Ask Matt: Will Elizabeth Survive 'The Americans?' How About Abby on 'NCIS?' Also: 'black-ish,' 'Westworld' and More
Welcome to the Q&A with TV critic (also known to some TV fans as their "TV therapist") Matt Roush, who'll address whatever you love, loathe, are confused or frustrated or thrilled by in today's vast TV landscape. One caution: This is a spoiler-free zone, so we won't be addressing upcoming storylines here unless it's already common knowledge. Please send your questions and comments to [email protected] (or use the form at the end of the column) and follow me on Twitter. Look for Ask Matt columns on most Tuesdays and Fridays.
How Will The Americans End?
Question: I’ve been a rabid fan of The Americans since its debut, and as it comes to the end of its run, I must compliment the writers one last time on some absolutely fascinating characters and plotlines. I can't say that I've ever rooted for these Russian sleeper spies—until Philip (Matthew Rhys) started to tire of it all, drifted away from the murderous schemes of his wife and become appalled as his daughter Paige is drawn into the "family business". But ever since Elizabeth murdered (unnecessarily, I thought) the character played (brilliantly) by guest star Lois Smith, I have really grown to hate her guts. Bringing her daughter into the fray, growing more and more cold-blooded and murderous, blaming the U.S. for all the ills of her mother country—I can't think of another time I've wanted a character in a series to get their comeuppance (in equally lethal form) than I have here. And that's a tribute to the writing and Keri Russell's playing of it all.
This is NOT a spoiler, because I have no inside information—and it wouldn't make for a "happy ending" in the true sense of the expression—but I'm predicting that Elizabeth will do something that leads to her daughter getting killed and Philip will snap and kill her and end up living "happily ever after" as an American. Not sure how it plays out with Noah Emmerich as Stan, the FBI agent/neighbor, and whether he ever figures it out, but I'm really hoping Elizabeth doesn't waltz off into the sunset (American or Russian) at the end without paying for her list of crimes. — Michael
Matt Roush: I rarely try to get ahead of a story on a TV show I love, although I’ve discussed with other fans in and outside the TV Guide Magazine office that The Americans can’t possibly have a traditional “happy ending,” not for Elizabeth anyway. We already know hers is a lost cause, and as she gets more desperate and lethal—and unforgiving of those who aren’t—any sympathy we might have had for her upbringing and indoctrination has pretty much evaporated. Watching her coach the willing but out-of-her-depth Paige is excruciating yet compelling, and now that she’s trying one more time to get Philip back into the game, who knows where these final chapters will go? The Americans is as good as it has ever been, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t approaching the series finale with a lot of dread.
Is Abby the Latest Female NCIS Victim?
Question: After watching this week’s episode of NCIS, I’m fairly certain they’re killing off Abby to end Pauley Perrette’s run. I would LOVE to be wrong. If by some miracle they don’t, I still have to ask: Why torture Abby like this, AND every major female character in the show’s history? Either off-screen or on, NCIS has killed or maimed almost every single significant female on the show. I’m also counting emotional torture. Examples: Bishop’s first marriage was destroyed and her fiancé was brutally killed, Jeanne Benoit was deceived and her father killed, and Quinn, who was a one-and-done, was written out because her mother had Alzheimer’s). Gibbs’s mom, wife and daughter were dead before the show even started, so was DiNizzo’s mom. Victims include Kate, Jenny, Paula Cassidy, Ziva, Jackie Vance, Agent Lee, Ducky’s Mom and even Fornell/Gibbs’ ex-wife Diane. Delilah was paralyzed and even Sloane has scars and PTSD we don’t fully know about yet. I have to believe that there’s a way for the minds at NCIS to keep us watching without annihilating every woman we get invested in. — Fran
Matt Roush: That’s quite a necrology you’ve come up with, but I have to believe that a character as beloved as Abby Sciuto won’t be added to the list of fatalities. I might have preferred a more graceful exit as well, without the apparent suffering and hospital vigil seen in the trailer, and while your points and examples ring true, it has been well established that the world of NCIS is a violent one for all involved, men as well as women.
Memo to the Johnsons: Lighten Up!
Question: What's happened to black-ish? I thought it was a comedy. This whole storyline about the marital problems with Bow and Dre is depressing. Even when they've dealt with serious topics in the past, they've injected tasteful humor into the episodes. And when they've had differences of opinion on things, Bow and Dre always held the show together. So I'm done with black-ish for now until I know they've moved on from this storyline and gone back to being the great show that it was. Sorry, ABC, but your GPS has sent you in the wrong direction and got you lost. — JC
Matt Roush: I understand where you’re coming from, but I’m willing to give black-ish, its stars and creator Kenya Burris some latitude here to fully explore the strains of a marriage with all of the pain and sorrow that entails. The only humor in this week’s episode was in the flashbacks, making the current estrangement of Dre and Bow even starker and bleaker by comparison. And while it’s not fun to watch, it does feel real, and it’s the sort of thing a relevant and important series like black-ish should be allowed to do. This arc reminds me of how this show follows in the tradition of Norman Lear’s breakthrough comedies of the 1970s, especially All in the Family, which wasn’t afraid to let the real world filter in from time to time. Because we relate to and love these characters, watching them go through a rough patch can leave us shaken. I applaud black-ish for not playing it safe, and I’m expecting that soon enough, though not immediately—because that wouldn’t be real—it will be safe for you to come back home.
Is Westworld Lost in Its Own Brilliance?
