The Americans 2.01 “Comrades” Review: Happy Families

27 Feb

The return of The Americans has been high on the TV Ate My Wardrobe 2014 anticipation list and we’re going to review it in a similar fashion Masters of Sex and Scandal (back tonight!). This means there will be a strong focus on the costuming aspects and with a show like The Americans there is a huge variety of looks thanks to the many disguises. As with Masters of Sex it’s a period show, so there will be less emphasis on how you can recreate the looks (as with Scandal) and more discussion on thematic issues. Or general wig appreciation. The Americans has a strong focus on notions of identity and while the espionage aspect helps create tension, it’s the central relationship and how they navigate their duplicitous lifestyle that makes it more than just a spy show.

The Americans 2.01Starting with the reunited Jennings family and this is the role they have been playing for the longest. The focus of this year is going to be on family as Elizabeth and Philip are a much stronger unit, but now there comes a threat from within as Paige is starting to question where her parents go and what they are really doing in the laundry room. It’s all very wholesome as they celebrate Henry’s birthday and all the different necked sweaters (turtle, roll, cowl) make an appearance in “Comrades,” because hey the Jennings’ are just like us (well if we were also in 1982). In an episode of Felicity I just watched Felicity is referred to as the “Queen of Sweaters” and it looks like Keri Russell will be challenging for this title on The Americans. Paige seems pretty happy to see her parents being affectionate with each other and indulging in date night, well until she doesn’t knock on the door and walks in on a very intimate act. Will this convince her that she shouldn’t be snooping anymore? Like Elizabeth I’m surprised that she even came down for breakfast after witnessing that. Talk about permanent scars.

the Americans 2.01 turtle neckMore turtlenecks and the super awkward breakfast that rivals anything that Breaking Bad did over eggs, Henry’s taking the Walt Jr. position of being blissfully unaware of any subtext. I’m kinda hoping we get to see his birthday present (a telescope) coming into play later in the season as a useful spy tool. The computer game he was really after doesn’t hold as much use for his parents.

The Americans 2.01 paisleyPhilip’s work wear and leisure clothes are pretty interchangeable, whereas Elizabeth definitely has more of a strict division between office and home. Here she is showing that ’70s fashion is still creeping in with a paisley blouse and the vest is added after breakfast, turning the outfit from mom wear to work attire.

the Americans elizabeth and henryThe threat also hits close to home when they have to complete a mission while out with their family, something Philip says is off limits. But hey it’s a simple pass and everything will be fine, except it isn’t and their co-workers (are other spies co-workers?) end up dead and there’s panic that Henry and Paige are in danger. Henry and Paige are blissfully unaware and once again I want Henry’s jacket – though it will never beat his color block one from last season.

8BIM:Oh Philip, you look like a regular dad having a day out with your family and yet you still end up in a hotel room full of dead bodies (not at your hands). This is what happens when you let other people know your weekend plans. Let’s hope the couple in the hallway didn’t get a good look at him and this lovely cowl neck sweater.

The Americans 2.01 handsI don’t know if there is a term for shipping a couple who are in a fake marriage, sleep with other people for work and have kids together, but if there is then this is what I am doing with Philip and Elizabeth. The hand grab after Philip reveals what a shitty mission he had the night before is possibly even more intimate than what comes after, no really. Sex is one thing, but it’s the other level of closeness that Elizabeth has previously had difficulty with. Not so anymore and the near death experience has made them stronger together, but will it end up impacting their work performance if the marriage is no longer pretend?

The Americans 2.01Now to the disguises and the fucked up mission Philip mentions is this one featuring a Texas accent, a blonde wig and a cowboy hat. It’s all goes to hell when Philip’s wig gets ripped off and it’s like seeing behind the curtain. There’s a reason why these wigs need to stay on as when they don’t, innocent people end up dead.

The Americans wig disaster

Here’s what it looks like under the wig. That’s a lot of glue and clips. By exposing Philip in this way the tan leather jacket and cowboy hat props end up looking ridiculous and out of place. In the original shot of the full disguise it makes sense and he looks pretty badass (yes the knife adds to that), but in the cold light in the kitchen the jacket suddenly looks too large.

The Americans 2.01 post disasterBack in the car and he briefly puts the cowboy hat on, but it’s too late and this disguise is done. Matthew Rhys shows just how devastating this is for Philip; he’s not just a cold blooded killer for hire with no emotions.

The Americans 2.01 airport securityThis assignment is more successful and it involves a tag team effort – the woman work the sex angle and the guys get to play airport security. There’s a moment where we see a close up of Elizabeth’s scar and later she talks to Leanne about being away from her family; it’s good to see Elizabeth opening up like this to someone who knows exactly what she is referring to. Unfortunately you shouldn’t get too attached in the spy business and Leanne ends up dead (along with her husband Emmett and her daughter). They are a mirror to Philip and Elizabeth, so their death coupled with the lack of clear explanation adds to the already ominous tone.

The Americans 2.01 clarkWhich brings us to yet another bespectacled Philip disguise and it’s the return of Clark. The argyle vest is very much part of his no danger look and while he’s airing his concerns to Martha she reassures him that “You’re home now.” He is anything but, as we cut to Elizabeth alone and despite their reunion everything is still just as precarious.

