The Americans Tells Us Whodunnit
Season 2 of the FX KGB spy drama opened with a classic murder mystery: Emmett and Leanne, Philip and Elizabeth’s fellow Directorate S agents, are brutally murdered in their hotel room. So who killed them? Not the CIA, and not the FBI — instead, it was Emmett and Leanne’s own son, a pilot inductee into Mother Russia’s Second Generation Illegals program. The initiative is exactly what it sounds like, a recruitment of Directorate S operatives’ children in order to infiltrate America even more effectively. And in the most gut-wrenching twist of all, Philip and Elizabeth learn that their oldest, Paige, is next up on the KGB’s roster. All of a sudden, the Jennings’ work as spies and their uneasy status as a family have collided in a way the show’s hinted at throughout its run, but never fully executed.
Mixology Finally Mercy-Killed
Ding, dong, the ill-advised sitcom is dead. “Ten people couple up over the course of a single night out” isn’t a terrible premise for a show (hey there, I Wanna Marry “Harry”); in fact, it could have made for a decent or even good comedy. Mixology, however, developed into the show critics — including our own — loved to hate. Sooner rather than later, “Closing Time” arrived, and ABC’s midseason adventure came to an end. Check out the A.V. Club’s reflection/recap/eulogy, courtesy of Myles McNutt, for a kinder take on the show.
Maya Rudolph Reboots the Variety Show
Its reviews were mixed at best, but Rudolph’s attempt to breathe new life into a genre that’s been out of style for decades deserves plaudits for trying. The roster was nearly as packed as the next entry on this list, including former colleagues such as Chris Parnell and Andy Samberg, plus a musical performance from Janelle Monaé, and Rudolph’s outfits were a delightful throwback. Unfortunately, the whole was less than the sum of its parts: The Maya Rudolph Show is a perfectly enjoyable hour of TV, but it’s not enough to make the case for the revival of the more-or-less extinct variety special. And if Rudolph can’t bring the variety show back, it’s doubtful anyone can.
SNL Brings the Gang Back Together
For its season finale, SNL brought back Andy Samberg, one of its more successful alums, as host. The episode’s list of returnees went way beyond the Brooklyn Nine-Nine star, though, including Maya Rudolph (who appeared in the cold open as none other than Beyoncé), Paul Rudd, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Seth Meyers, and more. Of particular note is the “Kissing Family” skit, which features sort-of-uncomfortable, sort-of-hilarious bits like Hader motorboating Wiig and Rudolph administering mouth-to-mouth to a passed-out Kate McKinnon. And then there’s St. Vincent, whose futuristic performance was unsurprisingly top-notch.
Don and Peggy’s Dance
Mad Men’s final season, or at least its first half, has not been kind to Peggy Olson. Last year’s final shot of her, in which she assumes the opening-credits pose of a confident boss in an office chair, turned out to be a red herring. She’s unsatisfied at work and in her personal life, and she’s been taking it out on those around her in a way that feels both true to her character and uncomfortably close to the stereotype of a joyless, sexless woman at work. “The Strategy” acknowledges Peggy’s struggles and then some as she comes clean with Don, her erstwhile mentor and current subordinate. Her honesty about her personal life translates into an incredible ad, of course, but it also results in this shortened season’s most powerful scene: Don and Peggy swaying to Sinatra’s “My Way” in an otherwise empty office.