'The Americans' Season 2 finale: A killer revealed, a fate sealed in 'Echo'

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It's possible that "The Americans" Season 2 finale, "Echo," is simultaneously one of the best and worst episodes of the show. On the plus side, it's a strong story that ties up a huge number of loose ends from the season -- like the murder of Emmett and Leanne. On the other, the show destroys Nina.

You do not destroy Nina. That is not OK, "The Americans."

Who killed the spies?

The question that has loomed over all of Season 2 finally finds its unexpected answer in the finale episode. Despite it looking more and more like Larick must have been the murderer of Emmett and Leanne, this is one of the few cases in which the military man is innocent.

Who did the dirty deed? That would be Jared. Yes, sweet and sad young Jared slaughtered his parents and his younger sister. This proves to be the boy's dying confession, when he and Larick seal each others' fates.

Why did he do it? The answer to that comes along with a second answer: Why was Jared hanging out with Kate the handler? It turns out that the KGB has secretly started a second-generation program for illegals. Because the first-generation spies could never pass the requisite background checks to get real access to secrets, the idea is that their children will do it.

Jared had been recruited by Kate -- without his parents' knowledge -- and they were planning an exciting future in the world of espionage. That all fell apart when Jared's parents found out and objected. The kid then decided that he had to kill them in order to fulfill his destiny.

Yes, that family is screwed up. Philip and Elizabeth Jennings are horrified by this, but at least they can know that their kids are way less insane than their colleagues'.

That comfort isn't likely to last long into Season 3 though. Despite the thorough failure of the program with Jared, Claudia informs Philip and Elizabeth that it's still going. And the next candidate on deck to serve Mother Russia is none other than Paige.

The pointless destruction of Nina

One of the great attributes of "The Americans" throughout its two seasons is the portrayal of women as complex, strong and constantly underestimated figures. No one has ever embodied this more than Nina Sergeevna.

This is why it is especially awful that "The Americans" chooses to destroy this fascinating woman in "Echo." It's a poor choice, and it is definitely not OK.

Of course, there's probably some feeling that Stan has to stay "heroic" and hold to his patriotic ideals, even if it means sacrificing the woman he supposedly loves. If that's the case, then it backfires, because selling out Nina makes Stan look like a piece of something that needs to be censored. Only slightly better-looking in all of this are Oleg and Arkady, both of whom stand aside while Nina gets carted off to Moscow to stand trial.

They at least tried to do the right thing by her. Even if they are too weak (personally or professionally) to stop what happens, the two spies don't just selfishly destroy a woman.

What is going to happen to Nina now? If "The Americans" is a smart show, the double agent will come out of this with her head intact (much like that old boss she sold out). A woman like Nina doesn't just get thrown away like a used Kleenex. When she dies, it should be with an audience and with a purpose. Depressing deaths off-screen are not good enough for a character like this.

Nina's ghost will have to haunt both the characters and the show itself if this is the case.
Photo/Video credit: FX