The Soviet Division
This has been a fascinating season. This stretch has been bleak for Elizabeth and Philip. Balancing their spy life and keeping Paige level headed would have been hard enough without all of the complications that happened. The Center pushed them almost nonstop and a lot of people got hurt. They’ve been living this secret and dangerous life for so long that the end, which looked like varying levels of trauma in whatever they decided on, was barreling down on them. The stress has been unrelenting and nearly unbearable.
With the decision for them to leave at the end of episode 12, the reality of detaching from a life they’ve lived and manicured for nearly 20 years cames front and center. There’s a lot to take in, manage and unravel. How feasible is it on leaving? How soon could they leave, what needs to be set up for them to break away?
First the kids. Paige has done well recently. Philip and (especially) Elizabeth have been able to guide their daughter to a level of understanding and mental fortitude they weren’t sure they were going to be able to. They’ve kept her from the violence (Paige knows nothing of the darkness her parents have done) but have instilled the morals and outlook they have. They help people in secret. Getting such a clean break from Pastor Tim is a God send. Through fight training, Elizabeth has gotten Paige through a major trauma and given her some peace of mind. Not only does Paige take a serious shot to the face from Elizabeth during training and shrug it off, but she steels herself to walk through the same lot she and her mother got attacked in. In another small but significant scene, Philip apologizes to her for not giving her a normal childhood (which he now has to completely deny Henry of next). I thought he was going to tell her then and there about moving to the Soviet Union but he doesn’t.
With being so close to Paige, she’s the least of their worries on leaving the States. She could most likely help them with Henry when the time comes. Henry is living his American teenage life and when Philip pulls the rug out from him on going to boarding school, he’s rightfully upset. Philip doesn’t (and can’t) offer him any reason why. “This family stays together!” is the beginning and end of it. It is a true statement though, Philip wants to keep his family together, unlike what’s going on with the Morozov’s.
The Morozov mission is more or less a clusterbomb of misery. Tuan’s rash plan nearly gets Pasha killed. Philip and Elizabeth’s intervention most likely saved his life. Such a gruesome scene, Tuan is basically unaffected by it. With Pasha and his mother, Evgheniya, going back home he sees it as a mission success, even if Alexei still refuses to return to the Soviet Union. This mission created great pain and has pulled a family apart. It’s a similar result (and heavy burden) to what Elizabeth did last year. Plus, the whole goal was to get Evgheniya back to blackmail and exploit. Her hell is going to continue. Elizabeth and Philip are direct causes of it. Plus, they get way more attention than they wanted. The guard outside of the Morozov house gets involved with saving Pasha and he gives Philip a rather curious look…recognition perhaps?
Tuan is all in. He’s how Philip and Elizabeth started, tunnel vision with no experience of quick decisions and consequences. In a scene that I thought would end with Tuan laying flat on his back, he brazenly tells them of the report he sent to the Center about the mission. Essentially, he was right and they compromised everything by being weak. Elizabeth handles it with amazing grace and care. Instead of pulling rank and crushing him, she lays out reality to him. After quickly shooting down being moved to Vietnam (“If you want to.”) to work, she says she understands why he’s done all this. He is a kid with serious abandonment issues who’s looking for a purpose in his already too traumatic life. He needs a partner. Someone to share the stress of this life that he (currently) wants to have. He will not make it on his own. “Make them send you someone.” As Tuan sees himself being left behind for whatever Elizabeth and Philip will do next, he seems to get the message.
Stepping away from Elizabeth and Philip for a moment, Martha gets a scene. She’s in a park with her handler near some kids playing. Martha is getting a better grasp on the Russian language which gives us the sense that she’s on the path to settling in. Her handler points out a young child (maybe 3) near them and says that she’s an orphan and that Martha can adopt her. United two souls who right now have no one else. The idea of a family (which she brought up a few times with “Clark” before it all went to hell) has an immediate impact on Martha. The promise of not being alone, of a future and an honest purpose.
Stan and Dennis put their mark’s hockey player boyfriend to the lie detector test. Thankfully for them, the guy was puffing himself up to exaggerated heights. They feel confident that he isn’t a Soviet agent and their mark isn’t compromised. Renee also moves in with Stan after a water pipe bursts in her apartment building. Philip, still suspicious of Renee, laments to Elizabeth. “What if she is one of us and they end up having a kid? And Paige thinks she has it bad?”
The Americans has always been about the lives of two spies living in a foreign land. How they’ve entrenched themselves in a completely different culture to subvert a government’s efforts against their own. Gone so long from home, they have limited contact with their own people. While they always know why they are there and that they must do morally questionable things for their people, the motivation and confidence in doing so has waned. Through time and what I would call torture, their resolve has ebbed. Philip wants to flee in the worst way possible. Elizabeth, the one who has been able to stand more resolute, has been pushed to her limits. She’s recently done things she can’t emotionally shake or rationalize away.
So the two are at another crossroads. They agree they need to leave and make moves to get themselves in a place where they can. It’s far more complicated than having a discussion and packing their suitcases. They still have their obligations and need to do them until they leave. They still work for their country. Philip does his routine tape pick-up from Kim’s house. He breaks her heart when he tells her he’s “getting a job in Japan.” When going through the tape of her father he finds major news. He’s getting a promotion to take over the anti-Soviet branch of the FBI. This is unbelievable direct access to information. One of their oldest missions has turned into their most important one. Philip is stuck in a quandary. He’s desperate to leave this behind to the point where he considers not passing on this information to the Center. Dump all his obligations and ditch. No one would know and it would ease his departure, otherwise, it’s a brick wall. The Center denies them from leaving because they have to keep getting those tapes or he further compromises Kim. He’d have to recruit her to do the job for him. Both are nightmare scenarios.
Philip confides in his partner. There’s a lot of reflection in this finale. With the decision to leave made, Philip and Elizabeth look around themselves more. At their American life. They have 2 good kids, the travel agency jobs they use as a front pays well, they have a great place to live. They have comforts they simply do not have at home. Philip’s escape is being weighed on a scale of morals. Elizabeth’s escape takes a turn on something she never thought possible, or at least would not admit it. She’s come to love and accept American capitalism. If she can live like this and help her country, it’s worth it. It’s a reflection of the Morozov’s. With them, the mother is desperate to leave and the father must stay. Elizabeth is very aware that she’s watching Philip be torn apart and that she’s contributing to it. That pushes her to offer an alternative to him. We stay but you stop. Run the travel agency while I continue our real work. Rationally and
Rationally and feasibly it makes sense. They are so far dug in that leaving is a road paved with landmines. While they are confident about Paige, they’re not sure if Henry would be able to cope. They could have their own Pasha. Getting Philip out clean and clear means more terrible things to his conscience and may not even work. If Elizabeth can soldier on for Philip, they could all live the lives they want right where there are.
I didn’t see this season play out the way it did. As usual, the writers met and exceeded my expectations for my favorite show. I don’t think there was a bad episode this year and I was enthralled from start to finish. It’s going to be bittersweet to see how the show ends in 2018.