We are in the home stretch of The Americans, which, as I mentioned before, has been renewed for a third season, making me very happy, given the strength of this second season. As great as it is to see everything in the position to be wrapped up, it is also quite interesting to see how we have nearly come around full circle. This season began with a tragic event and was followed up with time spent on staying close to what is most important. Now we are ending with an inevitable showdown between what likely caused that tragic event and possibly having to do the best to protect what is most important. Adding the side story involving a sad FBI man and his unfortunate affairs only further strengthens how far we have come.
“Operation Chronicle” picks up right where last week ended, with the Jennings acting on the coded message from their deceased handler Kate, “Get Jared out.” The episode practically picks up from where the second episode of this season, “The Cardinal”, left off as well, as we find the Jennings in protection mode again. While this season has given us plenty to deal with on the family front, with Paige taking center stage in terms of her religious curiosity challenging how Philip and Elizabeth want to handle parenting their daughter, being very protective of the children was something that was toned down a lot. The same can be said for Paige’s suspicions, but that is back, along with the heavy emphasis on looking after the well-being of the children.
I have continued to be very impressed with the way The Americans has this family dynamic, but has managed to find a way not to make these plotlines feel aggravating to watch. I have mentioned before that I am not always against the “struggling children” storylines in the same ways as others have been with shows like Homeland or even The Sopranos, but I would have to think that many may agree with how effective The Americans has been at rounding out its characters with kids that actually feel essential to the plotting. Okay so maybe Henry does not do much to really matter, but he is not dragging the show down either.
With “Operation Chronicle”, we get to watch some hopeful preparation take place, possibly preventing certain issues from arising. Paige is off to Pennsylvania, ideally keeping her out of harm’s way (and from snooping in on her parent’s phone calls). Henry is handled too. But then there is Jared. Elizabeth puts a lot of effort in getting Jared out, eventually settling him in the same cabin that she healed up in, after being shot at the end of the first season. The key mystery still stands though. Why is Jared important and to who? Larrick is a creepy ghost throughout this episode, as he carefully finds his way to getting closer and closer to Jared, but what is the endgame there? If he is so devoted to taking out the Jennings, what does Jared have that is more important than simply going after Philip, Elizabeth, or their children? There is also the thought of what the Centre could want with the boy. Based on Kate’s strange activity involving him, there are a lot of open thoughts in regards to what could happen if certain people get their hands on him.
Certain people have now gotten their hands on Stan, who is now at a new low. Stan has pretty much been off his game since his partner, Amador (Hail Hydra), was killed last season, which makes it all the more appropriate and believable that taking treasonous acts to protect the one person he believes to still love him is the only thing he can do right. Gaad and Stan are no longer good friends, the passion in Stan’s marriage is so far gone that Sandra’s proposal of moving in with her new lover does not inspire any fighting, and the only person Stan really talks to is Philip, the secret KGB spy. Seeing Stan trapped by Arkady, with a bruised Nina in his corner, has him in a place where few other options would make sense. With that said, I believe Stan will likely find a way out of his current situation, without jeopardizing his duty too much. It will likely be due to Nina, who is a true wild card.
While looking beaten and defeated was a ruse to convince Stan of what he needs to do, the bruises were still real. Nina may be quite deceptive and mysterious in terms of where her true emotions lie, but getting out of this life has always been a goal. Now, with Oleg at a loss for what to do with her, beyond handing over a pile of cash and hoping she runs away, there is little Nina really has to put trust into, beyond perhaps helping Stan in some way, before she likely leaves for good (unless something worse occurs).
Given how the Stan-Nina-Oleg plotline has been on the side all season, sometimes feeling like a slowdown, but remained consistently well-acted and intriguing, I remain curious if the finale will somehow incorporate the presence of these characters into the Jennings vs. Larrick story. I would not be unsatisfied if this did not occur either, but with all the big moves that need to take place next episode, seeing some overlap could be very exciting.
The last thing I want to address is Philip. While the protective mother is the more intriguing character on the Jennings’ side this week, watching Philip back in a more stable mode, much calmer after a few weeks ago, yields a few results. He is back to being concerned and protective of his family, which we have seen since episode one of this series. Philip is also quite good at his work, as he tasks Fred with retrieving intel via his footsteps in a top secret location, which will hopefully mean he won’t have to kill any innocents on a mission for a change in pace. Then you have his relationship with Martha. While Martha puts things into perspective for Philip by alerting him to how easy it is to get FBI files, Philip later devastates Martha (again), by bluntly telling her that having children is out of the question.
While Martha may be living a bit of a fantasy in terms of how to take this marriage she has, the show continues to be as grounded as it can in terms of a television series that needs to create drama within this crazy premise to sustain itself. Where it is all going will be answered next week, but The Americans proves once again that it can do a fine job in building tension and intrigue based on the shuffling around of some of the characters and having various reversals of power. While the season finale should be exciting, I am not overlooking the fact that some tragic events could occur, given how much I enjoy the majority of these characters and have responded to how they have played a part in this series. I mean, Henry just wanted to play some video games…
Other Things Behind The Red Curtain:
- Speaking of Henry, his early fanboy-hood has him skeptical over Wrath of Kahn, as he was not a fan of Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
- Elizabeth not being there to help Paige pack and say goodbye before she left speaks to how complicated and well-handled this relationship has been. Despite the issues these two have had with each other, Paige really wanted her mom to be there.
- Martha knows “Clark” wears a toupee! I love this reveal so much.
- Good spy music in this episode from series composer Nathan Barr.
- The concern the Philip and Elizabeth share over where Jared will end up going is another highlight involving this plotline, given how much they want to protect this boy, yet have no real certainty about the situation.
- “I stole something for you.” – Poor Stan can’t even get his son excited with a VHS copy of The Rocky Horror Picture Show for his friends to watch.
- “One day it’s coming. You know it is.” – Elizabeth