If “The Chain” was the perfect Fleetwood Mac song to accompany the closing montage of “Walter Taffet,” the shocker of a midseason episode which introduced, among other things, Gaad’s discovery of the bug in his office, “March 8, 1983” could’ve ended with “Little Lies.” Although there have been many impressive aspects in the third season of The Americans, one which I’ve harped on repeatedly in this space has been the thematic cohesion of its episodes. This season has been remarkably broad in scope, and Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg have consistently used the wide frame, in conjunction with a tight thematic focus, to contrast how characters in different locations react to similar scenarios (i.e. love, death, etc.). Appropriately enough for a show about spying and deception, the finale gives viewers a look at the effects which lies of different varieties and magnitudes have on the liars and those around them.
In film music, a stinger is a jarring dissonance which accompanies a shocking moment, and this week’s episode of The Americans, “Stingers,” contains what might be the show’s biggest surprise so far. However, unlike a musical stinger, the scene is delivered entirely without music, relying on the strength of the actors and the quick cuts between their faces to maximize their emotional gut punch.
Last week’s premiere started off marvelously, in medias res at a breakneck pace but without feeling hyperbolic. In this week’s episode, “Baggage”, the speed of the narrative is greatly reduced, but the effect on the viewer is no less powerful. As creator Joe Weisberg understands, viewers need to spend time with characters and scenarios to care about them and this episode moves slower in the interest of introducing new elements to the show.