The Americans has had a fantastic second season, one that tied in its many plots together in emotional ways. While the series was propelled by the gruesome murders of the Jennings’ fellow spies (and their daughter Amelia), as well as the roving wild card of Larrick, the season also never felt beholden to those things. That’s what made “Echo” such an odd finale in many ways; it answered those questions (quickly), and then raised so many more. Hit the jump for why “she belongs to the cause, and to the world.”
The revelation of Jared as the killer was, at first, an exceedingly strange one. Thinking back on the day of the murder and of Elizabeth’s interactions with him, did it even make sense? But Claudia explaining to Philip and Elizabeth about the “second generation” program put it mostly in place, especially regarding what the show has done with Paige all season.
Paige’s rebellion from her parents and her pursuits into a Christian life are all part of her individual search for meaning. Her speech to her parents about sacrificing for the greater good also resonated with that Jared plot, and of course her parents’ own lives. Jared killed his own sister, believing that the cover was more important than her life. He was brainwashed and indoctrinated just like Elizabeth feared Paige would be by the church. Jared’s complete collapse that led to the death of his family shows, though, how badly handled his case was by Kate and the Center. Yet, it also goes along with the Communist ideal of a shared community. As Claudia said, Paige, like Jared, belongs to the Soviets. We produced you, you are ours (and so are your illegal kids).
The deaths of Emmett and Leanne hung over Philip and Elizabeth all season, and while they did occasionally question the timing or protocol of their missions, they steadfastly remained loyal to their cause. The Americans has always been about loyalty, and Paige and Henry being part of this equation seems to have shaken their foundation, particularly because Elizabeth seems to be considering telling Paige the truth and letting her be a part of things. Because that worked out so well with Jared …
Very little time was given to Stan’s story with Nina, after so much buildup and tricks and turns. Though he wore the wire (or recording device) while asking questions about Echo for Arkady, the scenes of him staring at the Washington monument, and the DOD officer offhandedly mentioning “the fate of the free world” in relationship to this disk and program secured Stan’s decision. Did Arkady also overplay his hand, though, in mentioning that Stan shouldn’t tell Nina so often that he loved her? Did Stan wake up from his love stupor to realize that he was being played? Country means more to Stan than anything, and it’s not a total surprise that he would choose it over Nina. Nina’s future seems one that may soon be terminated, but she’s resourceful, and Oleg might have some strings to pull. At the very least, the lack of her as a distraction may force Stan to focus more on his search for Soviet illegals. His subconscious revealed to him that Martha was stealing documents — when will his waking mind catch up?
“Echo’s” title had duel meaning. Besides the computer program, it also was a comment about the mirror images of Paige and Jared. Jared’s frenzied final words showed a boy in deep conflict. He hated his parents in some ways, saying his whole life had been a lie, but loved the mission and his part in it. Him killing them was part of his chaotic rage that he clearly wasn’t equipped to handle emotionally. All season, Paige has been calm, though defiant, with her parents. But Philip seems completely right in his assertion that to bring her in on this truth (despite whatever she suspects) might break her. (Then again, at this point, I almost think she wouldn’t even be surprised).
The Jennings’ relationship with the Center is now in question, and Philip reaching out to lightly threaten Arkady was an interesting collision. Paige’s involvement or uncovering of the truth is still a possibility, as is the wild card of Martha. That gun, her disappointment about not having a family, drinking more, and calling out Clarke’s “secrets” (like his toupee) all portend something grim. Death is never far from the Jennings, and that’s the life they chose to live, the line they choose to walk. It’s just not what they want for their children. They want a better life for them than they had. What an American idea.
Episode Rating: B+
Musings and Miscellanea:
— To have things with Larrick wrap up like they did was wholly unsatisfying. I knew he probably wasn’t the killer they were looking for, but the fact that he was disposed of so easily, all things considered, and he did almost no damage to the Jennings’ family despite everyone else he killed was kind of hard to believe.
— Overall, it was a kind of an underwhelming finale. All of the questions asked have set up a new season with new conflicts brilliantly. But the resolutions addressed here were less than satisfying in the meantime.
— “If she said one more thing about nonviolent protest I would have punched her in the face” – Philip. Violent!
— That was a nice moment in the car when Philip and Elizabeth exchanged stories about their difficult upbringings.
— Both Paige and her parents were up against this police in “Echo,” though for very different reasons. If Paige respects Pastor Tim for getting arrested though, might she respect what her parents do?
— The exchanges between Sandra / Stan and Clark / Martha, were short, but so raw and real.
— “Tell Nina I’m sorry” – Stan.