Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Americans Season 2 Finale: Second Generation

A stunning Season 2 finale of The Americans, with unforeseen twists and surprises at just about every turn, and the most powerful and long-reaching at the end.

First, in a breathtaking scene in the woods, we find that Jared killed his parents and sister.  Totally unexpected, but, like all good twists, makes perfect sense once explained.  Jared was a teenaged boy with a gun, who couldn't brook his father's opposition to what the Centre was bestowing on him: the manhood of being an operative in the cause.  Tragically, his mother and sister just got in the way.  And all of that was proceeded by a smashing action scene in which Elizabeth and Phil get the best of Larrick - with Jared's help - after he has them in handcuffs.

But that was just prelude to the kick in the stomach at the end.  All season, we've been seeing Phil and Elizabeth struggle with Paige, who has a mind of her own, and is beginning to come into her own as a person.   All of that, it turns out, was potent prelude, tinder wood, to what Phil and Elizabeth and we now learn from Claudia: the Centre wants Paige to do what they had in mind for Jared.   The Soviet logic, as it always is, makes painfully compelling if brutal sense:  someone like Paige or Jared could go much further than the parents, since the children are native-born Americans.   The second generation could join the CIA or the FBI - hell, they could run for President, is something that follows from this strategy.

Phil won't have it - and makes his feelings known to the Soviets.  But, in another surprise, Elizabeth is not so sure.  And when the curtain closes on that family having dinner, it's closing on a hornet's nest of explosive possibilities indeed.

The central, exquisite question of The Americans was always how could Phil and Elizabeth be loving parents given what they were doing and exposing their children to.   The killing of their friends at the beginning of this season put the question up in new, excruciating lights.   And the end of the season raised that agonizing question to a totally new level.

And, just for good measure, we have the resolution of Stan and Nina.  I knew he couldn't betray his country, but he came pretty close to it, so that ending was a little surprising as well as very sad.

A fittingly outstanding ending to a great season of an exceptional series - and I'm missing a new episode next week already.

See also The Americans 2.1-2: The Paradox of the Spy's Children ... The Americans 2.3: Family vs. Mission ... The Americans 2.7: Embryonic Internet and Lie Detection ... The Americans 2.9: Gimme that Old Time Religion ... The American 2.12: Espionage in Motion

And see also The Americans: True and Deep ... The Americans 1.4: Preventing World War III ... The Americans 1.11:  Elizabeth's Evolution ... The Americans Season 1 Finale: Excellent with One Exception


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