The Americans is one of the most captivating and timely shows on television right now, so it’s frustrating that the first episode I get to review in full detail is also one of my least favorites.
On paper, there’s almost nothing wrong with the season’s fourth installment, but on a deeper look it becomes clear that it’s slightly underwhelming. The Mischa subplot in particular has been disappointing and a much more exhausting slow-burn than it needs to be. No one expects a fast-paced storyline on The Americans (and if you do, you’re watching the wrong show), but there’s something unsatisfyingly restless about watching Philip’s illegitimate son try to make his way to America. The payoff will undoubtedly be great—as it always is—but I wouldn’t mind fast-forwarding through this one.
Luckily, the rest of the episode picks up the pace a whole lot. Paige’s character development is one of my favorite things this show has ever explored, and watching her act like a spy at Pastor Tim’s house was both terrifying and engrossing. She’s clearly following her parents’ footsteps, much to their dismay, and I can’t wait to see how this whole storyline blows up in the end. If there’s anything I’m worried about, it’s whatever Henry has been up to lately—and where the hell he’d been hiding for so long.
Also, how fascinating are Alexi Morozov, the Soviet defector Philip has deceptively befriended this season, and his wife Evgheniya? I’ve never cared so much about Philp and Elizabeth’s espionage escapades as I do this year. There are so many layers to peel with Alexi constantly reminding the Jennings, who are pretending to be Gus and Brenda this time, how horrible the Motherland is. Every single line is thought-provoking, and every delivery and facial expression from Keri Russell and Mathew Rhys is astounding and riveting. It’s almost impossible not to smile when the two families are at dinner, especially as the Jennings put on their innocent “we don’t speak Russian” looks on their faces in brilliant fashion.
Finally, I would be foolish not to mention Stan’s powerful moment in this episode as he stood up for Oleg by blackmailing Aderholt. Noah Emmerich’s voice slightly breaking at the end makes this one of his best performances to date. My only wish is to have Oleg’s subplot finally intertwine with Martha’s this season because the possibilities are truly endless here.
Bits in Disguise
– There’s definitely something fishy about Renee, right? Is she a KGB spy? What does she know exactly?
– Can we get more scenes of Elizabeth training Paige please?
– The show’s art department makes an astonishing job every week, bringing the Moscow scenes to life and distinguishing them from the DC scenes. Truly impressive.
– Goosebumps worthy moment between Paige and Elizabeth as the former explains that she knew exactly what she doing at Pastor Tim’s house.
– My favorite moment of the season so far happened in the second episode when Elizabeth tells the Morozov’s at dinner “we understand”, which carries a dual meaning. On one hand, she’s telling Mrs. Morozov that there’s no need to explain why her husband is so vocal about hating Russia, and on the other hand, Elizabeth literally means she and Philip understand everything they’re saying in Russian. Brilliant writing.
– Also, I screamed when Martha showed up at the grocery story in the third episode. The way the shot was framed to linger on this scarfed woman just long enough to make us think Oleg was returning to the frame was phenomenal and only made the Martha reveal all the more impactful.
– The promos for next week have me super excited. I can’t wait!
Quips from the Motherland
Philip: Do you think we’re gonna get fired?
Elizabeth: It’s not funny.
Philip: I know.
Philip: You like him?
Elizabeth: I have to sit there with him while he makes his jokes. The guy’s laughing while he’s trying to starve an entire country.
Elizabeth: I understand what you were doing, and it was smart, and it was brave. But Paige, if there is any slip, if they sense anything from you, Alice wouldn’t come to us next time. She would go straight to the FBI.
Paige: I’m sorry. But I was there, not you.
The season’s first weak entry, but there’s no denying this is still one of the most gripping dramas on television.