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Archive | May, 2014

Mindy Kaling’s Harvard Law School Class Day Speech

30 May

As we edge into the summer season and plan what to catch up on (I just started season 2 of Game of Thrones so that plan is in full swing), there is still plenty of TV related action from other sources such as the many Emmy roundtables to commencement speeches at colleges across the country. One such speech comes from Mindy Kaling at the Harvard Law School Class Day ceremony.

Mindy Kaling HarvardDuring this speech Kaling jokes about why she is there as well as referring to previous graduate Elle Woods (of Legally Blonde) and squeezing in many pop culture references like Candy Crush, the Real Housewives and Wolf of Wall Street. Kaling alternates between heartfelt platitudes about her parents’ relationship with the U.S. – “Their romance with this country is more romantic than any romantic comedy that I could ever write” – and the responsibility these graduates have when it comes to the language of law. Leading on to the fear we all have when clicking the iTunes terms and conditions ‘accept’ box as “iTunes may own my ovaries for all I know.” It’s both funny and sweet; it’s exactly the kind of speech you would expect from Kaling and she mentions how silly it is to get advice from an actor when they should be the ones offering it (even if at least of couple of them are probably evil).

Watch the speech below and hey it’s a bonus Amy Poehler Harvard Class Day speech from 2011 if you fancy another funny/touching speech for afters (I might have a print out of this speech sitting in one of my desk trays).

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Out of the Box: Look of the Week

30 May

Switching things up this week for “Out of the Box” with a Mad Men mid-season finale special. My favorite look from this episode is what Peggy wore for her triumphant Burger Chef pitch and you can see that here. Janie Bryant continues to deliver a range of exceptional costumes that stay true to a particular character’s evolution and here are my other standouts from “Waterloo.” These include some ensembles that I’d like to have in my own closet and not just for a 1960s fancy dress party.

Mad Men 7.07 Peggy mint greenStarting with Peggy and I adore this mint green crew neck dress. The horizontal pattern is vibrant without ever edging into anything ‘typically’ 1969 and Peggy’s never going to go down the psychedelic route. Peggy’s worn some great things in the office this season and this is a dress that wouldn’t look out of place in 2014.

Mad Men 7.07 MeredithMeredith’s two piece is far less contemporary and her attempts at comforting Don are hilariously off the mark. The zigzag trim is very distracting, but the daisy pin can stay.

Mad Men 7.07 MeganIt’s the mint green phone which has played such a pivotal role in this long distance relationship and this is now coming to an end. Megan as always looks like no other character on this show and all season she has been embracing LA style distancing herself further from her life with Don. She’s relaxing in a super cool blue and orange bikini with a floral bathrobe that reads way more casual than her previous pink one – I guess bathrobes can fall into fancy and non-fancy categories.* I love that their relationship ends not with fireworks, but with a sad and accepting realization that this is dunzo. They’ve been done for a long time really and this season has been about going through the motions. This could in all likelihood be the last time we see Megan and yet as a fan of her character there’s part of me that hopes there will be an organic reason for an appearance during the final seven episodes.

*Update! It’s not a bathrobe, but a bathing suit cover up over the turquoise blue bikini with orange vinyl trim that Janie Bryant designed for Megan. Thanks to Janie Bryant for clarifying this on Twitter and solving my robe quandary.

Mad Men 7.07 Betty and SallyMoving onto summer suburban fashion back on the East Coast and Betty is as polished as she ever was. Sally’s plaid shirt and khaki shorts rejects her mother’s feminine style and it’s another example of plaid persevering through the ages; turn those shorts into denim and cut them a little higher – no underbutt please – and you’ve got a perfect summer look for now.

Mad Men 7.07 Sally as BettySally can’t escape her mother that easily and while Betty would never wear something like this as it’s far too modern, Sally’s hair and especially her smoking pose have an eerily similar quality to the person she has been sassing all season. The purple ensemble is cute and flirty without straying too far into ‘sexy sexy’ territory and all I want from this show is a happy ending for Sally. OK, add Peggy and Joan to that list.

Mad Men 7.07 PeteBack to the office and Pete’s tie perfectly matches the coffee cup that will always remind me of Bob Benson. Pete, you can’t escape the memory of Bob that easily.

Mad Men 7.07 Mad JoanThe red of Joan’s dress matches the anger on her face. It’s a great dress and I think I finally understood why Joan has been so mad at Don all season as her priorities as a single mother are different to the other partners. Plus when you factor in what she had to do to get a seat at the table her rage is explainable, I just wish they had done a better job with laying this out.

Mad Men 7.07 Ted and JimThis is more for the giant light bulb lamp in the background and Roger’s office is an interior design delight. Look at those curtains!

For more on this season of Mad Men head here.

