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The Americans “Echo” Review (2×13)

22 May

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“It would destroy her.”

“To be like us?”

Henry and Paige exist because of the Soviet Union. Because Philip and Elizabeth were arranged into a relationship, their children are essentially products of the nation, of the ideal, of the “greater good”. However, Henry and Paige are also their parents’ children, and parents want to protect their kids (hopefully!).

Throughout the season, we’ve seen both Phil and Elizabeth struggle in this department: how do you keep your kids away from the danger swirling around you, but also keep your kids from falling into the traps of the other side? Christianity is a threat to the values they want to instill in their daughter, but so is the American government, the very thing Paige’s church group is protesting against; ultimately, a balance needs to be struck, and oftentimes, that balance can never be found.

It remains to be seen what becomes of Phil and Elizabeth’s conflict over their daughter, but as of right now, the situation is more strained than ever before. They each have very different viewpoints in regards to how to handle life in America, and this is summed up in the scene in which the two reminisce about the past: Philip views the comforts of America as a better alternative to a harsh childhood in the Soviet Union, while Elizabeth views otherwise, fearing the seductive power of life in the U.S. For as many role reversals as we’ve seen, these two characters will always maintain those mindsets, and that will undoubtedly lead to an increased level of conflict.

That’s especially the case because with Jared gone, Paige has become next in line for the “second generation illegals” project that Claudia details; fittingly, Elizabeth comes around to the idea, while Philip asserts that the revelation will destroy her. Elizabeth calls her husband out on the inherent contradiction in his argument, though, reminding him of the very reason they’re in this country, the very reason they’re fighting: it’s not to completely insulate one life from another, but rather to use the confluence of their lives to take down the government from within. What better way to do it than through the children? They, after all, are the most easily influenced, but can also be the most dangerous.

Nevertheless, I do believe the show falters a bit in the Jared storyline, if only for the few logic jumps that all eventually come to the forefront in an info-dump death scene (one of my least favorite kinds of death scenes). The actor is magnificent and I do like how the twist shades in why the Centre chose someone like Kate, but it’s a bit of a clumsy way to reach that point. In addition, the dispatching of Larrick feels a bit anticlimactic. Now, that doesn’t mean, as cool as it would be, I was hoping for him to come riding in and dropkick everyone off the face of the Earth, but I was expecting the build-up to reflect itself in the payoff. The thematic resonance is not lost on me–here’s a man who is neither a hero nor a villain, but both a hero and a villain, and is essentially just another victim in this messed up world–but again, the scene itself is a bit shaky.

The other main plot in this finale is one of Stan Beeman, who’s being buried by a mountain of pain and regret and disappointment, so much so that it’s all reflected in his dream: Vlad and Sandra, everything that he’s lost. When it all comes down to that final decision, he chooses his country over Nina, adhering to certain principles that he’s only barely grasping onto at the moment. The episode expertly uses silence to convey so much, whether it be in the reactions to Stan’s written “Tell Nina I’m sorry” or Nina and Stan staring at each other as the former’s being brought back to Moscow for her most likely death; on the flip side of that coin, Stan’s already figuratively dead.

All in all, this episode sets up one hell of a third season. Philip and Elizabeth’s fears are coming true now; they’ve seen who Jared became, and now they’re being asked to do the same for their own daughter. Yet, one parent is more willing to do so, and one isn’t. Now, instead of just the spy work, they have to handle the implications of a Paige who’s being groomed to infiltrate the government. Will they ever be able to sit down at a table and pass the potatoes? Or, is the concept of a family the same as the Communist concept of a family? Does individuality shine through anymore?

It’ll be one intense dinner, that’s for sure.

GRADE: A-

SEASON GRADE: A-

OTHER THOUGHTS:

-Next year, can we please have more Margo Martindale?

-Martha’s still stealing files in Stan’s dream. This plays to the idea of subconscious acknowledgment, which can definitely be applied elsewhere in the show. Also, I’m very interested to see where her storyline goes next year; she has a gun now!

-Nice use of “Twilight Zone” in the opening montage.

-I love the ambiguity of each character; for example, Larrick’s the “Big Bad” this season, but he’s no worse than Philip and Elizabeth are. We can still sympathize with him.

-Annet Mahendru did fabulous work this year. If this is the last we see of her, then damn it. Also, kudos.

-If Paige had continued to talk about nonviolent protest, Philip would’ve punched her in the face.

-This episode was hyped up by critics as if it was the best episode of television they’d ever seen. It’s a very good episode, but I’m not quite as excited about it as everyone else is; “Martial Eagle” is still the high point of this season.

-That does it for my coverage of season 2! It’s been a truly excellent season of television and a great show to write about, and season 3’s setting up really nicely. Check back in next year!

Photo credit: FX, The Americans

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One Response to “The Americans “Echo” Review (2×13)”

  1. a May 22, 2014 at 9:58 am #

    completely agree w you on the Jared death scene — so unlike the show to do a cliche like that. and it was so long… just wouldn’t die without filling in all the blanks first. the actor WAS very good, thankfully. i think the last 3 episodes this season seemed a bit off kilter. the previous ones had such a nice slow intense pace but the last 2 seemed to try to quickly wrap up everything they started which is odd since ep 11 seemed a bit empty if i remember correctly; they could have begun picking up the pace there. i also didn’t like how fast Elizabeth decided that it might be a good idea for Paige to get involved. she spent the entire season freaking out about them being in danger. it would have been nice if it was her toying w the idea w Philip immediately shutting it down and her getting upset about that, maybe. i surely thought moscow killed emmit and leann for somehow finding out they were planning to defect. maybe granny and jared were just covering. haha… so no Nina. i don’t know how they can bring her back. i’m still not sure about all that, at least have her die in the episode so that it’s as dramatic as possible.

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