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The Americans – S5E1 – Amber Waves

Previously on The Americans

Images: FX

Images: FX

The season five premiere of The Americans starts off following a teenager. No, Not Paige. This unknown Vietnamese boy sits down next to another boy. No, not Henry. He takes his unknown Russian new friend home to meet his parents. Introducing, Mr. And Mrs. Eckart played by the very well-known Philip and Elizabeth Jennings. Wait, what?

Kick in the familiar, reassuring theme music. But the theme music then transitions into America the Beautiful sung in Russian over rather depressing images. Wait, what?

Welcome back to this darkly funny, wickedly twisted, and wrenchingly emotional show.  How we’ve missed your unique taste and depth of flavor.

We’ve only jumped forward a month or so from the season four finale, but a lot has changed. No, the Jennings haven’t ditched their kids and adopted a new life along with a Vietnamese boy. It’s just another mission. Tuan Eckart seems like just another adopted son of a pilot and a stewardess (this was the pre “flight attendant” days), but he’s really a super spy with a sneer. He seems to be completely on top of this mission. He’s either a cautionary tale or a role model for Paige’s future career with The Centre.

Above the Fruited Plain

The Eckarts’ mark is the Russian boy’s father, Alexei Morozov, a disgruntled Russian consultant for the Department of Agriculture. It seems food politics are set to play an important part of this season. Alexai grumbles about bread lines to anyone who will listen, including his government employers, and we learn corruption in the food trade organization will be the focus of Oleg’s new job at the KGB in Moscow.

Food scarcity has been a constant struggle for Russia historically, and it is no surprise that in such an environment corruption amongst those with power would occur. Season five is set in 1984, just prior to the outwardly sharp decline of the USSR.

Nikolai Ryzhkov, Gorbachev’s prime minister, said of 1985 “[We] stole from ourselves, took and gave bribes, lied in the reports, in newspapers, from high podiums, wallowed in our lies, hung medals on one another.”

Food Collage

This show will likely explore this through the food trade lens. Speaking of food, it plays a big part in this episode. The theme song ironically ends with a Russian official munching on lunch. Tuan and Pasha bond in the cafeteria. Oleg’s mom seems to keep a full kitchen. The Eckarts and Morozovs bond over dinner. Stan makes pasta (sans vegetables) for those poor Jennings kids, ruining Paige’s appetite for dessert with her parents.

Pound of Flesh

Poor William. He didn’t rat out the Jennings. He’s just dead. His last mission is to donate his diseased dead body to the cause and it’s up to the Jennings, Hans, and some randoms to help out. So they dig a big, big hole to uncover William and excise his skin. What would an episode of The Americans be without some nasty? A job well done until Hans falls and stupidly gets infected. And with absolutely no surprise to anyone except for Hans, Elizabeth kills him. What would an episode of the The Americans be without some killing of named characters? This closing of William’s storyline and confirmation of Elizabeth’s icy professionalism was a fairly satisfying “we’re back” way to end this episode.

Time (not so) Well Spent

The exhumation of William took a good ten minutes. I understand they wanted to show the difficulties of the task and build a little suspense as to what they would uncover. I think they fell short of the mark. While I enjoyed the payoff, the digging was rather arduous to watch…which could be the point, but didn’t make for entertaining television. There were far better ways to use this time. This could have been replaced by Elizabeth taking Paige to the gun range and giving her life lessons while blowing heads off targets.

Mischa

Likewise, there were far too many scenes devoted to showing Philip’s other son, Micha, silently make his way to the United States. I theoretically like the idea of showing his long and stressful journey, unsure of what he’ll find at the end, but it felt ill placed in this premiere. Or just more time with Philip’s other son hanging out with his other father, Stan.

If nothing else, Gabriel and Claudia just sitting in silence would have been more captivating (more of those two, please).

Mentionables

  • Oh, the Irony – This show has always been ironic. This season it has unintentional deepened, uneasily reflecting our current global climate. Invest in wigs.
  • Nevertheless, she persisted – It’s fitting for Elizabeth to teach her daughter how to fight back in an episode airing the during Women’s History Month (and the night before International Women’s Day). “You have to be able to do anything to protect yourself.” And she does mean anything.

Punch

  • Millennial Prototype – After trying to hack in the real world, Oleg has moved back in with his parents.
  • One-Sided, Star-Crossed Lovers – Paige and Matthew. Philip and Elizabeth forbade such a union. It could be a tragic love story but for goofy Stan, the ultimate Maige shipper. It’s a little weird he’s so into having his kids (surrogate and otherwise) date.
  • Speaking of Stan – He just has no game. He should talk to Henry. Whenever Henry has the time to show up, that is.
  • Cold War Starts at Home –There is a distinct distance between Philip and Elizabeth. In a food-filled episode, we don’t see the Jennings family eat together.

’80s Flashback

  • Devo’s That’s Good plays over Tuan introduction in the cafeteria
  • The A-Team is on TV
  • Stan is getting water for purple leotards at the gym
  • Stewardesses with tight outfits and weight restrictions
  • Paige sports an Esprit sweatshirt
  • The 1984 Olympics – the Soviet Union initiated the largest Olympic games boycott

Despite a little flagging in areas, this episode held together and delivered. I’m so glad it is back.

The Americans S5E1
  • 8.5/10
    Plot - 8.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Action - 8.5/10
  • 9/10
    Dialogue - 9/10
  • 9/10
    Performances - 9/10
8.8/10

"Amber Waves"

Starring: Kerri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Holly Taylor, Keidrich Sellati, Noah Emmerich, Costa Ronin

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About Mallika Chakravarti (99 Articles)
Mallika is a digital marketer, yoga teacher and nutritionist. She spends her fun time writing, podcasting, consuming vast amounts of media and wishing she could fly. Mallika can currently be found thinking of something else.
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