Something I really enjoyed about the rather terrific season finale for The Americans is the way it ended its most obvious conflict about 2/3rds of the way through the episode, with plenty of time to find other ways to pull the rug out from under us. While the season wraps up in a satisfying way, in regards to the plot threads that really matter, The Americans still found a way to keep us intrigued by what could come in the future. With all of that said though, while the spy stuff was certainly a large factor in “Echo”, it ultimately came down to conflict based around what is the best move for the family. Oh, and Stan walked around real mopey-like and made his own pivotal decision.
I can talk about the Stan stuff first, as he ends up staying away from our ‘Americans’ and pretty much everyone else in this episode. After indicating to Sandra that something is wrong, despite not opening up to her at all, we watch Stan go through with recording footage surrounding Echo and dealing with possibly committing treason for love. A meeting with Arkady sets into motion ‘Stan’s thinking time’, where we see Noah Emmerich essentially being crushed by the weight of the choices he could make. I will not deny that, “Is Stan going to commit suicide?” is a question that ran through my mind, but I also would have probably come down heavily on this show if that was the result of all his moping around. Instead, we see a choice that makes a lot more sense, as sad as it may be.
Likely inspired by Arkady’s hint about saying, “I love you,” too much, Stan chose to not go through with the exchange, given, not only his patriotism, but the very fact that his love for Nina may not be as pure as a possible traitorous decision would need it to be. In the end, while Stan sits, crestfallen, as he watched Nina be driven away, one can only hope that his sad-sack nature these past few episodes will be moved aside due to his possible attempts next season to get back in good favor, in his mind, with the country he chose not to betray.
To speak of Nina real quick, it is a depressing scenario for her. Stan did not choose her over his country, and as a result, she is now being shipped back to Russia, where she will be put on trial and likely killed. It is not outside the realm of possibility that we may see Nina again next season, but it is a rough spot to be in for sure, which is emphasized by Oleg’s silent reaction. Oleg has grown from an annoying interloper to an intriguing enough fellow that has me curious with what the plans for his American culture-loving character are down the line. With that said, he did quite the job of playing up pure facial reactions to an unfortunate scenario where he was powerless. For all the talking he did this season, it was not enough to save the woman he likely knew was manipulating him, but he fell for anyway.
Getting to the true thrills of this episode, following what amounts to a sad opening (lots of sadness in this episode, I tells ya) where Fred and his magic shoes get the job done, but lead to his untimely and solo demise in a phone booth, we are off and running with settling the story surrounding Larrick’s return. Phillip is able to have one last check-in with Martha, which is more setup for her continual usefulness down the road (as she is one of the last supporting female characters that really matter on this show at this point), before Elizabeth calls in to make Phillip aware of Larrick’s presence back in America. This news leads to the impromptu weekend vacation for a confused Paige and a very go-with-the-flow Henry.
Given Paige’s involvement in the rally, which found her observing civil disobedience in action, being forcefully confined to a dingy hotel room out in the country for no particular reason continues to make it quite apparent that she is less concerned with who her parents really are and more focused on getting out of what she dubs a ‘lunatic asylum.’ I will get back to what could come of Paige down the road, but let’s just be grateful that Phillip did not bring the kids shopping with him.
While Liz is out telling Jared all about what she knew of his parents, Larrick gets the drop on Phillip and eventually finds himself holding a gun to Mrs. Jennings and a seemingly innocent Jared. Given that we all know how badass Elizabeth is, it is no surprise that she is able to manipulate the situation in her favor, largely due to the surprise gun that Jared shoots Larrick with, only to take a bullet in the neck himself. This leads to a deadly scuffle resulting in the fairly straightforward death of this season’s scariest threat. True to form for The Americans though, death happens and it is treated with a level of weight, but it is the context and respect for these events are what keep it compelling and occasionally tragic.
Obviously I am not about to feel too sorry for Larrick, even if he was not in fact responsible for the deaths of Leanne and Emmett. While Larrick was simply a guy caught up in a situation based on his own proclivities that got him into trouble, he was still a stone cold killer, with revenge on his mind, taking him down a deadly road. Seeing things from his point of view could possibly show him as some sort of anti-hero, but from where we sat, he was the face of an evil force threatening the people we consider the ‘heroes’ of this show. It is a fun bit of complexity, given the number of bodies the Jennings have racked up this season, but in terms of how Larrick factors into one of this season’s key mysteries, he actually matters very little.
