SciFi Weekend: The Americans Series Finale; Jessica Jones; Star Trek Discovery News; Humans Returns For Season 3; Better Call Saul

For the last six years, The Americans was among the best continuing dramas on television. Now the series has concluded with a perfect finale which compares favorable with the top finales in television history. The finale managed to both provide a conclusive ending while also leaving viewers with plenty to wonder about.

Much of the final minutes of the show managed to provide a tenseness comparable to the final moments of The Sopranos in the diner. There were many moments when it was possible that Elizabeth and Philip might have been apprehended, just as there was a constant feeling of danger in the final scene of The Sopranos. Unlike The Sopranos, there is no ambiguity with regards to the events. Elizabeth and Philip made it safely home to Russia. Breaking Bad, another show where we followed an anti-hero, had to conclude with the death of Walter White. For reasons which were suggested in the final scene with Stan in the garage, it was possible for Elizabeth and Philip to be allowed to survive, even if they did have to pay a heavy price.

While a lot of other things beyond what I will discuss here happened in the extended episode, the key scene was the conversation between Stan and Philip in the garage. It is a sign of what this show does so well that the scene truly was a conversation with little action, even if viewers were wondering if Elizabeth would suddenly find her opportunity to kill or incapacitate Stan. From the moment the pilot set up the situation of the FBI agent living across the street from the Russian spies, the only conceivable ending was that Stan would ultimately figure out their identity and there would be a confrontation of this nature.

While the confrontation could have ended in violence, the ending was far stronger in having Philip convince Stan to let them go. The strength of the finale is in how the writers actually did make this plausible. This included Philip confessing, stressing the reality of their friendship, and declaring that it was  his life, not Stan’s which was the joke. It was necessary for Philip to deny that they were responsible for the killings, for the benefit of both Stan and Paige. Perhaps both bought this temporarily, but I suspect that being confronted again with the discrepancy between reality and what her parents say was one of the reasons for Paige’s later decision to leave them. Finally, the prospects of the START talks proceeding, and preserving Gorbachev as opposed having the hard liners return, provided arguments for Stan that allowing them to go would actually be in the best interests of his country.

Just as Stan might have been responsible for the damage to the Jennings family by increasing suspicions on Paige’s part, Philip similarly might have destroyed Stan’s chances of happiness with Renee by throwing in the possibility that she might have been one of them. Two remaining questions are whether Phillip said this to help or to harm Stan, and whether Renee really was a Russian spy. It was necessary to at least raise this question in the finale but, unless there was another subplot thrown in showing Renee, it would have been difficult to provide an answer. None of the characters in the discussion really knew. Renee’s look back at the Jenning house later in the episode could be taken as providing an answer, but this is one aspect of the finale left to the opinions of the viewer.

Paige had a long time to contemplate her decision on the drive into New Hampshire and then the train ride. While we were never given her reasons for getting off the train and remaining behind, we know enough about Paige to understand what she must have been thinking. She heard about the killings in the garage, along with a denial which she probably figured out was yet another lie on the part of her parents, perhaps further alienating her from them. She also probably thought about remaining behind for Henry, and might have questioned whether she really wanted to spend the rest of her life in the Soviet Union (not knowing, as the viewer does, that in reality the Soviet Union would fall soon).

The imminent fall of the Soviet Union might make it possible for Elizabeth and Philip to see their children again in the future, but also raises the question of whether Elizabeth would be happy with what her country became. Regardless, there is little doubt that things will be difficult for Elizabeth and Philip.

Paige’s ultimate fate is left unknown, but there is hope that she can avoid arrest. Only Stan knows that Paige was aware of what her parents did, and there is no indication he knew of Paige’s own involvement in the family business. Plus both Paige and Stan have a mutual interest in both keeping quiet about the conversation in the garage. Of course to avoid being exposed, she will need to stay away from Claudia’s apartment.

The events of the last six years also made it questionable if Stan’s career could survive having lived across the street from Russian agents without suspecting anything. As events played out, he brought his suspicions to the FBI before their identities were conclusively discovered. This made Stan appear like the smarter one, while Aderholt felt like he was the one at fault for not taking Stan’s suspicions more seriously.

