Previously on The Americans, ‘Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow
“If we believed in God, I’d say pray”
The Americans make a lot of parallels to Communism (my favorite being Mary Kay), none more so than religion. Philip has been struggling with his crisis of faith for seasons, even turning to EST for a more palatable ideology. Elizabeth was more resolute in her devotion, but the love for her family is strong enough to shake her belief system. Elizabeth’s mother was a major influence in joining the cause. In the beginning, it was her mother’s ideals more than her own that pushed Elizabeth. Her mother’s illness likely fueled Elizabeth’s desire to make her mama proud. Her determination solidified and became her own. But, the cause also distanced Elizabeth from her mother. It made it impossible for Elizabeth to be by her mother’s side when she died.
Now that her mother has passed, Elizabeth is opening up to finding her own truth. In this episode, as Elizabeth faces her own mortality, she sees the fate of her daughter coming very close to mirroring her own. She is wracked with guilt and fear over Paige’s future. Sticking to her dogma means less to her than keeping her family intact. Last episode, she told Philip they had no choice. This episode, she realizes she does. Rather than risk losing Paige by killing Pastor Tim, Elizabeth chooses a harder path. She is not ready to leave her faith and run, but she’s questioning its rhetoric.
“When I was young, I was afraid all the time”
Near-death experiences bring out the softer side in our other characters, as well. Gabriel makes a surprising recovery and shares a little about his youth. For once, he seems to be genuinely on Elizabeth and Philip’s side. Well, mostly. He still has to give the Center the Turning Paige carrot to get Pastor Tim off the kill list.
William gives Philip a peak underneath his sardonic exterior. He takes good care of Gabriel and the Jennings. He tells Philip it’s hard not to have anyone to talk to in their line of work and seems wistful at the Jennings’ caring relationship. William used to have a partner but it “didn’t work out.” I’m sure we’ll get more on that later, this season.
There was only one actual death in this episode. It was anticipated from the moment Oleg said he would stay in Russia if his father helped her. It was furthered by a dream sequence of an honorable and happy release with Anton. It was a certainty when they woke her up, gathered her things and marched her down a stark corridor. We knew/feared what the attorney was going to say even before the translation appeared at the bottom of our screen.
What was unexpected was the shot to the head seconds after the pronouncement. It was quick, sudden and painless. Some might consider it merciful. The harshest part came with the lingering shot of her body lying in the hallway and the unhurried and routine clean up afterwards. Those left behind suffer most. Dosvidaniya, Nina Krilova.
Just because you’re paranoid…
Martha may fair better than Paige for Russia’s Next Top Spy. She realizes her phone might be tapped and clumsily leaves an ambiguous (but painful) message for not-Clark. At dinner with Aderholt, she gets it together. Martha stares at Aderholt’s nose, mixes truth with fiction, and delivers a credible story Elizabeth would be proud of. Dramatic irony drips everywhere when she talks of dating a married man, honesty and wigs, but we’ll allow it because she’s Martha and because we’re worrying over Stan finding the gun and because we’re laughing at Stan flipping through The Kama Sutra. Also, the timing of Martha biting into her appetizer was the best.
Martha isn’t the only female Stan sets on edge. He oh, so, casually asks Paige about her parents. She also delivers a credible cover story (but in a far less credulous way) and runs off. Stan’s Enigmatic Suspicious Face is in full effect. His gut is either leading him down the Jennings-As-Good-Spies Path or Jennings-As-Bad-Parents Path. Hard to tell with Stan.
It was good to see Oleg with his father in Russia. It gives a little more depth into a relationship only alluded to, thus far. Doesn’t look like Oleg is staying in Russia (sigh), but I hope they take the time to flesh his character out a little more before he goes. I also hope they ease up on the Russian Blue tint.
The writers of this show really know how to write for teenagers. Henry’s scenes with Stan continue to bring joy to the screen. Henry’s sweet candor and Stan’s goofy awkwardness work well together. It looks like Henry is going to get a surrogate brother, soon. One who doesn’t wear cologne but knows a lot about computers.
Elizabeth gives her very best Natasha when telling Paige bowling was a “vital part of training.”
Spy that Baby
Keri Russel is pregnant while they were shooting this season. Let’s look for all the ways they try to conceal her baby bump in every episode, starting with this one. This episode was little more than loose clothes, but an honorable mention goes to the writers. It’s a TV trope to show a woman throwing up to signify the character’s pregnancy. I don’t think many show a woman throwing up to signify the actor’s pregnancy.
The Americans S4E4
This was a thoughtful piece. It added depth to our characters and had some great directorial choices. It wasn’t the most entertaining episode to watch (Henry and Stan, aside) and light on the action, but it gave us good insight into Elizabeth and her character progression. I think it’ll prove important in informing choices made later this season. I loved the way they handled the death of Nina in the final scene. There was an honest truth about it. Harsh and bleak and very real.