TV Review: FX’s The Americans 3×13, “March 8, 1983”

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I have found this season of The Americans to be fascinating in so many ways. What it may have held back, as far as big action beats and really cool uses of music (although it had its share) this year, it gained it providing a lot more for the supporting cast to do. Even while all the plot threads did not quite manage to interconnect as well as some may have preferred, this was a season that took an appropriate amount of time to observe the reactions various people have to what is going on around them, based quite clearly on the effects of the Cold War. With that in mind, this subdued season finale is the kind of episode that makes me so happy to already know the series has been renewed for a fourth season.

The top of this episode finds us watching Elizabeth and Paige say goodbye to Philip and Henry, as they get ready to depart for Russia. To Henry and everyone else, the two are going to Germany for business, with Paige coming based on an extra ticket, but for Elizabeth, this is a chance to show her daughter something true. I will get back to Paige later, but it was neat to see this episode show Elizabeth as basically making a big play to get Paige on the side of her parents, only to fail.

Elsewhere we get more of Stan. Stan has had less of a miserable season than last year, as he has slowly accepted that his has lost his wife and it is his own fault. We see him divide up some of the belongings between the two of them and continue to play games with Henry. There is also the matter of Stan’s work life. With Nina out of the picture, but still an object of desire, this is the week that Stan comes clean to Gaad about what has been going on. He believes he has enough to work with in an effort to bring Oleg onto their side. Unfortunately, Gaad is displeased by Stan running his own operation.

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It can’t be easy to be Stan or Gaad, given recent events, but I am pretty happy with seeing Stan get credit for what he has done. Regardless of his mistakes and the blind eye he has to the Jennings, I do continue to see Stan as a good agent. The fact that he is told he can work the angle he believes he has and not have to worry about the bureaucrats in his way is nice step forward, which I am sure he we will find as a way for him to eventually figure out how to deal with Nina.

Speaking of which, we get to briefly check in with Nina for this finale. Unfortunately, there is nothing all that concrete about what will happen next for her, beyond a mutual understanding between her and Anton that a mission must be completed. Really, it has been nice to see Nina be a capable part of this series, without having to resort to her sexuality, like she has in the past. Annet Mahendru has been placed in a tough position, given the character, but she has made it work quite well, despite the separation.

Speaking of separate characters, Martha is gone for the finale, which is a bit of a shame. Last week did provide a pretty pivotal moment as far as what she believes she knows about “Clark”, but her situation is dealt with differently. Philip takes it upon himself to clear up the whole “bug in Gaad’s office” situation by killing man and planting evidence. It is brutal and unfortunate and Philip makes sure to show it. It is also a great way to bring us to the final portion of the episode.

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This finale is titled “March 8, 1983”. It is a nod to the speech by President Reagan that is played over the end of this episode. That was the day the Soviet Union was branded an evil empire by America. Given the nature of this series and the characters we are supposed to be rooting for, getting to a point like this certainly has us looking back at what it is Philip and Elizabeth are fighting for. That is brought up this episode, as Philip has what may be one of his final encounters with Yusef. The two discuss what their actions have led to and whether or not it was worth it. Philip admits that he does take issue with himself at times, despite understanding his version of the greater good.

We of course know Elizabeth has dealt with this as well. Having a one-on-one scene with the old woman from a few weeks ago was a great way to highlight just how far she knows she has to go at times, believing that a worthwhile conclusion to all of this will someday be the final result. As always, history dictates that something will eventually shake up the way the Jennings’ go about being a part of the world they exist in, believing what they do. The question now is what will happen in the meantime, given Paige’s development and the continued alienation of themselves from the country they represent. The Soviet Union may be their home, but between Philip’s emotional reaction to the actions he forces himself to take and Elizabeth’s approach to her children and figuring out how to handle their growth, it is a tricky place to be, which could eventually overtake what they may see as the best way to proceed.

The episode ends with Paige revealing the truth about her parents to Pastor Tim. Not a good move by any means, as it will more than likely mean some innocent people are going to be pretty dead next season. That said, what does that mean for Paige? That has been the running question throughout this season and we now have a year to find out. Going all the way to Russia to meet her grandmother was not enough to shake away the thought of being one who is hiding the truth. It really has been a terrific year for this character and it is great to see a show that treats her and the way she has developed with such respect. Ideally next year allows for more cat and mouse between her and her parents to up the ante a bit, but I am pretty confident in whatever direction this show takes.

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The Americans finds itself ending its season on a strong note. It did not feature any big action sequences. Clever references to the time period were not emphasized. Plot arcs were only wrapped up to a point. Really, this was an episode that stayed true to its characters and offered just enough to keep us honed in and wanting more. Again, it is a good thing that a season 4 will happen. This episode may have lacked more traditional excitement, but it had plenty to accomplish and did a fine job of keeping the future intriguingly hazy.

Other Things Behind The Red Curtain:

  • Henry did get much to do in the finale, but he is all for going to the Tower of London.
  • Philip continuing to go to EST was interesting, especially since it allowed us to finally get more from Sandra Beeman. Ideally she will also have more to do next season.
  • Zinaida was taken into custody. Not much came from this plot, aside from Stan knowing something was up and having it pay off. Still, so long to her.
  • The meeting between Elizabeth and her mother was well done all around.
  • Arkady did not get a ton to do this season, looking back on things (Oleg too for that matter). I’m curious how far this will go next season, assuming Nina finds a way to reenter the situation at some point.
  • As usual, Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell give Emmy-worthy work that should not be looked over (dammit!)
  • Thanks to everyone that has been following my coverage of The Americans. I love this show, find it to be consistently great, and hope more people get to check it out.

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Aaron is a movie fanatic. He is from Orange County, California, but earned a degree or two at UC Santa Barbara. He describes himself as a film reviewer, writer, podcaster, video game player, comic book reader, disc golfer, and a lefty. There are too many films, TV shows, books, etc. for him to list as favorites, but he can assure that the amount of film knowledge within his noggin is ridiculous, though he is always open to learning more. You can follow Aaron on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else he is up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com, and check out his podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.