The Americans – 2

I have never been a fan fiction writer.  But I am so unsettled by the ending to The Americans that I have been driven to imagine the future, twenty years down the road, in 2007.

martha

 

Elizabeth and Philip: Now in their 60s, they went to work for the KGB and then its successor agency in Russia, the FSB, training intelligence agents in American culture and daily life.  They have been able to keep track of Henry and Paige, but neither child has ever reached out to them, and they have not pushed for contact.  For them, it’s as if their life in America was a dream, and the reality of their lost children is too painful to contemplate.

Paige: After a month or so in the shadows of homeless life, Paige contacted Pastor Tim, and eventually joined him and his family in Buenos Aires.  She never engaged with religion again, but he helped her start over as a college student  Now nearing 40, she is a successful international journalist with a focus on Russian affairs and a string of unsuccessful relationships behind her.  She refuses to contact her parents, even when she visits Moscow.

Henry:  Almost immediately, he became Stan’s foster son.  Stan, who divorced Renee, without ever ascertaining whether or not she was KGB, and left the FBI, ensured that Henry finished college.  Henry became a Ph.D. research psychologist, focusing on childhood trauma, and in his late thirties has been married and divorced twice.  He has a couple of kids, but struggles to sustain his relationship with them.  Like Paige, he refuses to contact his parents.

Oleg: With the thawing of relations between Russia and the U.S., Arkady was able to convince the real Americans to release him, thanks to his participation in the plan to save Gorbachev, and he eventually returned to his parents and wife and son.

Martha: She settled into an uncomfortable but somewhat satisfactory life in Russia with her daughter, now a university student.  The Russians have been unsuccessful in arranging a legitimate return to the U.S. for her, but they have brought her aging and devastated parents to visit her and meet their granddaughter a few times.  Martha has come to understand what happened, and when she unexpectedly sees “Clark” across the street in Moscow one day, she observes him for a few minutes with little interest.  She is most sorry about Agent Gaad’s death, and has corresponded with Stan a few times, but recognizes that her future is limited to a life in Russia.

Now.  Having created fictional futures for fictional characters, I feel a bit better.

The Americans – 1

PaigeYou can read a long stream of articles on the series finale of The Americans.  I won’t attempt to review them here.  Suffice it to say that I have found the suspense of this last season nearly unbearable.  I’m the one who always reads the end first, but with a non-bingeable television show, I had to wait with everyone else.

I posted here and there on FB as the show wound down, trying to be sensitive to spoilers and those who haven’t reached the end yet.  Like others, I’ve been fascinated by the spycraft (not part of my usual fiction reading), horrified by the violence, and intrigued by the family dynamics.

In the end, my personal contribution to the conversation has to do with the long shadow cast by childhood trauma across the remainder of human lives.  There’s been a lot of publicity lately about the study of childhood trauma and how to counteract its effects or, at least, how to incorporate those effects into productive and contended adult lives.  (The fact that I wonder whether there is such a thing as contented adult life may tell you something about my own experience as a child and adolescent.)

Some notes from The Americans:

Many of the lead Russian characters emerged as children (quite literally, in some cases, from under buildings and rubble) out of WWII into a country devastated by physical destruction, starvation, and loss of life.  In the series, they are beautiful, elegantly dressed, intelligent, sophisticated, and articulate people dedicated to the preservation of a country beloved and yet marred — by corruption, repression, and poverty — and willing to do anything to further its triumph.

Paige and Henry: What happens to children who grow up in an affluent American suburb, involved in church and sports, to discover that nothing is as it seems, that their parents are monsters, and that their own lives are collateral casualties of parental commitments to something which they can never understand nor be part of (Elizabeth’s efforts with Paige notwithstanding)?

This story, The Americans, will haunt me for a long time.

Next post: My own predictions!

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