Culture

“The Americans” review: “The Walk-In”

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Woof. And I thought getting disciplined by my dad was rough. “Parents are private about everything,” Paige’s new friend Kelly says. Phillip and Elizabeth’s private lives, however, seem to threaten Paige’s very life. As her parents try to patch up the wake of Emmett and Leanne’s death, Paige ditches D.C. to visit her aunt. Paige is pushing the boundaries like any normal teenager, but I am afraid to see where it will land her when she reaches the threshold.

The Americans continues to distinguish itself into two intertwining stories: The Jennings and Stan and Nina. Missions of the week exist to an extent, but in the similar FX structure. With the two narratives actively providing opportunities for these missions, they can sometimes trade off or combine. This week brought us the former as Stan’s mission greatly overshadows the Jennings’ visit to Newport News. Following the establishment of Bruce Dameron, a walk-in to The Center, Stan is hot on the case of the World Bank employee. One cannot help but think of Gregory from Season 1 when an American defects to communism. Capitalism has hurt so many people in the world of The Americans. Experiences like Vietnam have pushed them to see their own government differently, to see it as an enemy.

The same shift of perspective is happening for Paige right now. She is starting to see her parents through a different lens. They are flawed human beings, and that realization terrifies her. She doesn’t really know the people who raised her. One of the greatest difficulties these KGB spies have with their cover is a lack of relatives. Paige has a hard time wrapping her head around the concept, leading her to Harrisburg to see her “aunt.” The result is a clever move of KGB spy work, one I did not anticipate. Matthew Rhys is absolutely electric as he confronts his lying daughter. He commands the screen with sneering anger. With each passing episode, Paige is feeling more like a possible foe than a daughter. If and when she finds her parents out, I worry that it could mean her life. Phillip is slowly revealing a side that could be capable of this. Let’s not forget that innocent boy he shot in the premiere; could that be an allusion to his future with Paige?

Elizabeth stays out of the family issues with week as she goes to meet Emmett and Leanne’s only living son, Jared. In a brief flashback, we learn that they wanted their son to know their identities through a letter they wrote. Elizabeth is tasked with the delivery of the letter. Keri Russell really deserves recognition for being taken seriously in her ridiculous disguises. The middle-aged ‘80s fashion is not lost on the costume designer of The Americans. The bowl cuts and sweater vests always have me thinking of Talia Shire’s Adrian before she dates Rocky. Through those thick-rimmed glasses, we still see a very real person struggling with her future.

Can we take a minute to appreciate the ‘80s pop music that inhabits The Americans’ soundtrack? Many articles should and have been written of this component of the production. Even though I am not old enough to have experienced the ‘80s, I am immediately transported to a time at once familiar and different. The contemplative montage showing every character is a trope for many FX dramas, but The Americans’ song selection is ranking it among the best. (Your move, Sons of Anarchy.)

Also, the flashbacks tonight explore Elizabeth’s decision to have Paige. This is a crucial moment because many signs pointed to Gregory possibly being her father. I guess that doesn’t rule out Henry, though. Henry, by the way, looks at stars this week. So that happened.