 

Orange is the New Black’s Laverne Cox Covers Time Magazine

29 May

Laverne Cox didn’t make Time magazines ‘100 Influential People’ list in April despite dominating the reader poll (these votes don’t directly impact the final 100) and this omission caused outrage and surprise. Time magazine listened and the Orange is the New Black star is covering the magazine in a piece entitled “The Transgender Tipping” point. This is a really wonderful cover, free from the clutter of other bylines and Cox looks incredible in a midnight blue bandage dress.

Laverne Cox TimeThe Q&A on the website (the full cover story is behind the paywall) covers past and present; Cox’s isolation as a child, the progress that has been made and the challenges that still exist. One important thing she underlines is that each experience isn’t an exact reflection of someone else’s and this isn’t a reason to deny a person’s rights:

“There’s not just one trans story. There’s not just one trans experience. And I think what they need to understand is that not everybody who is born feels that their gender identity is in alignment with what they’re assigned at birth, based on their genitalia. If someone needs to express their gender in a way that is different, that is okay, and they should not be denied healthcare. They should not be bullied. They don’t deserve to be victims of violence. … That’s what people need to understand, that it’s okay and that if you are uncomfortable with it, then you need to look at yourself.”

Cox also talks about social media and how it has had positive impact “where we’re able to have a voice in a way that we haven’t been able to before. We’re being able to write our stories and we’re being able to talk back to the media … We are the reason. And we are setting the agenda in a different way.”

For more from this Q&A and a behind the scenes look head here.

TV Costume Designer Secrets Revealed at Vulture’s First Festival

29 May

Costume designers from some of the shows TV Ate My Wardrobe covers extensively took part in a panel at the inaugural Vulture festival a few weeks ago and it is about time a roundtable like discussion went beyond just the actors, directors and writers. It is a discussion I have been highly anticipating and it doesn’t disappoint as the costume designers talk about their process and the shows they work on in an insightful and detailed manner.

The panel consists of Lyn Paolo (ScandalShameless), Jenn Rogien (GirlsOrange is the New Black), Jenny Gering (The Americans) and Tom Broecker (SNLHouse of Cards). Scandal and The Americans are two shows we cover extensively on an episode-by-episode basis and Girls is another TAMW regular. We’re also pretty excited that season 2 of OITNB lands on Netflix in just over a week!

Vulture Festival costume designersA variety of genre, time period and socioeconomic situations provide the backdrops these costume designers work on. One of them has to deal with a live show and the parameters for that are very different from working on a pre-filmed comedy. Live TV is generally chat show based which is all about wardrobe rather than costume design, not SNL where a sketch can get changed at the last minute and Broeker’s 20 years working on the show has informed how he handles these quick turnarounds. Time constraints are something all panelists have to work with as scripts can come in very late; Lyn Paolo mentions this can be as late as the night before on Scandal, so she preps a lot ahead of time.

One important aspect they all agree on is what is on the page is the biggest influence and it is the writing that informs their design process. Sometimes this can be incredibly vague and Jenny Gering mentions how the disguise descriptions on The Americans are often sparse in detail. The disguises are not meant to call attention, they should be invisible and this is part of the reason why it will say “generic bureaucrat” and nothing more. As it’s a period show, costume helps establish time and place without distracting from the story they are telling. It’s why their version of the 80s is not about the big trends, especially on the adults as this wouldn’t be how a regular mom in 1982 would dress and especially one who is trying to fit in. Gering goes on to talk about the evolution of Paige and how as a 13/14 year old girl this is a very transitional period in her life where she wants to look older and be taken seriously. In the season finale while they are on their impromptu mini-vacation Paige very much looks like a mini version of her mother in similar sweaters and heeled boots; the slight tightening of her clothes/heel addition reflects her desire to look older.

Evolution of a character through costume is something all the panelists talk about and Jenn Rogien mentions color palette and silhouette changes over the three seasons of Girls. Shoshanna started with a very feminine shape and cosmetic color scheme of blush pinks and pastels, in season 2 yellow and purple were added and by the third year she has graduated to stronger color and way more black. Shoshanna has become more aware of her body and so her very feminine style has been altered in response to this sexual awakening. Silhouette and color reflect how the “emotional landscape” has either become looser or tighter. Marnie has relaxed over the seasons and so her costuming reflects this. It might explain the beanie.

Rogien has a lot more restriction on how she portrays character evolution on Orange is the New Black as everyone pretty much wears the same thing and the prison uniform reflects the loss of identity through the khaki color and baggy fit. Some characters have altered their uniform, but only the ones who would have the ability or inclination to do so and Sophia is an example of this as her khakis are a lot more fitted and feminine.

On Scandal Abby and Quinn’s style has shifted the most from where it was in the pilot; Abby fell in love and so there’s less structure and Paolo uses lighter fabrics on this character now – all those scarves and wrap dresses I love – with Quinn as she’s got darker so has her attire. Some of these shifts aren’t meant to be all that apparent and it can act on a subliminal level. With Olivia Pope we associate the color white with her wardrobe and as Paolo points out Olivia doesn’t wear all white all that often. Gray is her staple and the reason we remember the white is because these outfits tend to come at heightened moments like the amazing Burberry trench from the season 3 premiere.

