While this show is still one of the most gripping dramas on television, it seems like the penultimate season has been lacking a true sense of urgency, especially when compared to the spectacular fourth season. Part of that is due to its slow pace, and while that’s never stopped this show from achieving greatness before, it does seem like the writers are unnecessarily dragging a few plot points now.
A huge aspect of The Americans‘ charm is the way it forces us to love Philip and Elizabeth’s operations as well as their new disguises and targets. Martha, Clark and Young Hee were all impeccably written characters, and we loved them despite how flawed or deceiving some of them were (I’m looking at you, Clark). Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about any of our new guests, whether it’s Sofia, “Wheat-Guy” Benjamin or Deirdre, who despite some hilarious kinks still comes off as a bit dull and one-dimensional. The back half of the season might prove me wrong, but so far everything we’ve seen of these people has been underwhelming and they’re not nearly as compelling as their predecessors.
Luckily, the performances on this show continue to be Emmy-worthy. Elizabeth opening up to Paige about her rape certainly stands out as one of the most gripping, raw moments on television. I might sound like a broken record, but it’s still inspiring how much Keri Russell can convey with only a few looks. Her repeated use of the word “rape” is a fascinating reflection of her strong personality, especially since she is able to speak so candidly about the issue, which is incredibly uncommon for television. Holly Taylor does a terrific job as well, both in the basement training scene and in the way she questions her mother about life without the KGB. These two have truly been delivering powerhouse performances all year, and I’d gladly see more of them than Sofia or Wheat-Guy.
Bits in Disguise
– This episode ran over 70 minutes, which should have given the writers enough time to spice things up a little. All the more unacceptable to have such a slow episode.
– Margo Martindale (Claudia) is still a series highlight. The last time she spoke with Philip and Elizabeth was during the season two finale when she warned them that the Centre is looking into recruiting Paige, so it’s nice to finally see them reunite after so long.
– Intense scene as Oleg’s room gets searched after he illegally obtains information about his mother through government records.
– Brilliant detail: hearing the same Lost in Space scene when Paige is switching through the channels because there were only a few channels available back in 1984.
– Tuan is lonely and continues to beg his faux-parents for attention. I’m a little tired of this character already.
– Why does this show keep mentioning Henry’s female friend? Is she a spy?
– Elizabeth stares at a patch of drywall before telling Paige about her rape because that’s the spot where she smashed Timoshev’s head when they fought all the way back in the pilot. Even more impressive is the fact that we don’t relive the moment in a typical flashback. Amazing.
– Priceless moment: Stan stating he doesn’t want to die before Mathew goes to college, followed by an awkward look on Philip and Elizabeth’s faces because they’re unsure what Renee might drag this poor guy into.
– This show has always been excellent at dry humor, which made Deirdre breaking up with Philip a hoot to watch. The fact that she immediately picks up the phone later when he tells her he’s married, an obvious ploy to play a more assertive role, is even funnier.
Quips from the Motherland
Elizabeth: I can’t believe we’re never going to see [Gabriel] again.
Philip: I’m glad.
Elizabeth: Come on.
Philip: I am. All those years by our side, I just think he was doing his job.
Elizabeth: He can do his job and still care about us.
Philip: Let’s do this a little differently from now on.
Claudia: How would you like to do it?
Philip: You tell us what to do, and we’ll do it.
Claudia: Isn’t that how this works?
Sofia: Yuri Tkachuk. He thinks he’s a big man and he knows everything but he know nothing.
Aderholt: So it’s not that different from the FBI then.
Sofia: Do you have a Yuri too?
Stan: Every office has a Yuri.
Elizabeth: I know how hard it is. I was scared like that. For a long time. When I was eighteen, a man–I was raped. And I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I didn’t tell anyone for a very long time.
Paige: (cries) Mom…
Elizabeth: No, no, no, Paige, no, listen to me. The thing is, I trained as hard as I could every day. I imagined that man’s face every time I fought, and the more I fought the better I felt, until one day I knew no one was gonna hurt me like that again. And I’m okay. I’m not afraid anymore. And you’re not going to be either. Okay?
Paige: Do you like what you do?
Elizabeth: I wish I didn’t have to do it, but I’m proud to help my country.
Paige: If you didn’t have to serve your country like this, what would you do?
Elizabeth: I never thought about it much.
Paige: Not ever?
Elizabeth: I’d want to be a doctor.
Paige: (laughs) Really?
Elizabeth: What’s wrong with that?
Paige: You have no bedside manner, mom.
Elizabeth: Oh. That’s true.
What started out as a great episode sadly fizzles out in the end. Let’s hope the show picks up the pace soon enough!