Friday, March 3, 2017

The Americans Season 4 Review

The Americans (2013-)
Season 4 - 13 episodes (2016)
Buy The Americans Season 4 on Amazon Video; Free with an Amazon Prime Membership
Created by: Joseph Weisberg
Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Noah Emmerich
Rating: TV-14

My rating is simple, Watch It, It Depends, Skip it. Read my previous TV reviews!

Two Soviet spies, Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Phillip (Matthew Rhys), pose as a married couple with kids in Washington D.C. during the Cold War.

In season four their daughter, Paige, knows they are spies. Will she be their downfall? Phillip has a contact that can acquire biological weapons.

This is the best season of The Americans yet. The drama is firing on all cylinders. Season four finally figured out what to do with Paige. She now knows about he parents, and Phillip and Elizabeth struggle with the dual role of parent and spy. This is next level family drama. It's the best family drama plot of any of the seasons, season one previously holding that distinction.
While we know the Jennings won't get caught, the excitement is how they'll avoid it. They have multiple vulnerabilities.
The big espionage mission is the biological weapons scientist William Crandall is trying to obtain. This didn't have the thrilling and flashy spy moments we've seen in previous seasons, but it does maintain a constant state of dread.
Watch it.

What makes this show is the tension. While I know the Jennings won't get caught, the show makes you wonder. Paige's confession to her pastor, Martha's fear and revelation she married an agent, Phillip disillusion with the job, and they live next to an FBI agent hunting spies all could be their downfall. At any moment it feels like everything could crash.
Phillip, Paige, Elizabeth.
This strikes the balance between spies and family drama. While the espionage isn't as thrilling as previous season, this gets the family drama right. Seasons two and three dealt with Paige just suspecting her parents, which became annoying. Season one tried to pit Phillip and Elizabeth as spies that don't know each other well, but they had been married too long for that to be credible.

A recurring subplot is Phillip dealing with his past. He's alluded to in previous seasons that he doesn't want to be a spy. This is a plot line the show is building slowly, saving it for future seasons. He had expressed his joy of living the American dream and now he's pondering whether he should return to Russia.

Paige tells Pastor Time about her parents and feels betrayed when he tells his wife. Elizabeth wonders if Pastor Tim should be eliminated, though Phillip disagrees. We can see Paige heading down the path of spy. She wants to drop Pastor Tim, but her parents forbid that. They can't afford to draw any suspicion so the mold her into a spy in training and it doesn't seem Paige realizes it yet.
Elizabeth, Alice, Pastor Tim, Paige.
When Pastor Tim goes missing on a mission trip, Paige suspects her parents. They had debated this very thing, and it doesn't help when Pastor Tim's wife accuses them of being involved.
By the end of the season she's reporting to her parents about Beeman's activities and working Pastor Tim and his wife. I expect season five will deal with compartmentalizing emotion. Paige isn't doing a good job of that when she and Beeman's son develop an emotional relationship.
Elizabeth and Phillip.
Phillip and Elizabeth have always had to hide what they do from their children. They still lead that double life, hiding their true exploits from Henry. Henry has a close relationship with Beeman, which is both good and bad. It's good cover, but could also provide Beeman with clues. The most nefarious deeds are still kept from Paige. When Elizabeth defends herself and Paige from an assailant, Paige has a lot of questions about how to fight and how many people Elizabeth has killed.
Phillip and Crandall.
Martha becomes a problem when the FBI realizes she's involved with a KGB agent, though they don't' realize it's Phillip. Martha gets sent to Russia, and I was surprised at how well she took it. I suppose at that point she just shut down.
She's a huge loss of intelligence. The information she obtained helped the Jennings meet with Crandall.

Crandall and his access to biological weapons are a recurring plot. Neither the U.S. nor Russia should be manufacturing the weapons, but both do because they suspect the other is.

The season finale wraps up a few plot lines and sets a few more into motion. Bring on season five.

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