As it turns out, Jared was the key to everything. He was not only responsible for the deaths of his mother, father, and sister, but the symbol of the next step for this show. Unfortunately, the weakest part of this episode, aside from maybe just a bit too much time spent with Stan moping around, came from the extended death monologue that Jared provides. While certainly compelling and only the first stage of this season’s conclusion, there was almost too much information spelled out for us from a poor, dying kid in the woods. I tend to consider The Americans a fairly clever show in terms of how it manages to combine its pulp fiction with the notion of a fine character drama, with solid writing, so watching Jared spell things out and have it mostly repeated by Claudia (hurray for the return of Claudia!) felt off-putting. With that said, his reveals spell out something pretty major.
Essentially, the idea of Jared being the cause of this season’s greatest mystery has a way of relieving the Jennings, while also terrifying them further. On the one hand, this season ends with the whole family eating dinner together and no real physical threat looming over them. Elizabeth’s paranoia seen at the beginning of the season is now no longer necessary and things can go back to normal, sort of. On the other hand, who Jared became is one of the worst nightmares for Elizabeth and Phillip. Not only did this kid become a part of the cause, but it was without the consent of his parents, and he eventually panicked in the worst way possible for the sake of love. One could make the connection between Stan and Jared, based on how love and duty had a significant effect on their lives, but let’s bring it back to Paige.
By the end of this episode, it is revealed by Claudia that the Center wants to have Paige be a part of the cause. The Center wants to have second-generation illegals work their way, legally, into the CIA, FBI, and whatever else. Elizabeth and Phillip flatly refuse this idea and while Phillip makes a huge gesture by revealing himself to Arkady and emphasizing his stance, Elizabeth questions whether or not this may actually be the right move. As we have seen throughout this season, while Paige has acted out in a way fitting of a teenager, Elizabeth understandably finds herself angry at some of Paige’s actions, but also not oblivious to how much Paige reminds her of herself. If Paige needs something to believe in and the Church is clearly not something Phil and Liz are big fans of, maybe coming clean could be the way to go. Of course, Phillip stating, “It would destroy her,” serves as a good enough reason to hold back for now and maybe see how things could play out at a later date.
There are so many avenues for the next season of The Americans to explore at this point. Given how satisfied I was with Paige, I would not mind seeing how more of her role in all of this could play out, especially since her being in on what her parents are doing would create a new dynamic. At the same time, it would be neat to see Stan finally coming back into the same web that holds Elizabeth and Phillip, the spies next door. Martha (and her gun) are certainly still around too and serve as another possible bump for Phillip/Clark, given how perceptive she may actually be. Regardless of all of this, The Americans has put itself in a position where many different things could happen, but it did not need a complete reconstruction of what we already know about these characters. The series excels by mixing its suspenseful spy games with compelling character drama and “Echo” did a great job at tying everything together and allowing this show to exit this year in a very confident manner.
Other Things Behind The Red Curtain:
- Tonight’s music montage was set to Twilight Zone’s “Golden Earring” – Decent choice.
- “We know what civil disobedience is” – Almost as good a line as Phillip wanting to punch Paige in the face for not shutting up about what she believes to be a true cause.
- “Our corkscrew, Clark” – I will miss poor Martha.
- Stan had a dream in this episode and while I was initially caught off guard, I did write down, “Martha grabs files and stuffs them into her purse,” in my notes, which shows me that Stan knows at some level that she is up to something. That’s a quick shot to see, but it’s there.
- “What we do; it’s for something greater than ourselves” – That Jared sure sounded like he had conviction. I also like how this episode retroactively made Kate more interesting. RIP you crazy kids.
- “She belongs to the cause” – Claudia always able to sell some chilling lines.
- Thanks to everyone that’s been keeping up with this rather excellent season and reading these write-ups. While Nina may or may not return in the future, I certainly will!