The absence of costume is discussed and nude scenes take place on most of these shows; it hadn’t occurred to me before watching this panel that the costume designer would play a pivotal role in this process. This even includes being the one who tells an actor how much skin they are showing. On OITNB they have had to come up with inventive ways to solve their modesty cover issues as a lot of their nude scenes occur in the shower room and water/adhesive don’t work well together. They also have to think about clothes coming off during sex scenes so while on Scandal you might want that top to come off with ease, on Girls or Shameless the more awkward this undressing act the better.

It’s an incredibly insightful and fun conversation, to watch the whole thing (and I’d highly recommend it) head over to Vulture.

 

Amy Poehler’s New Book Cover and Synopsis

28 May

October is a busy month for celebrity memoirs (this tends to happen in the lead up to the holidays) with Neil Patrick Harris, Alan Cumming and Lena Dunham all bringing out books. The one book I will be buying/pre-ordering/wishing it was out already is Yes Please by Amy Poehler. On the Barnes & Nobel site you can pre-order it now and get a glimpse of the cover (which you can see below), plus an official description:

“In Amy Poehler’s highly anticipated first book, Yes Please, she offers up a big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice (some useful, some not so much), like when to be funny and when to be serious. Powered by Amy’s charming and hilarious, biting yet wise voice, Yes Please is a book is full of words to live by.”

yespleaseIt’s a simple and yet effective cover; the neon sign title stands out and I love the white vest, black pants and flats styling.

Today is the start of a BookExpo America and the four-day event will include Poehler, Dunham, Harris and Cumming as they promote their forthcoming memoirs. The expo attracts 20,000 people from the world of publishing with authors like John Green (The Fault in Our Stars) and Jonathan Tropper (This is Where I Leave You) discussing the forthcoming movie adaptations of their novels, as well as many authors promoting their new material.

Now I need to make sure I get through my always growing “To Read” pile before October (this photo is from 8 months ago and I’ve only added to it).

Yes Please will hit stores October 28.

Updated to include high res image courtesy of Today

The Wish List: Alana Bloom’s Wrap Dress and a Problematic Character Trajectory on Hannibal

27 May

Season 2 of Hannibal concluded as it began; with a bloody fight and so I am here to talk about wrap dresses. I say this half jokingly in part because this is a wish list piece on Alana Bloom’s wrap dress, which continues the costume design themes we have seen for this character. The finale is exceptional and devastating on a heart and soul shattering level that a break from the bloodbath with a look at outfit choices hopefully won’t seem too out there. It goes deeper than this and despite this being a truly excellent season, there has been one letdown on Hannibal and I will also be examining the unfortunate path Alana Bloom has been taken down.

Regular readers of this blog will already be aware of how highly I regard Alana Bloom on both a character level – yes, her storyline has been problematic this year – and for style inspiration, which has remained on point all year. Colorful, patterned wrap dresses with a feminine silhouette are a go to item for this character and this sets her apart from the rest of the FBI team who tend to wear more muted and practical clothing. Alana occasionally ventures into the field and her costuming signifies her position as ‘the other’ through the use of print, color and flowing scarves.

I’ve talked in the past about Alana’s muddled role as she shifts from a mother like figure to a love interest and this is even more apparent in season 2 as she becomes romantically involved with Hannibal. In case I haven’t mentioned it before, when they showed the Hannibal/Alana kiss during the “next time on Hannibal” I let out a gasp worthy of a daytime soap opera. This was not a joy filled reaction. Happily switching between character motivations and style within one post is becoming my signature of sorts and in the same article as the mother/lover discussion I take a look at Alana’s penchant for wearing Diane von Furstenberg which is a great segue into this week’s wish list item.

Hannibal 2.13 DVFAs with last season’s finale Alana is wearing a DVF wrap – it’s the New Julian Two and at the moment is only available on eBay – the pattern is more muted than the bold red/white of season one, but the purple chain pattern is in tune with the direction Alana’s costuming has taken this year. Red has previously been a dominant color in Alana’s wardrobe and there has been limited crimson in her costuming during season 2. The confrontation with Freddie Lounds is the only occasion during the second half of this season where Alana is in red. Replacing red has been purple which bookends the season and blue which represents her period with Hannibal. It’s like she’s Van Gogh or something to that effect.

Ah yes, Alana’s shifting relationship with Hannibal and this has been a contentious storyline in part because of questions of loyalty as she went from Will’s protector to turning to the man he has been accusing the entire time. However, the real issue is reducing a smart and powerful character (and arguably the lead female) into a love interest that loses most of her agency and it’s disappointing that this is done through sex.