We also received some clues as to the fates of other characters. We don’t know how badly Henry took the news, but he is not suspected of any involvement, and there is reason to hope he will do okay. Oleg is in prison, with no hopes for being exchanged as a spy, but perhaps the changing political situation will enable him to be released in the future. The mail robot was not in action, but was seen at rest in one scene at the FBI offices.

 

Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields, along with the cast, granted multiple interviews but did not provide further answers. They left the matters which viewers were left to wonder about while watching for the viewers to continue to question. Here are excerpts from an interview at TV Line:

TVLINE | You’ve said that you’ve had the ending for the series in mind since Season 2. So how closely did this ending match what you had back then?
JOE WEISBERG | Joel and I were just having a conversation about this earlier: I think that Joel thinks it’s identical, and I think it’s almost identical…

TVLINE | The biggest surprise of the finale for me: No one died! I was tense right up until that final car ride with Philip and Elizabeth, thinking they might get whacked. Is it almost more sad, though, to force everyone to live with the consequences of their actions?
FIELDS
 | Well… it depends on your belief about the afterlife, I suppose. [Laughs] But for us, it was always going to be about the character drama. That’s what we’ve been following all along, and it felt totally right that that’s what we’d follow through the final frames of the show.

TVLINE | The scene with Stan in the garage: It felt like six seasons had been building up to that moment. Was that a scene that you had in mind for the finale way back in Season 2?
WEISBERG
 | No, that was not planned. That was not part of the ending that we figured from the beginning. I think we always assumed that there would be a confrontation, that Stan would either figure out, or that, one way or another, they would have to face off. There’s too much to be confronted in those relationships, so that seemed to want to come to a head. But we didn’t know that it would happen like that.

TVLINE | So why did Stan decide to step aside and let the Jennings family go, when he had them cornered?
FIELDS
 | You know, that falls into the category of questions we want to let the audience come up with their own answers to, rather than impose our own on it. We can certainly give you an answer. We have answers. But we want to sort of let the story speak for itself on that one. People will come up with different answers, and their own interpretations of where Stan’s at, and what happened during that scene to bring him to that point…

TVLINE | What kind of consequences is Paige facing now, after having stepped off that train? 
WEISBERG | Well, first of all, the consequences she’s going to face for everything that’s happened, on an emotional and personal level, are obviously extreme. But the question of whether or not she’s going to face legal consequences, I think, is a little bit muddy. I don’t think we know the answer to that. It’s possible that the FBI may not have evidence about anything she’s done that’s clearly a crime. So she may not be in any kind of extreme legal jeopardy, as long as she doesn’t walk herself into a corner. We don’t think that it’s clear she’s headed to jail…

TVLINE | You left the question of whether or not Renee is a spy unanswered. Was that to leave Stan wondering about who he’s sharing his bed with?   
WEISBERG | Well, that’s certainly something that’s going to hang over his marriage a bit, one would think. To us, in a way, we thought that [revelation from Philip] was a powerful thing to give [Stan], in terms of his own struggle, but also in terms of who Philip had become, and where their relationship was at. Philip wasn’t going to walk out of that garage without telling his friend what he thought might be possible there, even if he wasn’t sure.

Interviews with the cast provided different opinions as to whether Renee was a spy. From interviews with Collider,” Keri Russell thinks there was something to that lingering shot of Renee looking at the house, but Matthew Rhys said clearly ‘No, I don’t [think she’s a spy].’ In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Holly Taylor (Paige) said,  “I think she is. I was hoping they were going to answer that question, but of course they didn’t. I think she is. I mean, there’s just too many coincidences. You really have to make your own decision, but I think most people are on board and think she’s a spy.” Noah Emmerich (Stan) was asked about the filming of scenes with Laurie Holden (Renee) by Entertainment Weekly without any answers given about Renee.

Production will be starting soon on season three of Jessica Jones. Krysten Ritter has discussed her hopes for the character at Comicpalooza in Houston, Texas:

“What I love so much about season 1 or season 2 were how deeply personal both storylines were, but different. So I got to explore different things within her and in my performance, show new colors,” Ritter answered.

“I think season 1 and 2, we really looked back at Jessica’s past. We looked at what made her as hardcore she is and how isolated [she is], and she’s learned a lot — I think especially in season 2 she’s learned a lot about herself. She has a lot to live up to, and I’m curious to see what she does next.”

