TV Review: FX’s The Americans 5×13, “The Soviet Division”

There are no clean getaways. That’s the familiar tagline associated with criminals who may be good at what they do, but always end up having some problems. The Jennings are Russian undercovers in The Americans, and they are brilliant when it comes to their spy craft. It’s why they have lived in the country, undetected, for so long. In fact, “The Soviet Division” seems to show the Jennings are so good that only they could stop themselves from having that clean getaway. It may have seemed like the Jennings were on their way out, but this wrap up for the season shows that the next and final season will explore what happens after deciding to extend their stay in America.

A lot of credit goes to showrunners Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields for pulling off this amazing season. Having suddenly received more acclaim than before (as I’ve noted in past reviews – the multiple Emmy and Golden Globe nominations surely brought this show to the attentions of many more this season), taking the opportunity to really go crazy with the glossiness of spy-based action was traded in for a slow-burn of a season, It instead placed emphasis on family drama and the results were incredible. This series has been a non-stop display of great acting from all involved a dedication to character-based plotting and the occasional dip into retro-ville, thanks to some wigs, mustaches and choice needle drops.

“The Soviet Division” did plenty to set characters up for where they will be headed next season, but in an attempt to observe just how far things have come this year, one of those choice needle drops came in handy. Amidst everything taking place, from Philip and Elizabeth deciding the fate of their family, to Stan and Renee moving in together (temporarily?), to Paige saying goodbye to Pastor Tim, Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” becomes this wonderful way for this year’s arc to be brought in. Given how well The Americans can underplay all of its stylish aspects, this was another example of just how strong its editing and direction can be, whether it’s a slick action scene or something more cerebral, such as this.

Regarding what took place, for a season finale, “The Soviet Division” is surprisingly light on major developments, beyond a few key things. First off, Pascha may have gone through with cutting himself, but he lived and everyone feels horrible about it. It may or may not bring the plot thread involving Tuan to a close, but there is at least the chance to see Elizabeth go for the jugular when explaining to Tuan why he will not survive if he stays on his current path. Since the Jennings had to deal with more children than just their own this season, it’s impressive to see just how tough the tough love can be and who better to give it.

Speaking of tough love, Elizabeth also spent time with Paige. Many conversations have been had between these two this season, and it has been far less combative. The understanding that Paige now has about her parents has continued to make this a worthwhile part of the story and certainly one of the best examples of how to keep younger characters interesting, which has sometimes been an issue for acclaimed drama series. Credit goes to Holly Taylor for properly expressing the levels of depth required to make this tricky role play so well. Taylor must have also been a good sport to play up getting repeatedly knocked down by Keri Russell, as the two continue the self-defense training, resulting in a more extreme example of tough love.

Of course, a bruise on the lip is nothing compared to the bruise Philip left on poor Henry. The kid brings up the news of his acceptance to the private school he’s desperate to get into, only to have those hopes dashed by an irate Philip. With one season left and the Jennings currently not going anywhere, the increased use of Henry has me curious if he’ll end up on the other side of the coin, as opposed to Paige, who is welcoming the truth about her parents. If Henry is alerted to what is going on at this point, where will that lead?


Elsewhere, Philip is also dealing with the loss of his racquetball partner. Renee and Stan seem to be getting closer and closer, but is this going somewhere? Gabriel seemed to play down the idea of Renee being a spy earlier in the season, but her little talk with Stan about his possible job decision is designed to be ambiguous. Nothing is ever easy for sad Stan. Even in his happiness, where he was just about to get away from a life that has left him feeling so empty, there may have been just enough of a push to keep on going. So much for being a good man.

This brings it all back to Philip, with Matthew Rhys doing continually amazing work. After another rendezvous with Kimmy, where Philip got a chance to be the coolest older man Kimmy and her friends know, new information was revealed. Philip’s hours of recorded audio has led to the discovery that Kimmy’s dad will be heading up the CIA’s Soviet Division. Philip nearly destroys this audio but instead tells Elizabeth, who gets back into the spy role that we all know she’s indebted to. It’s not that she doesn’t care about her family, but as always, it’s Philip who’s been shaken by this prolonged mission.

A fantastic final conversation of the season takes place, which breaks things down in just the right way. “We’re allowed to have a life,” Philip pleads to a no-nonsense Elizabeth. “I can’t,” she replies, signaling the end to a Soviet storybook happy ending that was in the process of actually happening. Whether it comes down to only Elizabeth taking part in missions or not, it is clear the Jennings are staying. Will that decision lead to a happy end in America, instead of the Soviet Union? That’s a question for next year. For now, one merely gets to take in the fine amount of effort that led to another fantastic season of The Americans.


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