There are attempts to course correct this and reinforce the notion that Alana isn’t at fault for blindly believing in Hannibal “In your defense I worked very hard to blind you.” Alana often gets pushed to the sideline which also adds to the feeling that her character is a device to be employed when it benefits either Will or Hannibal’s arc. Jack gets a better go of it and one flaw in the overall withholding plan from the second half of this season is how far it has pushed Alana out of their orbit and into Hannibal’s. Yes, they needed a character to be Hannibal’s champion and yes Alana made the first move on Hannibal in “Futamono” (though he of course was working very hard to make this happen), but I still find Alana’s journey from savior to pawn to be rather unsatisfactory. As the audience knows the truth behind Hannibal it makes Alana look foolish, despite our knowledge that she is an intelligent character who usually employs logical reasoning.

It is probably why when Alana found out about everything I practically stood up and cheered (ok I actually stood up and cheered), even if it came at this very late point and she is clearly crushed by this turn of events. Oh and on a costuming note, the green outfit she was wearing when she finds out Freddie is alive is the one from her season 2 promo photo which I wrote about here. This also made me very happy.

Alana Bloom promo costumeBefore I jump down the “what colors represent” rabbit hole again, there are some visual reasons that can explain these choices and the lack of red in Alana’s later costuming could be down to Margot Verger’s color palette featuring an array of reds and blacks. In the season finale Alana confronts Kade Prurnell and Prurnell is the one wearing an orangey/red jacket also showing her ‘other’ status. Unlike Alana who is part of the team, Prurnell is the glaring obstacle. Blue has also been seen on Alana before she stops believing in Will, most notably in “Hassun” the episode in which Alana declares that her intention is to save him. However, blue becomes dominant when she enters a romantic relationship with Hannibal and continues even as she begins to question her faith in Hannibal, as you can see in the shot from episode 11 below.

Hannibal and Alana 2.11Back to purple and as I’ve already mentioned this color bookends Alana’s costuming this season – Alana wears a burgundy dress while playing with the dogs in the opener – traditionally purple is for mourning and symbolizes death. Well, considering where we leave these characters broken, bloody and struggling for breath this is rather apt. Every color comes with multiple meanings and on this occasion the use of purple signifies the symmetry between the finale and season premiere. The fight between Jack and Hannibal is of course in both episodes and we are unaware of Alana’s proximity to the fight in the first episode; the thing that unifies the color here is Alana’s belief in Will. This has shifted and so has their relationship due to Hannibal’s manipulation; however I’d like to think this color mirroring shows a deeper connection.

Alana has been deeply violated by being kept in the dark and I’m disappointed beyond her inky black dream – echoing the inky vision of Alana that Will has during his therapy session in the premiere – we don’t get to see much of her reaction to this betrayal. This reduction and lack of screen time is pretty representative of how Hannibal treats Alana and if she survives her fall, I hope she isn’t so marginalized when we return for season 3. Caroline Dhavernas delivers a strong performance throughout and it’s been notably illuminating when she gets to channel the well earned rage, fear and anguish that Alana displays in this season finale as she chooses bravery over blindness.

Peggy Olson, Don Draper and the Shared Experience on Mad Men

26 May

Television has the ability to stir an emotional response in us and it’s one reason why so many of us write about it, whether on a blog like this one which talks equal parts style and plot, or with the plethora of excellent sites that produce astounding work on a daily basis. Mad Men has explored notions of shared experience and isolation for seven seasons now and as we reach the break this comes into focus through Don and Peggy. It is significant they made such inroads on their formally fractured relationship last week, followed by a passing of the baton of sorts in “Waterloo” just as mankind took a giant leap (sorry I couldn’t resist).

Mad Men 7.07 hotel roomThe build up to the moon landing plays a significant role in this episode and it hinges on the excitement of a potentially grand achievement rather than the previous shared experience TV has delivered of death; the JFK assassination being the defining first televised moment like this. There are daily death notices as the Vietnam War ticks on in the background (according to a Gallop Poll in 1969 52% of Americans personally knew someone who had been killed/wounded in Vietnam) and there’s a general atmosphere of uncertainty hanging over the nation. The moon landing is a joyous moment anticipated by many; however fear and cynicism still hang in the air. Fear they might not make it and another tragedy will play out in front of the world (it will also impact their pitch if something horrible happens). The cynicism angle is voiced by the disaffected youth with Sean – the son of Betty’s friend – referencing how much this mission is costing and the problems back on Earth. Sally mimics this later to her father, but hope is not something you can put a price tag on (even if Sean has a point).

Everyone is doing the same thing as they sit with their family – or in the case of Pete, Peggy, Don and Harry their work family – glued to the screen together; cynics and believers as one. Let’s take a moment to marvel at Sean’s pants in this scene. They look like they come from Felix’s closet on Orphan Black.

Mad Men 7.07 the Francis FamilyDon rings the family Francis to experience this with his kids and it’s significant that we only see him interact with Sally because by this point that’s the only relationship we’ve seen cultivated. Though I would have loved to see his chat with Gene, just to see this kid talk and Bobby’s also become somewhat endearing thanks to his bad bartering and stress stomachaches. However, Sally’s sass complete with her scarily accurate Betty smoking posture is what we’re really here for. Plus she kisses the boy least expected and is doing her civic duty by being a lifeguard. For all my worries about Sally, I think she’s going to be ok in the end.

