‘The Americans’ finale: One giant snoozefest

Real life spy surveillance photo, from FBI vault, "Operation Ghost Stories."

Warning: Spoilers ahead. Don’t read this if you haven’t seen the finale and don’t want to know what happens.

Last night, I actually arranged my evening around a TV show. I’ve followed The Americans fairly loyally since the first episode. Sometimes the series got bogged down in navel gazing, but overall it was a very entertaining narrative about Russia, Gorbachev, Reagan, the FBI, and the KGB. I tuned in at 10 p.m. to FX, expecting a strong finish. Instead, it was one giant snoozefest.

The Jennings—Russian spies Philip and Elizabeth—end up getting away, with the show closing on the couple viewing a panoramic scene in their homeland, Russia. Both realize they will probably never see their children—Paige and Henry—again. If I’m supposed to feel sorry for these charismatic cold-blooded killers, sorry not sorry. I didn’t.

Meanwhile, FBI agent Stan Beeman, comes off as anything but a real-life agent. Beeman actually lets the Jennings get away, even after they confess. He then lies to his FBI superior, Dennis Aderholt, about the couple’s actions in getting away.

As I sat there, I kept waiting for something—anything!—to happen. It never did.

The whole finale was one long navel-gazing expedition. Philip and Elizabeth have no real remorse for the people they killed, some of whom were completely innocent of anything nefarious. Stan, heeding a warning about Renee, his second wife, from Philip who suggests Renee is an “illegal” ends up conflicted. “Illegals” is the term used for spies.

Would any real life FBI agent let a couple of Russian spies off the hook after having a heartfelt convo about countries and what Philip called just “doing our job”? I hope not. If so, that agent doesn’t belong anywhere near a counterintelligence operation.

The finale comprised conversations among the principals and long periods of silence with attention to facial expressions. A nice moment was the scene of the couple with daughter Paige on their way to Canada, U2’s “With or Without You” shoring up the moment.

There was one scene where, as the trio is fleeing, they stop at a fast food restaurant. Philip goes in for the food. As he leaves, he takes note of a family sitting together. The director should’ve just told us to hit ourselves on the head. Lesson: Philip won’t have that family coziness. How obvious can you get?

I almost stopped watching an episode or two back when Elizabeth went on a rant about her country going hungry. She never once mentions Stalin. Or communism. She rails about the US getting credit for our role in World War II. She apparently doesn’t consider what might have happened had we not gotten involved. Nor does she ever acknowledge the US role in aid to Russia after World War I. I get that characters have their own world view. What’s tragic is that no counter was ever provided to Elizabeth’s mindless propaganda.

I took a look at reactions to the finale. On Twitter, there was praise—“No one got killed!” Most reviews tried a bit too hard to take the finale into some sort of artistic rapture realm.

Horse crap.

The finale was boring to a point where I almost zapped the TV. My husband laughed at me. He never cared for the show because he found it boring. I did find one critic who took issue with the final episode, but he went pretty easy on it.

How much harm is done to our country by foreign nations? It’s hard to tell, but in 2010, there was a real life version of The Americans most media ignored. Long before Hillary Clinton ran for president in 2016, attempts were made to compromise her party:

“A female Russian spy posing as an American accountant, for instance, used a false identity to burrow her way into the employ of a major Democratic donor in hopes of gaining intelligence on Hillary Clinton’s department, records show. The spy was arrested and deported as she moved closer to getting inside State, agents said.”

The FBI has publicly posted a great deal of information about that spy ring—“Operation Ghost Stories.”

I did enjoy The Americans for the most part. The finale was one giant letdown. If I want navel gazing, I’ll go read Tolstoy.

(Kay B. Day/May 31, 2018)

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