An excellent first episode back and it already feels like the stakes are higher this year. The shift from marriage to family doesn’t come across as forced and considering whom her parents are it feels natural that Paige is curious of what they are up to. While I haven’t touched on the Stan/Nina relationship, I am excited for where this is headed and how Stan was so incredulous about Nina’s reaction to Meryl Streep. 

16 Responses to “The Americans 2.01 “Comrades” Review: Happy Families”


  1. Out of the Box: Look of the Week | TV Ate My Wardrobe - February 28, 2014

    […] a big week for TV costuming with the return of three TV Ate My Wardrobe favorites The Americans, Scandal and Hannibal. All three of these shows deserve posts of their own and so we’re […]

  2. The Americans 2.02 “Cardinal” Review: “How are we Going to Live Like This?” | TV Ate My Wardrobe - March 6, 2014

    […] as to why two tests in one day is a bad idea. Paige is still suspicious and what she witnessed last week hasn’t deterred her […]

  3. The Americans 2.03 “The Walk In” Review: “They’re Never Going to Stop” | TV Ate My Wardrobe - March 13, 2014

    […] theory, more on that below. Elizabeth is dealing with the emotional fallout from the deaths in the season premiere and through a series of flashbacks we gain further insight into Elizabeth and her friendship with […]

  4. The Americans 2.04 “A Little Night Music” Review: “You’re Afraid. Too Afraid” | TV Ate My Wardrobe - March 20, 2014

    […] the season 2 premiere of The Americans Elizabeth’s abilities to compartmentalize has shifted and she […]

  5. The Americans 2.05 “The Deal” Review – What is Home? | TV Ate My Wardrobe - March 27, 2014

    […] it comes to Philip; the “Mr KGB Man” aspect of Philip, the one plays many roles and who will kill a young kitchen porter after he has seen his real face and there is Philip, father of two, loving husband and travel agent. The two aren’t separate […]

  6. The Americans 2.10 “Yousaf” Review: Mutually Assured Destruction | TV Ate My Wardrobe - May 1, 2014

    […] he is of them walking in as they do it on the dining table, but hey after what Paige saw in the premiere there will be no more sneaking around the house in the middle of the night for […]

  7. Best of TV Costuming 2014: The Marriage Disguise on The Americans | TV Ate My Wardrobe - December 4, 2014

    […] – sometimes in a manner that no child should see their parents engage in, which is why you ALWAYS knock – the whole system they have been working in became more precarious. Feelings equal higher […]

  8. The Americans 3.11 “One Day in the Life of Anton Baklanov” Review: “We Do Hard Things” | TV Ate My Wardrobe - April 9, 2015

    […] the end of the episode Paige knocks on her parents’ door – after last time she has definitely learned that knocking is key – and asks what they are talking about. […]

  9. The Americans 3.12 “I Am Abassin Zadran” Review: All in the Family | TV Ate My Wardrobe - April 16, 2015

    […] true face but pulling off the wig. We’ve only seen Philip’s wig removed twice; first during a fight, the second time he ripped it off in anger and this reveal is huge. There is something sinister […]

  10. Best of TV Costuming 2015: Removing Disguisies and Revealing the Truth on The Americans | TV Ate My Wardrobe - December 11, 2015

    […] by the smallest indicator of a nod. They still look like mom and dad and she didn’t have another experience where she should have knocked; however EVERYTHING about who they are from their names to their place of birth has been a lie and […]

  11. The Americans 4.03 “Experimental City of Tomorrow” Review: “Run, Run, Run” | TV Ate My Wardrobe - March 31, 2016

    […] quarantine blowing their other plans out of the water. Sorry Henry, no Epcot for you. Although the last time they went to a theme park things didn’t end well so maybe it is for the […]

  12. The Americans Season 5 Trailer: Gonna Need a Training Montage | TV Ate My Wardrobe - February 8, 2017

    […] this shot is very quick, but here are two new disguises. The last time Philip wore a hat like that it did not go well. A gentle stroll in the park or really a difference in opinion about Philip and Elizabeth; Claudia […]

  13. The Americans 5.01 “Amber Waves” Review: Protect Yourself | TV Ate My Wardrobe - March 8, 2017

    […] tuna noodle casserole is a thing people ate. Oh the ’80s. There was also that time Elizabeth ate bacon after Paige had walked in to her parents’ bedroom at an unfortunate time and a variety of kitchen items were used to conceal Keri Russell’s IRL bump last season […]

  14. The Americans 5.03 “Midges” Review: Even Cowboys Get the Blues | TV Ate My Wardrobe - March 22, 2017

    […] has a bad track record with the cowboy hat and the last time this was part of his disguise his wig got ripped off and another innocent bystander paid the price. This time it is a double team […]

  15. The Americans 5.04 “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” Review: Meet Cute | TV Ate My Wardrobe - March 29, 2017

    […] been friendship based. Post-end of season 1 reconciliation the only other honey traps Elizabeth has been a part of were during season 2 and this is ground they haven’t had to cover while their marriage has […]

  16. The Americans 5.05 “Lotus 1-2-3” Review: This is Us | TV Ate My Wardrobe - April 5, 2017

    […] to ensure their own safety and to keep up the cover; so when Philip’s wig was torn off at the start of season 2 and the young bus boy saw him there was only one option in Philip’s […]

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