Let’s talk about Stan.
Back in the pilot episode, Stan’s attuned senses of suspicion led him to a night-time search of his new neighbours’ garage. Something about their behaviour, their car, and the disappearance of a KGB defector leads him in there, leads him to scratch that itch. Only he finds nothing. They are just his neighbours.
They become friends. Stan and Philip, in particular, share much throughout the next few years. Both separate from their wives (Stan’s ends in divorce, Philip’s doesn’t), Stan leads Philip to Est, Stan’s son and Philip’s daughter date for a brief period of time, and increasingly, they feel like family. For Stan, who starts his life anew with Renee, the Jennings are a constant for him. And for the Jennings, Stan is a confidant, a babysitter, a constant source of friendliness and support for a family who have no visible relatives in their lives. And, as Stan says to Philip at the beginning of ‘Harvest’, they’re best friends. For adult men, that is a rare claim.
So Stan put away his suspicion early, and never returned to it. Until this episode. And that largely has to do with the situation the writers have put him in. Bit by bit, they’ve returned Stan to the person he was at the beginning of the show. He’s married again, he’s confident and happy within his work, he’s not plagued by the self-doubt and pity that plagued him after his divorce. Recently, he was able to unburden the deaths of Gennadi and Sofia in a conversation with Philip, and it was Philip who took it the hardest. Once again, Stan can separate his work life with his personal life.
And that is why ‘Harvest’ is another nail in the coffin of The Americans’ tragedy. There is no success here for Stan. He immediately can read that Philip’s excuse to head to Houston doesn’t wash, and much of Philip and Elizabeth’s professional behaviour doesn’t either. All Philip had to do was suggest there were marital issues – not hugely far from the truth – and perhaps that would have clouded Stan’s mind. But work pressures, along with Henry’s admission of unknown relatives and coinciding trips with Stan’s professional failures, are too much to ignore.
Returning Stan to this confident mindset where he is actually right, they are people to suspect, is important because it allows him to move closer to that professional victory, only now that he’s almost there, on the edge of it, there will be no personal victory. This hard-fought journey toward personal happiness will evaporate. It will be destroyed. He can’t suspect, accuse and incarcerate his friends, his best friend, and be whole again.
They’re rehabilitated him so that they can destroy him.
(All this presupposes that Renee’s presence in his life is also legitimate and not predicated on espionage-y reasons. If that occurs, and Renee is somehow involved in thwarting Stan’s successful capture of two illegals, it’s hard to imagine Stan surviving this in any emotional capacity.)
There’s an obvious connection with Breaking Bad, and Walter White’s ongoing proximity to his brother-in-law and DEA agent. That, too, came to a head a handful of episodes from the finale. But there’s a difference here. These two men have chosen to be in each other’s life. Philip clearly values Stan, and yet has mostly been able to separate Stan’s professional activity from Stan’s neighbourly presence. (Interestly, Elizabeth is less an overt friend to Stan, having had more professional run-ins with him.) This isn’t just a case of someone realising something that was right in front of them all along, I can’t imagine Stan confronting Philip with the level of hatred that Hank had for Walter. Rather, Stan will go willingly toward his doom. He’s too introspective a character to do this in a fit of rage. he will understand its implications even as he moves toward his newly established goal.
It’s likely this will come out of the sketches that were mentioned briefly, combined with cross-referencing every old case Stan had that he suspected was negatively influenced by Russian illegals. It will be the long, slow build up of years and years of FBI work, coupled with Stan’s effective bullshit-detectors. This is his harvest.
All that’s left now are the details.
Will Elizabeth manage to pull off the impossible at the summit next week? Unlikely, and probably impossible.
Will Philip continue to support Elizabeth like he did in Chicago? Probably, but not how she may want him to, given his fears about the cyanide and that he’s still working with Oleg against Elizabeth’s efforts.
Will either of the Jennings children escape the legacy their parents have gifted them? Also unlikely, but again in different ways. I’m worried that for all of Philip’s efforts (and even Elizabeth’s in this episode) to warn Paige off, they’ve only driven her further in to their world, in her effort to belong and be of value. Henry may be the one left all alone in the end, but it’s hard to see him left with anything that he has legitimately worked hard for – the only family member who can claim that.
And will Oleg return to his wife and child? He’s been little sighted in the last few episodes, save for a scene of decoding Philip’s messages, but given Aderholt’s point of view that any Russian espionage activity is counter to the US, it’s hard to see him escaping even when his heart and his efforts are in the right place.
But again, that notion of rightness is tricky. Who is right? Both sides have killed people (even if the Jennings’ efforts far outweigh Stan’s). Both believe they are in the right and thus perfectly justified to commit horrible means to get their ends. Breaking Bad had a clear conflict for the viewers: despise Walter White even as you want him to get away. The Americans doesn’t offer any easy salvation instead. We kind of want them all to get away. We’ve sympathised with them all, and with that being as it is, it’ll be used against us. None of them are getting away. None of them are getting out of this.