That old chestnut “Fly Me to the Moon” could easily have been the Moon-suffused melody of Season 1’s “The Americans.” In its finale, the Moon’s multi-layered definition of what and where the home is – across the sea, in the heart or both – came to a heady and bloody conclusion.
Set during the 1980s, when the Cold War was a critical enterprise, “The Americans” focuses on a not-so-typical couple, Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip Jennings (Matthew Rhys). With two kids and a travel agency business in D.C., the pair are fervid Russian spies, recruited and trained in Mother Russia. The Moon rules roots and ancestry and we’ve learned, through flashbacks, that the duo have been paired to emigrate to America, whose July 4th birth sign also happens to be Lunar Cancer. The Jennings vs. the United States: welcome to dueling Moons.
In their adopted homeland, Elizabeth and Philip are stunningly Saturnine and disciplined about following rules and orders from across the pond – they’re formidable killers, as well – chiefly through their handler Claudia (Margo Martindale), a thorny mother figure working for the Soviet mission who possesses none of the balm of Mother Russia herself. Elizabeth gets more succor from listening to smuggled Russian tapes from her family in her basement.
The bigger thorn, however, is FBI agent Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich), who’s equally keen on dismantling the network of Soviet infiltrators, two of whom – the Jennings – happen to be, unbeknownst to him, his next-door neighbors.
The clever lure of “The Americans” is the show’s manipulation of its characters’ Lunar side, which gives them heart and feeling, but skewers their stability and home base. The Jennings, despite the artificiality of their coupling, have children whom they care about and, in the finale, the pair takes great care in planning for their offspring’s welfare in case a critical mission goes awry. But because these two are a pre-packaged duo who never married, they exhibit very little Moon-juice, even though Elizabeth yearns for a more genuine relationship. During the latter part of the first season, and at her behest, Philip moved out of their home and has been living in his own apartment.
Philip has gone out on an even farther reaching limb for the good of his mission and to get close to information from the top of the FBI food chain. In one of his many physical and costumed disguises, he has feigned emotion and, as “Clark,” officially married Martha Hanson (Alison Wright), the secretary of Beeman’s supervisor Frank Gaad (Richard Thomas). Meanwhile, Beeman, having lost that loving feeling with his wife, has begun an emotionally robust affair with his mole Nina (Annet Mahendru).
An even greater complication is Elizabeth’s deep concern that Philip is having feelings – again, the domain of the Moon – for the U.S., and may, in time, switch Moons, so to speak, for a financial payoff.
Elizabeth’s last words to Philip in the finale – “Come home,” in Russian, no less – as she recovers in a strange bed, is a brilliantly layered request that alludes to multiple roots: familial nest, emotional connection and the Russian mission itself. Although the Jennings’ daughter Paige (Holly Taylor) suggests in the finale’s final frame that her definition of home consists of freshly laundered and folded bath towels, “The Americans” knows where the lint is buried.
Astrology Television Rating: ☽ (Moon)