Culture

“The Americans” review: “A Little Night Music”

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The fourth wall smirk. It’s a classic trope utilized by many cinematic con artists. Many of them are directly at the camera. It’s that moment where the audience goes, “Oh, this guy is so clever, he knows he’s in a movie.” Everyone from Ferris Bueller to Frank Underwood has proven its strength. The Americans is a show made of weekly cons. One week Phillip is a Texan businessman, the next he looks like one of those guys who watched over Imhotep in The Mummy. Now, Phillip and Elizabeth are not characters who would go as far as to look directly into the camera. The stakes of the show don’t really reflect that kind of behavior. What they do give us, however, are those little moments when their marks aren’t looking. It’s a minor device that The Americans makes the most of. Elizabeth appears distracted and upset as Brad starts kissing her neck. It’s starting to bother her that she has to pleasure random men while Phillip is off tracking down The Scientist. Phillip’s “smirk” offers a completely different perspective: his “smirk” is absent. No matter who he is facing or where he is with a target, he never allows Phillip to break through.

The disconnect between the two is likely why they ended this episode at such a low count. They are attempting to communicate, but they may not be listening. The FBI may have a jump on the KGB, and the friction is not doing well for anyone. This especially includes Claudia (Margo Martindale), a sight for sore eyes, who is in need of the Jennings’ help. Neither party appears too enthused about the matter, but desperation is starting to sink in. After their conflict of interests in Season 1, Claudia became the handler for Emmett and Leanne. She wants vengeance as well as protection. Elizabeth’s walls may slowly come down for the woman, but they are far from peaches and cream. Her current lead for the murder of Emmett and Leanne is a special agent, Andrew Lerrick. Elizabeth goes to work some magic with one of his more innocent colleagues, while Phillip tracks The Scientist. Phillip and Elizabeth working slightly off the books like this is a bit risky, but they appear to be on their game. At least for now.

So many elements are pulling at the duo in this episode. Elizabeth must seduce Brad. Phillip is keeping up his fake marriage with Martha (which may lead to a fake divorce, too). Meanwhile, Stan finally comes forth about his affair, but Nina has yet to be named. The worlds’ possible collision inches nearer and nearer. At home, Paige has picked up a Bible from her new friend. Elizabeth’s horror at Paige considering any kind of organized religion is a side we have yet to see from the Jennings. Sometimes the ideologies of our protagonists can be easily forgotten. The Americans asks us to root for communists fighting against the United States. Occasionally, they do criticize the American way of life, if but for a moment. The characters’ likeability can be tested here. Elizabeth, at the end of the day, is a mother like any other. How she wants to raise her children is ingrained in her. The worry now, however, is that she may lose her daughter to capitalism before anything else. Paige continues to challenge the Jennings’ way of life, but the pace, again, inches along.

Our final moments truly challenge Phillip and Elizabeth as agents. Fighting has never been a frontal element of The Americans. This is not Arrow, and an MMA-style fight is not required weekly. It was refreshing to see a bit of hand-to-hand combat this week, though. Phillip and Elizabeth’s lack of use of their training shows. They have become a little rusty in that aspect. Their enemy’s anticipation is too calculated for what appeared to be a simple pick-up. Next week will require a lot of cleanup work. I just hope the Jennings can plan properly.

Wild theory of the night: Is Oleg an American spy? I know his family is the reason for his swift acquisition of Nina’s reports, but something appears off about him. Nina does not view him as a romantic interest, and he gets a little too much attention this week. Arkady has enough on his plate without this guy being so intrusive. Something to mull over, I suppose.