Question: I am a huge fan of shows conceived with, built on and executed with substantial intelligence and brilliant stories, plots and dialogue. I know that sounds like a “hidden humble brag,” but the correlative point is that I am NOT a fan of intelligent shows that outsmart themselves by half. It is a rare writer/director team that can avoid getting lost in their own story in the process of executing the telling of it. It is the even more rare writer/director who can execute complicated, complex plots and maintain the viewers’ collective attention, comprehension and understanding.
While I’ve only seen the episodes aired to date of Westworld’s Season 2, I am thus far wary and even more so because of your revelation that you have “previewed the first five episodes, and still am not always sure what’s happening or even when,” which is disconcerting at best. My consternation grows because it is an even more rare writer/director who, having lost the viewers’ collective attention, comprehension and understanding, can credibly gain it back. Moreover, it takes a particularly brilliant writer/director team to continue to “lose” their audience and gain them back once a significant portion of the season has aired (we’re not there yet). Having said that, I am hopeful that if any such team can pull these feats off in Season Two of Westworld, it will be this Westworld team who proved to be talented, brilliant and intelligent last season with what was an excellent story but one which, by most accounts, was an inferior story to Season 2. One can only watch with an open (and alert) mind and hope without preconception. — Reese
Matt Roush: I’m afraid I was being a bit facetious in my response last week. I’m not one of those fans who obsessed on solving the mysteries of Westworld before they were revealed in the first season, and I’m happily going along on the mystifying ride this year. The episodes are challenging, but in a good way, and I am thoroughly fascinated by the journey the hosts are on as they continue exploring their past and pursuing their future. What I gathered from Reese’s thoughtful commentary was the cautious fear that Westworld would lose clarity as it kept posing new existential questions and mysteries, and so far, that’s hasn’t happened for me.
But I’m not surprised to see reactions like this from D Leitch: “I have to say I am not a fan of this season of Westworld. With the machines taking over, it seems to be blocking itself in. Unless they are going to leave the park and go out into the ‘real world,’ what are they going to do? I doubt that any new visitors are coming for them to kill.”
I’ll counter by saying what thrills me about this season of Westworld is the reinvention and expansion of the premise. Far from blocking itself in, it’s going deeper into the altered and emerging psyches of these artificial humans—and who’s to say that Dolores and Maeve won’t eventually lead their followers out of the park?
Howards End Over Too Soon
Question: Howards End is only four episodes? That was so fast. Please tell me it's coming back soon! Why are some shows renewed after only one episode of good ratings? It seems they should wait at least four or more shows to make sure the ratings don't steadily tank. There are reasons we stopped watching shows, so the recent reboot overload could backfire big time. After only two episodes of Trading Spaces, I realized why I lost interest. One last question: What do you know about Yellowstone? I'm going to watch, but from the preview, my husband said it reminded him of The Son story. — Teresa
Matt Roush: There’s a lot going on in this paragraph of questions. First: Howards End was always billed as a “limited series,” what we used to refer to as miniseries. This was an adaptation of E.M. Forster’s book, and as he didn’t write a sequel, I wouldn’t expect to see Return to Howards End. It is rare in these days of bloat (especially on Netflix) to see a series perhaps err on the side of brevity, but I found that refreshing. (The upcoming Masterpiece adaptation of Little Women is even shorter at three hours over two installments.)
About instant renewals: I figure networks are so hungry for any good news these days, I can hardly blame them when they jump on anything that clicks, even if (as happened this week with Roseanne) the frenzy eventually cools.
Regarding Paramount Network’s Yellowstone, starring Kevin Costner, which premieres June 20: I haven’t seen the series yet, but it’s way more modern in setting than AMC’s The Son (renewed for a second season, not yet scheduled), and appears to be more about the contemporary challenges of maintaining a ranch in today’s culture. But I’d agree it looks as if the tone, like that of The Son, will be on the darker side of the Western genre. Speaking of Costner, I’m still sorry no one ever made a series version of Silverado, which was a blast.
Another Reason the Big Bang Babies Are Unseen
Question: I just wanted to comment on the recent question about the babies born in The Big Bang Theory. Yes, we haven't seen them, but we have heard them crying and have heard about them. I see this as a continuation of the running joke about Howard's mother, how we always heard her but never saw her. Seems like an homage, almost. At least to me. — Felicia
Matt Roush: Makes sense to me, too. Wish I’d thought of that.
Of Fallen Mounties and Missing Sharks
Question: In the last episode of Hallmark Channel's When Calls the Heart, Elizabeth's husband, Mountie Jack Thornton, was killed and they buried him. How awful! He was was one of the main characters in the show. Did the actor who played Jack want to leave the show for some reason or are they just trying to create a new storyline for Elizabeth next season?
Also, ABC moved Shark Tank from Fridays to Sunday evenings and now its gone except for reruns on CNBC. Darn! Will it ever be back again? — Gordon, Shelton CT
Matt Roush: I’ll revisit this question about the ill-fated Mountie Jack because, after that episode aired, actor Daniel Lissing and his co-stars spoke about his departure in a special Facebook Live after-show that may help answer your and other fans’ concerns. The quick answer being yes, that it was the actor’s choice to leave the show, and yes, it does open up new storylines for Elizabeth, although fans are understandably upset when things like this happen.
Regarding Shark Tank: It’s taking a midseason break, probably a good thing for any reality show, while ABC gives Deception a tryout on Sundays. ABC has already renewed it for a 10th season, so Shark Tank will likely be back in the fall, just can’t say yet on what night.
That’s all for now. We’ll pick up the conversation again soon. Thanks as always for reading, and remember that I can’t do this without your participation, so please keep sending questions and comments about TV to [email protected] or shoot me a line on Twitter (@TVGMMattRoush), and you can also submit questions via the handy form below.