The Americans Season 2 Review “Echo”

The Americans Season 2 Episode 13 Echo (4)

On the season finale of “The Americans,” we finally saw where all of the events of this season were headed, and the results were pretty devastating, on “Echo.” I know that a lot of people felt that this season was a bit on the slow side, at least in terms of pacing, but I’ve got to say, the end results were impressive, even if this admittedly would have played better as a binge-watch. It’s sort of interesting how that trend has shifted certain things in the culture and the ripple effect it can have on viewers.

For instance, back in the day, the first adult drama I ever got into was “Twin Peaks,” which ended up being browbeaten into caving in to both executives and viewer demands when it was insisted upon that the main murder mystery be solved. Ironically, that also inadvertently brought about the show’s imminent demise, as viewers simply stopped watching once the mystery at hand was solved, despite the fact that the show had moved into even trippier areas that still have people talking nearly 25 years later.

Fast forward to a few years back and a similar thing happened on the “Peaks”-influenced show, “The Killing,” which faced a backlash when- gasp!- they didn’t solve the mystery at the season’s end. How dare they! Tellingly, the show was cancelled, only to recently be revived for one last season by Netflix, who in many ways has single-handedly changed the way many of us watch television. Ironically, this comes not too terribly long after many cited the service dead in the water after they separated their streaming and at-home services into two different options.

Now, many of us regularly drill through entire seasons of a show on Netflix or using “on demand” services or Hulu Plus or so forth. In my opinion, “The Americans” is a show that will play infinitely better in this format, where people too impatient to wait a week can get the answers they crave sooner than later. The ironic thing is, though, true to form, “The Americans” played the long con so effectively that I didn’t even realize I was being conned until practically the end, which to me is great television.

I mean, admit it: did you really see it coming that Jared was the actual killer? After a certain point, it never occurred to me that it wasn’t Larrick, and I was all aboard Liz & Phil getting the best of him in the end. Hell, it was what I expected. Instead, it was revealed that not only hadn’t Larrick killed the Connors family, but he only went after the Russians when they went too far and killed several innocent men in the operation that went somewhat sideways a few weeks ago. In short, he wasn’t some crazed psycho that killed families, he was someone who was reminded of what it meant to be an actual American and sought to make amends when his actions got someone killed.

In other words, to paraphrase that old adage, terrorism is in the eye of the beholder. We’ve so acclimated ourselves to being on Liz and Phil’s sides that it didn’t occur to us that their actions have repercussions, too. Larrick was never going to go after their families- he just wanted justice for his fallen comrades, something the Jennings can fully relate to, as they only wanted the same. Except it wasn’t an actual American that did it, it was one of their own. Jared was so desperate to keep his cover that he killed his entire family, including his fully innocent sister, who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And why? Because, after the Connors refused to recruit their son, the Centre went behind their backs and used a younger, beautiful agent, Kate, to do their dirty work for them. She succeeded, and the experiment failed, as Jared went rogue and killed his entire family. Of course, the Russians certainly knew they could trust him after that, but at what cost?

As it turned out, what goes around comes around, and Jared paid the ultimate price for his actions, ending up dead at Larrick’s hand. Likewise, Larrick, who did kill several people, including Kate herself, ended up dead as well. The event may have resulted in Liz and Phil living to spy another day, but even that had repercussions, as they found out shortly thereafter from Claudia that daughter Paige was the Russians’ next planned recruit. Phil made it clear that it would happen over their dead bodies, but Liz had second thoughts about that upon further reflection…

And so we set the stage for another season of “The Americans” with a hell of a hook to bring viewers back next time around. I thought the season was brilliantly done, especially in retrospect. Indeed, the sign of a great season is that you immediately want to re-watch the entire thing in rapid succession, and I certainly did in this case. I’ll completely allow that it was a slow burn season, particularly in comparison to the last one, which I’ll admit was probably slightly better, if not significantly so, but not by as much as some people said it was.

There was a method to the show’s madness this season, you just had to be patient enough to get to that final, devastating reveal. Once you did, though, it really did color the entire season in a wholly different way, as you realized what they’d been up to all along. After all, our main protagonists are Russian spies, and though things may have changed in the years since- or not, if recent developments are any indication- they’re still trying to actively take down America, which the normal reaction to should be abject horror.

Instead, we’ve gotten to know these characters and like them, and even while their actions are sometimes reprehensible, we don’t necessarily want any harm to come to them. We care about them. And yet, was what Larrick was doing that out of line? His actions caused harm to come to innocent Americans, so he sought to rectify that. Is that so wrong? Meanwhile, the worst act of them all was committed by a teenage recruit too young to realize the consequences, emotionally or otherwise, of his actions. Is that any better, on the Russians’ end?

I would be remiss if I didn’t pour a toast out to Nina, who I did like and feel awful for. She did all manner of things for her country, even if she did something wrong on the front end, and in the end, she still paid the ultimate price. Not only was she deported back to Russia to be put on trial and likely put to death, but the man she thought loved her, Stan, didn’t love her enough, despite her best efforts, and the man she seemed to actually love, Oleg, couldn’t do a thing to save her.

That’s truly sad, and my heart broke for her a little bit, even though, once again, this is a spy who very nearly got a CIA agent to turn against his government and give the Russians access to something that could have had horrific results for our side. When a show has the power to make a viewer relate to people like this on both sides- that’s a pretty impressive achievement. So, hats off to “The Americans” from this critic. It may have been a bit too leisurely-paced for some viewers, but this is one who can’t wait to see what happens next. Count me in for season three, to be sure. Who’s with me?

What did you think of the season finale of “The Americans”? What about the season as a whole? Was it too slow for your tastes, or just right? Do you think you would have enjoyed it more if you’d binge-watched it? What did you think about the big twist? What about the revelation that the Centre wants to recruit Paige next? Do you think she’ll be on board with it or rebel against it? Will Phil even let it get that far? Will it cause a rift between him and Liz? What will become of Stan, now that he’s lost both his wife and Nina? Will Oleg stay loyal in light of Nina’s being deported? Sound off below and hope to see you next season!