So it looks like we shouldn’t be expecting the Jennings/Beeman wedding anytime soon, let alone many guests, given the shake ups in the cast. The Americans defies traditional expectations for its season finale episode, “Persona Nona Grata”, and holds onto what makes this show both different from others and exciting nonetheless. Rather than blow things out through large scale means we have an episode packed with reveals, tragedy and some new developments that will play a key part in the final two seasons.
While I had plenty of thoughts on how things were going to play out after last week’s episode, “Persona Non Grata” does what I should have expected and gets the action out of the way early. With knowledge of William’s possible involvement in secret KGB affairs, a stakeout being conducted by Stan and Aderholt leads to Mr. Crandall’s capture. However, this isn’t before he is able to poison himself with the biochemical agent he was going to handover to Philip, who is left waiting for no one.
The entire cast gets time to shine this week, but Dylan Baker deserves plenty of credit, as he has taken this season to create a character fitting of his talents and really add layers. William exits this season in maybe the most painful way possible, but even into the end we learn more about who this man is, the loneliness he faces and how far he really can go. His final scenes may be taking place with Stan and Aderholt, as opposed to those he knew, but Baker is allowed to have his character takeover these scenes with a bit of that deadpan wit and plenty of sorrowful statements.
As far as exits go, however, this seems to be just the beginning. By the end of this episode, it appears everyone we know at the Rezidentura (Arkady, Oleg and Tatiana) are all on the way out. Some are leaving by choice. Tatiana got a promotion last week and Oleg seems to be disillusioned by everything and requests to go home. It is not as simple for Arkady, who has lost the playful relationship he had with Gaad and is now dealing with accusations concerning William, Martha and Gaad’s death. Agent Wolfe (the Munchkin) is not at all happy and gives Arkady an ultimatum to leave in 48 hours.
Season 4 got itself to an interesting point midway through, as the Martha situation grew large enough to bring the Jennings closer than usual to Arkady and his staff. Given how the show does a lot to keep different plates spinning by featuring subplots involving the KGB and FBI activities, it was neat to see everyone circling the same issues. I am not sure what will be happening next, as far as characters like Oleg and Arkady go, but these kinds of pushes seem to be narrowing the focus.
Of course, despite moving some characters to new frontiers, we also have the introduction of another. There was talk of the son Philip never knew he had in previous seasons, but we now meet him for the first time and should expect to see more. Semehov Mikiev has been released from prison thanks to powerful friends. He was put inside for speaking thoughts against his country, but is now given an opportunity. As opposed to being recruited though, he has been given money and passports left to him by his mother and will be searching for the travel agent in America he knows to be his father. With everything going on, a surprise visit from an estranged son is probably not what Philip needs, but that is certainly a wild move for this show to take.
Getting to the Jennings, it appears they will have to consider some big changes. The capture of William happened fairly covertly, so neither the Jennings nor Gabriel has an exact word on what is going on. As a result though, Gabriel is recommending Philip and Elizabeth be sent home with their family. It comes as a shock, though Gabriel reveals reasons why and they actually make logical sense. Now this being the show that it is, we obviously don’t want to see this happen.
The news comes at a weird time for Philip though, as he has ascended to a higher level in EST and delivers a big monologue explaining his frustrations and his commitments. As a response back, however, Philip is told how little his work should really matter. It is an interesting moment that resonates more when Gabriel makes him aware of how obvious it is that Philip’s heart has not been in the mission at this point.
Things are a bit more positive for Elizabeth, as she is talking to Paige openly and honestly. Paige even believes she should take defense lessons, not to mention the strategizing she and her mother have over when to visit Alice (she gave birth). While Elizabeth has been working her job for 20 years, she is clearly not ready to just up and leave America, destroying the family to an extent in the process.
With all the information regarding where characters are or could be headed next, the final minutes are devoted to something much simpler. Stan catches Matthew and Paige making out on the sofa during the Super Bowl and tells Philip how excited and okay he is with it. Philip wants nothing of this and risks alienating his daughter from him by giving a stern warning. Just when it seemed like Paige was making things okay in her mind, everything gets ripped apart.
Last season ended with Paige confessing the truth about her parents to Pastor Tim. This season went against the grain on how to handle that situation and opened up new storylines that took an even greater precedent. As a result, we got an incredibly confident season of television that knew just how precise it wanted to be in delivering information and moving the characters down different paths. The espionage work was seemingly scaled down, but the personal stakes were incredibly high.
There is now a fixed amount of time left, in terms of episodes, to see how all of this will come to an end, but that is getting ahead of things. With two more seasons, there is plenty of time to see a lot of exciting moves made and determine whether or not alliances will form or be broken. Given how talented this cast is and how clever showrunners Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields are, I have no doubt the results will be just as stellar as this season (and most of this series as a whole) has been.
Other Things Behind The Red Curtain: