It pains me to say this, but here it goes: the season finale of The Americans was a disappointment. The show took on too much and not enough, almost simultaneously.
The many disparate story lines this season havn’t really bothered me. I assumed there would be a pay off in the end, or at least some sort of convergence of all the different plot threads. But, instead, like a child whose parent forgets to pick him up from a birthday party, many characters were completely abandoned in the finale. Where for art thou Kimberly? Or Maurice and Lisa? Or Hans? Even assuming these story lines are picked up in Season Four, it is still completely bizarre to have no mention of Kimberly.
Even more strange was the absence of Martha. The last episode ended with Philip taking off his toupee and glasses to show Martha what he really looks like—an amazing moment. But all we got in the finale was Philip framing someone else for placing the bug in Agent Gaad’s office, and telling Elizabeth that Martha is absorbing everything. What exactly is Martha absorbing? What did Philip tell her? Certainly she’s still unaware that Clark is married with two children. But Philip clearly cares for Martha, since he could have easily staged her suicide. The Martha story arc has been such a huge one this season. It was completely jarring not to see her in the final hour. I really wanted to see what transpired after the toupee came off.
But let’s talk about what the show did cover. Elizabeth and Paige took a trip to West Germany to see Elizabeth’s dying mother. It turned out to be a lot easier than I thought it would be for Elizabeth to leave the country. No one, according to Philip, questioned Elizabeth’s passport. The three generations of women connect in a hotel room. Upon returning home, Elizabeth thinks the trip was good for Paige, but Paige got too much insight into her mother’s life. Her mother constantly worries that someone is following them. Her grandmother so easily let her mother go. Paige is worried that this may one day be her fate. “Would you let me do that,” she asks her mom. “You would never have to do anything like that, okay?” Elizabeth assures her. But we all know that’s a promise Elizabeth can’t keep. Paige isn’t comfortable with all the lying she now has to do. She doesn’t want to lie to Henry. “It’s a lie for the rest of my life. It’s not who I am,” she tells her mother.
Philip is beginning to crumble. “I feel like shit all the time,” he tells Yousef. The murders are getting to him. His latest victim—the man he frames for planting the bug in Gaad’s office—had an apartment filled with toys. “It was hard Elizabeth,” he tells his wife. Searching for some sort of peace, he attends EST conferences and has some heart-to-heart talks with Stan’s ex-wife Sandra. I’m assuming this is Philip struggling with his dark night of the soul, and not him making Sandra his latest mark but you never know with this show.
An edict comes down from the Centre that there can be no assassination attempts or threats of assassination attempts without direct approval. Oleg knows this can only mean one thing—Zinaida Preobrazhenskaya is a spy. He tells Stan, who promptly takes the information to Gaad. But Gaad isn’t so thrilled with Stan’s off-the-books operation. He recommends Stan be investigated and fired. “Why would I be stupid enough to trust you again Stan?” Gaad wonders. Gaad’s boss, however, is impressed that Stan got close to Oleg and gives him clearance to continue the operation. The only problem with Stan’s master plan—Zinaida is not being traded for Nina.
Nina continues to work Anton, lamenting that she can’t continue on like this. “I can’t keep doing this. Buying back my life… I don’t know if it’s worth it,” she tells him. Is Nina confessing to him, or working an angle? My guess? Working an angle—once again becoming what her mark needs her to be.
At the end of the episode, a distraught Paige calls Pastor Tim. “They’re liars and they’re trying to turn me into one,” she tells him, tearfully begging him to help her. Then Paige does the unthinkable. “They’re Russians,” she tells Pastor Tim.
An equally distraught Philip is trying to explain to Elizabeth how he feels, but is interrupted because Elizabeth wants to listen to President Reagan’s speech. On March 8, 1983, President Reagan referred to Russia as the “evil empire.”
The Cold War is heating up just as Philip is on the brink, and Paige has betrayed her parents’ trust. While the finale did not live up to the excellence of the third season overall, I still Cannot. Wait. For. Season. Four.
Other thoughts on “March 8, 1983”:
• Sandra letting Stan keep the wedding album? Harsh!
• I would love a version of the show from Henry’s perspective. “Mr. Beeman has cool games. Gee, Mrs. Beeman sure is pretty.”
• There’s a small part of me that’s worried that Martha is dead, since we didn’t see her. See how paranoid this show has made me?
• Everyone on the show deserves an Emmy, but if I really would love to see Alison Wright (Martha) and Holly Taylor (Paige) get some award recognition.
• Thank goodness the show has already been renewed for Season Four. Can you imagine how panicked we would be if it hadn’t been?
Amy Amatangelo is a Boston-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to Paste. You can follow her on Twitter or her blog.