Mad Men 7.07 Peggy and DonLast week Anne Helen Petersen wrote a terrific and terrifyingly accurate essay entitled “What Peggy Olson has Taught me About Doing it My Way” and like both Petersen and Peggy, I am in this same age bracket (I turn 32 in September *shudder*). Both this essay and Peggy’s sentiments rang true (so much so that even thinking about that scene makes me teary) demonstrating how TV can be a shared experience on a whole other level. Watching Peggy struggle and flounder in her interactions with others this season (the Shirley/Valentine’s Day mix-up is the lowest Peggy got for me) has been hard because Peggy for me has always been the one I want to succeed the most.

In “Waterloo” we get our Peggy victory as she pushes past her insecurities and uses the huge event from the night before to forge an association going way beyond the “voice of moms.” It’s an incredible performance from Peggy as she taps into the hope from the night before and spins it in a way to sell burgers through togetherness. For Don to finally understand Peggy’s worth he had to be reduced to a position of nothing. By handing over the pitching reins Don is giving Peggy the one thing she has always desired; his approval and confidence in her abilities. So while she panics and laments the lack of liquor, this fear also gives her strength.

Don uses his personal life to inform his pitch and Peggy does the same as she discusses the 10-year-old at home. At no point does she refer to Julio as her son, even if he has become a surrogate of the child she has given up and Pete visibly flinches at this reference (their child would be slightly younger). Earlier in the episode when Julio tells Peggy he is moving, she weeps silently as she will lose one of the few real bonds she currently has (which is depressing in itself) and if anyone is starved of human contact on this show it is Peggy.

Mad Men 7.07 Peggy and Don hotelIgnoring Harry – which is on point – in the hotel room is a trio who have deep insight into each other thanks to the secrets they share. Family is a vague term that Pete doesn’t like; Pete’s real family is a closed off dysfunctional mess so it’s no wonder he’s not too fond of this concept. There is another family and this one has been just as complicated (if not more so), however they’ve also been a lot more accepting of his flaws and often undesirable personality traits.

Pete is the one with the most information as he knows about Don’s past and that he is the father of the baby Peggy gave up, Don knows about the baby, but not Pete’s involvement (I doubt he would be as favorable to Pete if he knew) and well, Peggy of course is aware of her baby secret and is in the dark about Dick Whitman. The connection between these three characters exists not just because of these secrets, but it certainly adds subtext and a bond that doesn’t exist with anyone else at SC&P as Bert was the only other person to know about Dick and now he’s dead. So long Bert and your no shoe wearing policy, I’m glad you got to see the moon landing even if I wish you weren’t such a horrific racist. Cool song and dance number too. Bravo.

Mad Men 7.07 BertYeah this happened. It was delightful and bonkers. Plus it fits in with Don seeing the ghosts of those who know about his past. This is the first time singing and dancing was part of it, but hey it is 1969 and everything is a little off-kilter.

Mad Men 7.07 hugBack to Peggy and she lands the account; there’s little fanfare as everyone is busy with multimillion dollar making (and Don Draper saving) business deals and saying farewell to Bert Cooper. There will be celebrations and these will come off camera as I’m sure time will have passed when we return next year, instead we get this moment instead and it feels just as good. Peggy did it and the relationship she has with Don is the closest either of them have. This might sound depressing, but remember where they both were at the end of last season. Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss continue to deliver exceptional performances revealing the pain and potential happiness these characters can achieve and both have a place on the ultimate glassy eyed Olympics team I am forging (see also Aaron Paul, Julianna Margulies and Caroline Dhavernas).

Don appears to have lost Megan for good this time as his suggestion of moving to LA was met with silence and then a sigh; it’s been a facade for a long time as they’ve essentially been playing husband and wife, rather than living it. Instead Don now has a confidant again – yes he has always had Roger, but their friendship is something else all together – and for Peggy it is important that she is no longer adrift either. Who knows what they can achieve together and like the moon landing there is now hope for a happy ending.

Out of the Box: Look of the Week

23 May

Another busy week of red carpets with the Cannes Film Festival in full flow so dramatic gowns galore alongside Riviera chic at the daytime photo calls. It’s not just Cannes as the Peabody Awards were presented this week and there was another premiere for The Normal Heart.

Eva GreenEva Green brings gothic spectacle in this blood-red Elie Saab Couture gown at the premiere for The Salvation and the flowing train combined with caped sleeves and an embellished bodice adds to the dramatic impact. Green’s style tends to gravitate in this direction and I’ve just watched the first episode of Penny Dreadful; the black corsets and full Victorian skirts look exquisite on Green and the costume design is fantastic.

Jess WeixlerJess Weixler plays Robin on The Good Wife and so I’m more used to seeing her in one TV’s best sweater collections. This is a big switch up and Weixler has been promoting The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby at Cannes. Weixler also attended the amfAR Cinema Against AIDS gala in a beautiful Honor gown. The ice blue color coupled with the petal neck detail and flowing tulle gives it a romantic feel and it’s the ideal contrasting companion to Eva Green’s blood-red dress.