The first two seasons of Jessica Jones put the alcoholic and super-powered detective through the ringer both emotionally and physically, and while season 3 isn’t likely to make Jessica’s life cheery, her actress hopes to see the Defender take more strides towards reaching her full potential.

“Maybe we’ll get to see her be a bit of a hero, maybe we get to see her move forward in a more positive way. Maybe we see her hating herself less,” Ritter added.

“I don’t think it’s gonna be like sunshine and rainbows for Jessica Jones anytime soon. But I’d love to see her — even if it’s a small step — step into her potential.”

Ritter added she hopes for Jessica to be only “a little bit less” of a “train wreck” next time around, saying “it’s still fun to play that.”

Ritter has also expressed interest in a revival of Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23. I would have far more interest in that as opposed to some of the other revivals in the works.

The original plans for Saru would have had him look quite a bit different, as seen in the above picture.

The producers of Star Trek: Discovery have also been revealing other information about the show in promotional tours. Some can be seen here. This includes repeating previous promises of making the show consistent with what we have seen in other Star Trek series.

So far we have seen that Discovery took advantage of being a streaming, as opposed to a network show, with the use of an f-bomb.  Co-showrunner Aaron Harberts further discussed how Discovery would not be the same on network television:

One of the big buzzwords on network TV is likability of a character. And our character Michael Burnham commits a mutiny in the first episode. I don’t think that a lot of networks would have been game for that, but it really did allow us to tell a pretty exciting chapter for that character and a journey. And they were absolutely willing and on board to things like that.

Humans season 3 will premiere in the United States on AMC on June 5, but I couldn’t resist downloading the first three episodes which have already aired in the U.K. on Channel 4. While I will avoid spoilers, it becomes clear early in the first episode that the world has changed with Synths having become sentient. They are feared and distrusted by most humans, with the Synths we know from the first two seasons, along with others, being divided up with different ideas as to how to attempt to change this. Katherine Parkinson returns as attorney Laura Hawkins, defending the rights of Synths. Following is the official synopsis:

One year after the dawn of consciousness, a decimated and oppressed Synth population fights to survive in a world that hates and fears them. In a divided Britain, Synths and Humans struggle to broker an uneasy peace, but when fractures within the Synth community itself start to appear, all hope of stability is threatened.

Set against the maelstrom of political chaos, the ethical complexities of the dawn of a new species play out across a thrilling multi-stranded narrative. As the synth family… continue to battle for their right to survival, Joe (Tom Goodman-Hill) Laura (Katherine Parkinson) and their children Mattie, Toby and Sophie struggle to come to terms with the cataclysmic events of the last series and their deeply polarised views on the implications of the singularity.

AMC has also announced that the fourth season of Better Call Saul will premiere on Monday, August 6th. The network’s announcement has confirmed the death of Chuck in the fire in last season’s finale.

In Better Call Saul‘s fourth season, Chuck’s death catalyzes Jimmy McGill’s transformation into Saul Goodman. In the wake of his loss, Jimmy takes steps into the criminal world that will put his future as a lawyer — and his relationship with Kim — in jeopardy. Chuck’s death deeply affects former colleagues Howard (Patrick Fabian) and Kim as well, putting the two of them once again on opposite sides of a battle sparked by the Brothers McGill. While Mike takes a more active role as Madrigal Electromotive’s newest (and most thorough) security consultant. It’s a volatile time to be in Gus Fring’s employ, as Hector’s collapse sends shock waves throughout the Albuquerque underworld and throws the cartel into chaos — tearing apart both Gus and Nacho’s well-laid plans. While Gus changes course, Nacho finds himself in the crosshairs of deadly forces.

FX has announced the renewal of Legion  for third season. I would discuss recent episodes of Legion, but I’m waiting for Future Syd to explain to me what they mean first.

Sundance has started showing the BBC One series, The Split. The show concluded on BBC One last week leaving matters wide open for a second season. BBC One has now announced that The Split has been renewed for a second season. While not at all genre, it does have one thing in common with Humans, which I discussed above. Both include a former cast member from Merlin, with Anthony Head appearing on The Split.

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