Where do we go from here?
"You choose a job before you really know if you'll like it right. When you're young, you don't really know who you are, what you wanna do, be. You pick something because it fits who you are or what you need. But life changes things, you change, or something. And then one day, you wake up and you don't want to go into the office, you don't want to make arrangements for people you don't know, you don't give a shit about. You don't want to do it. You just don't. Every morning, I wake up with this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach." — Phillip Jennings, "The Americans"
In the world of TV, premiers and finales are the most buzzed about episodes. But they aren't always the best episodes. "Game of Thrones" has been the master at this. It's a widely known fact among fans that the season's ninth episode — the penultimate hour of the season — is always the best for "Thrones." It's where the most action happens.
Then in the finale, we tie up loose ends, travel around the map, and set things in motion for the future. It's not to say the finale isn't good or satisfying, it's just not the complete picture.
On Wednesday, "The Americans" wrapped up its fourth season for FX. Like "Game of Thrones," it's quickly closing in on a defined end date. In this case two more seasons. That is both a gift and, seemingly, a curse.
I like "The Americans" a lot. I think it's one of the 10 best shows on television. I don't love it as much as my favorite TV Critic, Andy Greenwald, but I respect its craft, story, and performances, and it is a show I look forward to.
It would be fair to call the recently completed fourth season excellent, one of the series' best, if not the best. But despite that, the finale was underwhelming to some degree because nothing monumental happened. In fact, if anything, it felt like the series was clearing the deck in preparation for coming to a finish. But with two seasons and 23 episodes left, that seems premature.
The fourth season essentially peaked in the middle. The seventh episode — "Travel Agents" – was the best of the season. It featured the culmination of the story with Martha (Alison Wright) and was a tense, beautifully crafted hour. That's not to say that the six episodes that followed were bad, but just felt more like the long goodbye.
I love the performances from Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys in this series, and I'm excited for it to return. I want to know how it ends. But season four ended with more questions than answers as the series spent most of the season clearing the deck of its peripheral characters and ramping up the tension and danger for the Jennings family.
Now it has to hold that tension for two more seasons. The question is how that will be accomplished.