America FerreraHere’s one of my favorite daytime looks from Cannes with America Ferrera sporting yellow Louis Vuitton on top with a coral M Missoni pencil skirt. It’s a fresh and colorful style choice and Ferrera has raised her red carpet game recently. This is a really super cute outfit and thanks to the overall color I can forgive the nude pumps. Ferrera also handled a really shitty red carpet situation incredibly well later that day.

Diane KrugerMullet dresses are a strange breed and it’s one trend I don’t tend to be enamored with; Giambattista Valli might be the exception as both Diane Kruger’s dress from the Peabody Awards and Lena Dunham’s Met Gala frock don’t make me recoil, quite the opposite in fact. I’ve been rather underwhelmed with Cannes this year and it is missing Kruger’s presence so I’m glad she’s working her effortless style in this statement dress as she represents The Bridge at the Peabody Awards. Mint green pumps add a fun twist and work rather well with the pink print of this ensemble.

72nd Annual George Foster Peabody AwardsMore fun prints with Doctor Who’s Jenna-Louise Coleman in Milly at the Peabody Awards. This is a really funky design and the geometric print is rather mesmerizing. The black ankle booties could be seen as a bit too clumpy for this outfit/time of year, but I think they work on this occasion and this is a red carpet look I’d quite like to nab for myself.

The Normal HeartNow to the guys and The Normal Heart premieres this weekend. Matt Bomer is of course the standout here as he continues to avoid the red carpet dude standard as he goes for a maroon twist (last week he mixed polka dots, checks and floral). Jim Parsons’ suit is simple and he looks very cute. It looks like Taylor Kitsch got ready in a hurry, but hey he’s Riggins so he’ll always get a rugged pass from us.

TV Rewind: Felicity, “The Love Bug” and “Getting Lucky”

22 May

Felicity, Episodes 2.6 & 2.7
“The Love Bug” & “Getting Lucky”
Original Air Dates: Nov. 7 & 14, 1999

Felicity 2.07 cerealJulie: These were a horny couple of episodes. In the first one, everyone in Felicity’s dorm was coming (pun intended) down with mono, AKA “the kissing disease.” (Or so they thought.) And in the second episode, Felicity is trying to psych herself up to bang David.

First of all, Felicity (with her new haircut) and David look so right together as a couple (even if they’re that boring couple you always “forget” to invite to your dinner parties). They almost kind of look alike. But they’re also so serious. I guess we don’t know that much about David as a person at this point, or about how is temperament is, but he seems very bookish and bland, just like Felicity. I think she needs to be with someone a little more fun-loving. Of course, it really doesn’t matter all that much how David is since he’s just a B-list guy, and she’ll probably be done with him in time for November sweeps.

(I also want to point out before I forget how weird it is that Noel thinks he now has one up on David because he (Noel) hasn’t slept with Felicity. I mean, I get what he’s saying about preserving the pre-sex mystery between him and Felicity, but David just got to have actual sex with her. In what world is that a win for Noel?)

So, yeah. These two episodes were all about trying to become more physically intimate with someone. In the first episode, Felicity is desperate for David to kiss her; and in the second, David is desperate to bone. In “The Love Bug,” Felicity and David’s lips are kept apart due to germs and David’s stand-offishness and Felicity’s heretofore undisclosed ex-relationship with Noel. In “Getting Lucky,” it’s a dog and Felicity’s lack of experience that keep her and David from sealing the deal.

There’s also more more more sex in the form of Ruby getting a diaphragm and Meghan hooking up with that dorky resident and Sean seeing Julie in a bra and Ben getting busy with Teri Polo.

What did you think about how DTF everyone on Felicity is all of a sudden?

Felicity 2.06 Elena and JulieEmma: Felicity is with David and Noel is seeing Ruby, but it’s still very much about Felicity and Noel. They’re very much friends again and yet there’s this whole other part as they’ve got undeniable chemistry and a connection. They clearly enjoying spending time with each other and yet they’re also both drawn to these other people. It’s clear to both David and Ruby that this is more than friendship, especially after the eyelash moment – it’s such a traditional move, but there is something so intimate about this gesture, or at least on TV there is.

Noel fucks up by saying Felicity’s name when he’s kissing Ruby; Ruby is of course embarrassed that she’s told Felicity things (including the birth control question and I love how dedicated this show is to mentioning safe sex in a not too stiff fashion, boom boom) and that Felicity has also divulged this info with Elena (and therefore Noel). This seems like a bad RA move. David’s feeling fragile about this whole thing and has trust issues, so this Noel clanger is a red flag. All it takes is a super germy kiss – it’s the flu, not mono – to convince him to give it another go. Ruby also gives Noel another chance, which ugh, because she is still super grating. It’s ok as she’s shooting a movie with Tom Cruise (what was this subplot?!) so she’ll be gone for a few episodes.

