling her that something is off and this could be a really interesting thread to follow in season 2. So far the children haven’t fallen into the trap of annoying kids and quite often in shows like this (see Homeland and 24) storylines are developed to include the kids that bend plausibility and turn these characters into unnecessary complications. I am tentatively praising The Americans for not falling into this trap and I hope next year will include Paige and Henry in an organic fashion rather than a forced one (no cougars or hit and run stories please).

The Americans Nina and Stan

Family comes in all shapes and sizes in The Americans; the opposing institutions that these characters work for and the loyalty that is required is very much a family dynamic. Nina doesn’t think that Stan can be turned, but she is told that he is “weaker and more vulnerable than he seems.” Nina has become so good at lying recently and she is utterly convincing as she acts saddened by the news that her exfiltration is no longer going ahead. I’m glad that Nina has made it to the end of this season alive as the role she is going to play next season is going to test both Stan and who she is really loyal too.

One person that I will be sad to see go is Claudia if she is shipped back to Moscow (Margo Martindale is doing a sitcom pilot for CBS so this is a possibility). Her interactions with Elizabeth have been fascinating as Elizabeth takes the role of the petulant teenage daughter in their meetings. Claudia might have manipulated Elizabeth into mistrusting Philip, but she has her back with everything work related and is the reason that Elizabeth isn’t ultimately caught.

What about poor Martha? Well her relationship is the fakest of them all; she is an ends to a means and all she will be left with is a ring in a box.

This has been a solid first season and now that Philip and Elizabeth look like they have their personal relationship back on track it means that they can concentrate on outside threats when we return for season 2. The ending with Paige was ominous and suggests that one of these threats will come from within. The FBI are looking for a couple and so they might have to shift their methods of working together and of course there will be more disguises when we return.

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10 Responses to “The Americans Season 1 Finale: Family Matters”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Out of the Box: Look of the Week | TV Ate My Wardrobe - May 3, 2013

    […] in a row that Elizabeth Jennings from The Americans has featured on the list, but as it is the season 1 finale it felt appropriate for the show with the best wigs and disguises on TV to appear once again. This […]

  2. Out of the Box: Look of the Week | TV Ate My Wardrobe - May 10, 2013

    […] involved or simply because it looks good. I’m already missing the wigs and 80s styling on The Americans and the April Ludgate clothes I covert on Parks and Recreation (but so happy that Parks got […]

  3. Best of TV Costuming 2013: The Many Wigs of The Americans | TV Ate My Wardrobe - December 11, 2013

    […] is what matters and it’s scenes like this one in the finale that emphasize the conflict between their duty to their country and the one they have created as […]

  4. The Americans 2.05 “The Deal” Review – What is Home? | TV Ate My Wardrobe - March 27, 2014

    […] and where they came from before they became Philip and Elizabeth. After Elizabeth was shot in the season finale she asks Philip to come in their native tongue and while the Mossad agent doesn’t think that […]

  5. Best of TV Costuming 2014: The Marriage Disguise on The Americans | TV Ate My Wardrobe - December 4, 2014

    […] real name in the pilot as a signal that their relationship could become more than a facade or when she asked him to ‘come home’ in Russian in the season finale. This is just a small moment discussing […]

  6. The Americans 5.09 “Immersion” Review: What Do You Want to Be? | TV Ate My Wardrobe - April 26, 2017

    […] in the bad times back home and he wonders what Claudia was up to during this period. We have seen how deadly she can be and I have a feeling she was doing something similar. Fear related to the past is something we see […]

  7. The Americans 6.02 “Tchaikovsky” Review: The Dark Parts | TV Ate My Wardrobe - April 5, 2018

    […] to help out the enemy. Formally a Colonel, who first appeared in the season one finale, “The Colonel” (btw I am so glad I rewatched all of The Americans before this final outing), Rennhull […]

  8. The Americans 6.07 “Harvest” Review: Committed | TV Ate My Wardrobe - May 10, 2018

    […] time he shot a female illegal. The operation in Chicago also felt like a callback to the season one finale; they’re cornered, someone gets shot. They end up in a parking garage. Elizabeth remains […]

  9. Saying Goodbye to The Americans | TV Ate My Wardrobe - May 30, 2018

    […] at TV Ate My Wardrobe I have reviewed every single episode since the season one finale. I dread to think how many words this adds up to. I have talked best wigs, the marriage disguises, […]

  10. Out of the Box: Look of the Week – An Americans Finale Round-Up | TV Ate My Wardrobe - June 1, 2018

    […] And I have a couple of pieces at other outlets that I am incredibly proud of. First, I wrote about how pop culture has been used in season 6 to illustrate wider points at Little White Lies. And in the final scene of the finale, something from Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears is referenced in the best possible way. In the goodbye post from a few days ago I mentioned that I have reviewed every single episode on TV Ate My Wardrobe since the season 1 finale. […]

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