That was one of the finest hours of television I have ever seen.
The Americans has always excelled at leaving its characters to convey so much emotion with very few words and as little exposition as possible, but Crossbreed goes beyond that thanks to some remarkable performances by its two leads. Keri Russell is beyond fantastic in every single scene, whether she is at therapy coming up with a half-fake story or snapping at the Mary Kay rep because it reminds her of Young Hee. Mathew Rhys is just as remarkable as he struggles with his inner turmoil while unravelling old family secrets, leading him to the realization that he didn’t really know his parents. It all perfectly culminates in that final bone-chilling sequence as Elizabeth and Philip take Paige to meet Gabriel at the end of the episode, thus signaling the beginning of a whole new era. Absolutely incredible.
It’s worth noting that Frank Langella also does an amazing job portraying the guilt and heartbreak Gabriel feels when he’s forced to lie to Philip and Elizabeth about Mischa as he tells them about his decision to go back to Russia. If Langella is truly leaving after the end of this season, it will be a huge loss for the show, but the manner in which he splendidly brought this complex character to life is a testament to his incredible performance. I’m even hoping he makes it back alive – even though we probably shouldn’t be rooting for the other side.
Additionally, it’s always riveting to watch the Jennings contemplate the missions they’re assigned on. Elizabeth having doubts about where she stands, especially after finding out she still has to see Ben, was stunning. She’s not as vocal or honest about her feelings as Philip, who would probably defect right away if he knew she was having second thoughts as well, so to see her get candid about the last few developments is a huge and welcome change for the character.
This season has been infinitely more thematic and powerful, mainly in the way it’s dealt with the family drama aspect of the show, and if this episode isn’t a contender for one of the best well-written hours of television of the year, then I don’t know what is.
Bits in Disguise
– I’m not sure we’ve seen the last of Mischa. It all has to connect somehow soon again, right?
– Loved the emphasis on Elizabeth’s face as she does Tai Chi with Ben. Notice how the camera cuts him out of the frame at the end to give you a sense of how much Elizabeth is enjoying it despite her initial reaction.
– The extreme close-ups are another reason to love this episode, and they reminded me of American Crime, another excellent show that uses this technique so often that it feels like a clever storytelling device there.
– Stunning parallels between Gabriel standing in front of the Lincoln memorial and Oleg in front of the statue in Russia.
– The beauty of this show is that it keeps you guessing on what the Jennings are up to sometimes. I was scratching my head trying to figure out what on earth Elizabeth was doing before she went into Semel’s office.
– Priceless moment: Elizabeth rolling her eyes as she leaves the therapist’s office.
– We find out that Henry’s secret friend Chris is indeed a girl!
– On that note, anyone else got Breaking Bad vibes from the Stan/Henry lunch scene?
– Beautiful cinematography and lighting during Philip and Gabriel’s conversation about Philip’s dad. Notice the light every time the camera is on Philip, juxtaposed with the darkness when we move over to Gabriel.
– Heartbreaking moment with Elizabeth parked outside Young Hee’s house as she finds out that someone else is living there now.
– I genuinely thought Oleg was going to kill himself in that haunting final sequence, but to see him burn that tape after thinking Stan betrayed him was a beautiful metaphor to him feeling “freed” – especially since it occurs after he watches over the poor prisoner.
– A lesser show would have went from Philip’s line about not knowing his parents very well to him telling Elizabeth he doesn’t want the same thing happening with Paige before it’s cut to her meeting Gabriel. What a show.
– How tonally jarring was that music at the end? Still loved every second of it.
Quips from the Motherland
Elizabeth: Is something wrong with me?
Gabriel: It’s a long career. And there is nothing wrong with you. Ever.
Philip: We didn’t have anything. And now we have everything. It’s so strange sometimes.
Elizabeth: I know.
Ben: (to Elizabeth) I feel like there’s a whole other you I don’t know at all.
Gabriel: I’ve never lied to them before.
Claudia: He’s lied to you. You did the right thing.
Paige: Mom, you weren’t nice to her.
Elizabeth: Well, we weren’t gonna buy anything. Being nice would just be a waste of her time.
Gabriel: Philip, as long as you’re here, the Centre is going to continue to be concerned about you. Once they start worrying about somebody, they never stop. And now, the lab. And to be honest, I’m worried. You’ve seen too much, you’ve done too much. I’ll miss you terribly.
(about Elizabeth going to therapy)
Philip: He ask you about your dreams? I thought that’s what they like to talk about.
Paige: What’s it like there? Is everybody equal?
Elizabeth: We have our problems. But everybody is in it together.
Paige: You haven’t been there in a long time.
Elizabeth: That’s what your dad says.
With its tight script, phenomenal performances and game-changing ending, Crossbreed proves to be a truly exceptional piece of television.