Noel’s whole reasoning about mystery and why he’s glad he never slept with Felicity induced a whole lot of eye rolling from me, because pretty much what?! It wreaks of putting Felicity up on a pedestal/trying to find something unique when really he should realise their uniqueness isn’t that they didn’t have sex, but how close they are. It’s shit like this that makes me edge towards Ben even if he’s off on his own storyline with older, married women.

I also agree with you about David as he’s sweet enough and that’s about it. There doesn’t seem to be much fire there, nor is there a crazy amount of chemistry. It might be Standards and Practices, but their several attempts at hooking up feature awkward kissing and lying on top of each other, which doesn’t look that great. At least Ben got to be part of a cliche counter sweep – also what is Teri Polo’s tattoo other than a very ’90s mistake? – and there was an element of passion.

I’m not sure how I feel about Elena’s psych 101’ing Felicity when it comes to sex and it kind of felt a bit like Julie shaming her last season. Yes Felicity is inexperienced, but her friends don’t have to talk to her like she’s completely naive. I’m glad Elena acknowledged that this was pretty shitty of her later on and I get why she thought she was being helpful, but good intentions don’t always end in good results. What did you think of Elena’s advice?

When it comes to the sudden horniness I wonder if it was a network note as the first 5 episodes are very much about fixing relationships and talking. This is part of why Felicity is so endearing, but it’s a college show so sex is expected.

Felicity 2.06 Noel and FelicityJulie: The eyelash thing is funny. The husband and I were recently at a party and someone was OBVIOUSLY hitting on someone else there. Other people said, no way. Nothing was going on. But it SO WAS. It was obvious to most of us sitting there watching it play out. I’m sure Noel and Felicity thought they weren’t being flirty or inappropriate, but it was just that they couldn’t contain their secret lust for each other. When there’s an attraction, there’s an attraction, and shines like a spotlight on the people involved. Or maybe I’m just too busy paying attention to other people’s business and need to get my own self a life.

Noel saying Felicity’s name is a huge gaff. As much as I am on Team Felicity in all of this, I understand Ruby’s annoyance with all of it. Noel and Felicity have been carrying on this secret little relationship without Ruby knowing about it. They never told her the truth about their past, and now Noel is moaning Felicity’s name during their intimate moments. Ruby’s got beef.

Ah, the ’90s and their subtle safe sex messages. I liked Ruby asking for a diaphragm. That was unexpected. Keepin’ it fresh, Felicity.

The Ruby/Tom Cruise movie subplot is RIDICULOUS. Your question of “What is this subplot?” is dead on. What is it? Why is it? Maybe if we were able to see some of the shooting ourselves, or if the shoot itself became a subplot, it might be palatable, but right now it’s just so random. There had to have been a more logical way to get rid of Ruby for a few episodes. Death, for example.

Teri Polo’s tattoo only made me think of Ted Mosby, so I’m grateful for that. Ben gets to have all the good hooking up on this show. He’s had counter sex and a friend’s girlfriend showed up at his house naked and he’s been randomly kissed in a bar by said friend’s girlfriend. Felicity gets boring horizontal smooching with her lame boyfriend while a dog watches them. And Noel gets Ruby, who probably doesn’t even know what sex is, she’s so dim. And then there’s Sean and Elena, who get NOTHING.

As far as Elena goes, I wasn’t a big fan of her prude-shaming Felicity. The girl had never even had a boyfriend by the time she got to college. She had one night of art-fueled passion with that MTV veejay. Give the girl a break. Maybe she was avoiding sex with David because she really wasn’t ready (or because David is lame; either way, good excuses).

You know who else is not a good friend? Julie, for walking around in front of Sean in that bra.

This show is starting to get a little gimmicky. What did you think about the illness plot and the dreaded stray dog who touches all our lives?

Felicity 2.07 LuckyEmma: When it comes to safe sex, this show is very keen to place the responsibility on both parties and this including checking dates on condoms (and Noel is super awkward doing this, because of course) and mentioning stats and the like. It’s a tad PSA-y, but it’s better to be like this than cavalier or focusing on just the pregnancy issue. I guess in a way it also reflects the period the writers grew up in when the HIV/AIDS was incredibly prevalent and so using condoms became way more than a way to stop pregnancy.

I had this discussion the other day off the back of a Normal Heart promo about how most of the early AIDS awareness stuff happened when we were too young to really understand, but the death of Freddie Mercury was our entry point into what this disease was capable of. This is a digression, but basically yay Felicity for not being afraid to talk about safe sex. And so far there’s been no pregnancy scares yet. As soon as I see someone throwing up randomly I’m gonna get mad.

Julie is so painfully oblivious to Sean’s feelings, but the dog really did her a favor by destroying yet another hideous pink shirt in her already extensive pink shirt collection. Sean is so distracted by Julie he can’t even offer Ben some very dumb advice which he normally jumps at. Julie keeps saying “I’m gonna have sex, Jack” and it’s practically killing Sean. It’s killing Julie too, but that’s because she can’t remember what movie it is from. This is why I’m thankful we have the internet in our pocket, even if it is ruining our memory retention skills. It is very satisfying when you finally do remember, minus the imdb crutch.

