Can The Americans tie up its loose ends?

Last's night "The Midges" offers good reason to think the show can and will

Season 5, episode 3.
(Image credit: Patrick Harbron/FX)

Last night's episode of The Americans, "The Midges," was packed with corrosive action: Elizabeth and Philip danced to country music in Oklahoma and grilled and killed a lab administrator. Paige, looped into a mission her parents thought was relatively innocuous, implemented "the technique" and lied successfully to Matthew. Like Russia's wheat crop, Oleg Burov is being targeted by lethal American pests — and targeting purveyors of food that's too good in turn. But the most thrilling revelation might have been that glimpse of Martha Hanson (Alison Wright) in Moscow, shopping at a grocery store whose supply line Oleg is investigating. The camera has been especially playful this season — sneaking up on Tuan and Pasha from behind the cafeteria food, tricking us into discovering Elizabeth and Philip are playing his parents — and the way it lingered on Martha's back instead of trotting after Oleg, whom it followed into the store, is a lovely instance of the way various plotlines are getting dropped and picked up in this, the show's penultimate season.

The joke of that shot is that the camera picked up on something we didn't; a clever agent in its own right, it recognized Martha and waited for us to catch up. Thank goodness it did: Martha in the USSR is a spinoff I'd watch, and her reappearance doubles as a crucial reminder of the many loose ends with which this series is packed. I've been missing those this season. The energy that's gone into establishing the Morozov mission, coupled with the show's new thematic interest in hunger, temporarily sidelined the longer, more psychologically driven plots that make The Americans great. I'm talking about things like the peculiar strains on the Jennings' marriage, the ongoing threat of Pastor Tim and Paige's struggles to perform normalcy with him, the yearnings that drove Philip to EST, and the uncharacteristically raw fragility Elizabeth displayed last season when she and Paige visited her mother. All that gets sidelined by a call to action — the Jennings are pros, after all — but I'm hoping we get back to those quieter, more complicated tensions.

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