"Trompe le monde" is French for "deceives the world," according to Google (IDK, I took Español), and it's also the last album the Pixies made before they broke up that one time—kinda like how Henry Wilcox broke up with maintaining a pulse. BYE FOREVER, HENRY. SEE U NEVER... except for maybe in the occasional flashback. Or in a miraculous (a.k.a. infuriating) resurrection because TV. Or in Annie Walker's sadface emo-girl PTSD nightmares because we're supposed to believe that deep down inside, Annie Walker is a sweet girl who just happens to have a badass job.
Actually, I do believe that, which is why I didn't think Annie would actually waste Wilcox once she got the chance. Sure, Annie was all HBIC after Simon was snuffed last season, but that was kind of waved off as equal parts emotional trauma and an unfortunate side effect of being BFFs with Lena the Evil Feminist for half the season. Annie spent the first half of this season being the actual most irritating googly-eyed girlfriend ever, and I just didn't think she had the capability to pull off a potentially questionable in-the-field execution anymore. Or ever. My bad.
I think most of us can agree (and if we can't, then we can't, and it's cool) that Season 4 of Covert Affairs proved itself to be a worthy successor to the uneven trainwreck of Season 3. Season 3 started out so great, with Jai's death reminding us that underneath the harmless appeal of the Spy Barbie Adventure Hour, what we have here is an actual spy show, where theoretically, our characters are in danger pretty much all the time and sometimes that danger catches up to them in the most unlikely of places. Jai's death; the subsequent rift between Annie, Joan, and the usual cadre of allies; and the whoooole messy, shady, occasionally WTF-y relationship with Simon began the process of ditching the Barbie Dream Spyplane and sort of rebranding Covert Affairs as a srs bsns drama. Season 3 started the process and came so, so close to getting there at various points in the season, but it was just so sloppy that it never quite got there. (Sry.)
Enter Season 4: Yeah. I think we got there.
USA Network as a whole has been shifting the tone to darker or at the very least, more-mature-but-not-porn-mature programming, starting with Political Animals two summers ago and continuing with Graceland this past summer. It makes perfect sense that the shift would also extend to the ranks of the network's higher-performing shows, which can weather such change without alienating viewers. I mean, if Psych suddenly turned into a gritty crime drama, we'd have some issues, but White Collar could benefit from a little grit, and Covert Affairs has flourished after getting a few dings on the Barbie Spy Corvette. Maybe it's just the lingering sentiments from that lovely closing scene with Annie on the boat, heading back into her life after so long in the cold, but the writing felt a lot less constrained this season, as though the show had finally been given the freedom to be what it had always, deep down, wanted to be.
The depth that was added to Covert Affairs' core characters this season will serve the series well into its fifth season and hopefully beyond. I mocked Walkerson a lot for acting like gross annoying teenagers whenever they were in the same room, but it was important for us to see that softer, dopier side of these two agents, especially as their situations forced them to toughen up as the season progressed. Arthur and Joan have never been more interesting than they are now, with the full dynamics of their relationship revealed, and their roles expanded beyond "hardass bosses with trust issues." Even Calder, upon introduction, was poised to become just another human obstacle for Team Annie, until he became not just a surprise ally, but an awesome one. Congrats on surviving the entire season, bro!
Henry Wilcox also underwent a quick and major change, falling from almost unparalleled power to a cockroach scurrying for cover in just a handful of episodes. I would have liked some more explanation as to why Henry was such an epic dickhead, but at the very least, his "scorpion" comment lent itself to the possibility that maybe Wilcox didn't need a valid reason for his actions. Maybe the dude was just awful. Sometimes, people just are.
"Our relationships are what define us as spies" is what Annie said to Wilcox right before he traded her to the Chinese government for train tix (and probs a pack of smokes), and it was especially telling that despite Henry's taunt about Annie technically being dead, it was Annie who had the strong backing of her friends, coworkers, and her country—not Wilcox, despite his once-formidable presence. Annie Walker invests in her relationships and surrounds herself with flawed, but genuinely well-intentioned people, where Wilcox bought and sold allegiances like just another commodity.
It's with a unified front and a clean slate that we close the book on Season 4 and look forward to Season 5 sometime next summer. With Wilcox off the table, theoretically, the possibilities are endless. We can go anywhere and do anything. What would you like to do? Where do you hope to see Annie when we catch up with her again?
– Calder bringing Joan into the CIA sleepover to suss out the Wilcox supporters was like FIND THE WITCHES! BURN THEMMMM! At least it was to me. Sometimes my brain provides its own narration. Whatever. It keeps things interesting.
– Can we talk about what a BAMF Joan is, walkin' into the hospital like her labor is no big? Or the fact that Covert Affairs resisted the urge all season long to turn Joan's pregnancy into this big, tense, melodramatic THING and I love them forever for it? Here's a pile of brownie points, don't blow them all in one place.
– Do you think there are any Wilcox loyalists left to stir things up, or did that loyalty end when the paychecks stopped?
– Will you be back for Season 5?
– Can we keep Calder? I want to keep Calder. PLEEEEEEZE?
– Thanks for reading! It's been fun! XOXO BYE.
AIRED ON 11/21/2013
Season 4 : Episode 16