Warning: This post contains spoilers about tonight’s The Americans season four finale “Persona Non Grata”
This season of FX’s The Americans arguably saw more characters meeting their maker – or at least sent to oblivion, in the case of FBI secretary Martha – than in any single season of HBO’s The Sopranos.
Martha knew too much, and could have blown the Soviets’ clandestine activities to smithereens as her involvement with Soviet undercover agent Philip Jennings was uncovered. So off to Russia with her (supposedly) and no indication about when, or if, she’ll be back. Then it was ‘Good Night, John-Boy’ as Richard Thomas’ FBI chief Frank Gaad was forced to retire (blow back from Martha’s situation) and accidentally killed in Thailand by Soviet heavies.
Then there was Nina, part of a love triangle with FBI agent Stan Beeman and Russian Embassy officer Oleg Burov. A victim of her own cleverness when she tried to game the Soviet prison system, Nina was just about to earn a get-out-of-jail pass but got a bullet to the head instead.
As for U.S.S.R. embassy workers Arkady and Oleg, tonight’s season finale didn’t offer much hope for them. Arkady, for example, was getting out of the country under threat of deportation from the FBI over Gaad’s death and the arrest of diseased bioweapons Soviet smuggler William Crandall.
In a conversation with Deadline, The Americans creator Joseph Weisberg and EP Joel Fields said that season 4 unfolded as planned, and the shocking plot twists were determined early on, before production. “It was absolutely not our intention to clean house,” says Weisberg about season 4.
“We were just following the story lines where these characters went,” he said. “We were at the mercy of these stories. In the case of the end of Martha’s storyline, Gaad’s wasn’t far behind. Once that nail was in the coffin, it would be hard for him to stay (at the FBI).”
Weisberg and Fields, who wrote tonight’s episode (Chris Long directed), left some subtle, promising hooks to scratch inside our skulls until the show returns next year. One such cliffhanger: We finally saw Philip’s son Misha (aka Semenov Mikhail), a Soviet soldier in the Afghanistan war thrown in a mental asylum for protesting the mother country. However, he was sprung by high level officials, and made his way to his grandfather while yearning to find father Philip. Weisberg and Fields tell Deadline that this story point was added in later drafts after being alluded to throughout the run of the series.
Though tonight’s episode reminded us that the series is still set during the 15-month reign of Yuri Andropov (Nov. 1982-Feb. 1984), Weisberg and Fields remain tight-lipped as a captured spy about subsequent seasons, with Fields noting that the plan is to have “the characters traversing the history.” The Americans will be heading into the short-lived Konstantin Chernenko era (Feb. 1984-March 1985) in the near future, a time during the Cold War that was just as hard-lined as the Andropov reign. All this despite tonight’s warning from Elizabeth and Philip Jennings’ boss Gabriel that they “should return home” and “the job wasn’t meant to be forever.” With a final two season renewal through 2018 from FX, The Americans and its spies won’t be retiring soon.
As for Paige, she’s been quite the (unintentional) troublemaker this season, out her parents’ identities to Pastor Tim. One of the season’s dangling Paige storylines was the Center’s demand that Philip and Elizabeth prepare their daughter for the cause. While that revelation came at a cost, with Pastor Tim breathing down the Jennings’ necks, The Americans EPs remained vague about Paige’s plight with the Soviets: “The deeper question is about the trajectory of her life and the relationship with the Center. The answer is all that stuff will be explored in due time,” said Fields.
Still, more mayhem may be on the horizon with Paige after she’s fallen for Agent Beeman’s son Matthew. Walking Paige home, Philip tells her, “I don’t want you to see him.” But when it comes to teens, they never listen.