I have to agree with you about Lucky the dog and as a moving on device it came across as far too contrived. Felicity says Lucky had a profound effect on her and I think she’s giving the dog far too much credit as a this symbolic thing. Yes, Lucky is very cute and yes it’s a bummer when Felicity has to make the choice to put him down and this is never something I want to see. I can’t help but get frustrated at Felicity as he really is a distraction mechanism more than anything else. It’s also fortunate that Felicity has switched majors as she’s got more time for shenanigans, pre-med would not allow for hijinks like this.

In both of these episode Felicity turns into a bit of a nomad, first because Meghan’s mono (which is called glandular fever over here and I’m so glad I never had it) and then because of the dog. This puts her in close proximity to both Noel and David, upping the tension. Though there’s only really chemistry with Noel. Meanwhile Ben is very much out on a story island on his own and I hope he started to circle the orbit of the other guys relatively soon. Do you think Ben’s going to ditch Teri Polo and their work top sex now that he’s had an encounter with her husband?

Oh and don’t be judgy about things being high school Teri Polo, when you’re acting the most high school out of anyone.

How did you feel about the mono and dog of it all?

Felicity 2.06 Noel and the ladiesJulie: Of course Noel the ex-RA knows all about safe sex. He’s really the perfect character to deliver all this information, because he’s funny and awkward and would of course have all of the information at his fingertips. He’s also the kind of guy who I’d bet worries like crazy about pregnancy scares. He has too much to live for! Ben, on the other hand, he’s having sex on counters, so he’s definitely concerned about zero things.

Both of us grew up in the post-Gen X generation (the Catalano Generation). We were too young for all the awesomeness of the ’90s, but we’re not carefree Millenials, either. I know I grew up with a deep fear of dying from sex (also getting pregnant). I wonder how many kids of our generation have horrible sex issues as adults because of the incessant PSAs. Someone should make a show about that. Have they? I don’t know.

Speaking of issues, Teri Polo…I’m not sure what her angle is, but it’s a bad one. I suppose it’s the old “who knows what’s going on in anyone else’s relationship” thing, but her husband seems very sweet, remembering their anniversary and wanting to immortalize her horrible tramp stamp in frosting. Or maybe he really is a jerk. No one wants their tattoo mistake all spelled out in cake. Or maybe that’s the best, and most delicious, way to deal with one’s tattoo mistake. Now that Ben has met the guy, I’m sure (hoping) it will be harder (pun intended) for him to carry on with Teri Polo, but who knows. Sex is a hell of a drug.

I’m with you in wanting Ben to just get this over with and get back with the group, though, really, where is Ben’s place in the group now, which includes two ex-girlfriends and the guy his ex-girlfriend dumped for Ben? Not exactly a comfortable situation. But this is TV, and on TV any relationship can be mended. So I’m sure we’ll be seeing Ben and Felicity hooking up again, at least friendship wise.

As far as the dog thing goes, it just felt so lazy. Though it did provide concrete proof of Felicity’s sex issues. (Yes, Elena was mean in pointing them out, but she wasn’t wrong.) Felicity was definitely using the dog as an excuse to avoid boning David, which tells me she really didn’t want to bone him in the first place. Evidently that changed by the end of the episode, or she just talked herself into doing it. Who knows. Either way, I don’t see a lot of hope for her future with her art teacher’s son.

I’m a big fan of Julie and the random movie quote that has invaded her vernacular. I have a ton of those, so many that sometimes I don’t even realize they’re quotes anymore. Some of them even come from this short film I wrote and my friends filmed about ten years ago. That’s when you’ve reached a new low — quoting your own movie (Actually, I shoehorned one of these quotes into my YA novel manuscript. An Easter egg for all six people who saw, an love, Bloodnog).

What did we miss? Javier’s cat?

Felicity 2.06 strapless topEmma: They should definitely make that show, as being caught between generations means we don’t get awful a Time think pieces, but we also miss out on self indulgence/narcissism and sometimes I want that; the Catalano generation should be a thing and I think to some extent it is. I was terrified of sex for both pregnancy and STD related reasons and here comes my first Mean Girls reference for Felicity (!) as it reminds me of the sex ed class stating that sex equals death.

Ben and Teri Polo is exactly what we’ve been talking about when it comes to this character as he’s always changing who he is and he’s doing it all over again. I’d like to see him grown a spine and dump her. I love that she has a Filofax as I remember thinking that having one of these meant you were a real adult. It’s just occurred to me that Filofax might not be a US thing, is this a day planner to you guys?

Yeah you’re right about the movie quote thing and sometimes they stick for random reasons – it’s because of Donnie Darko that “go suck a fuck” is my go to joke insult and I guess it sounds weird when you haven’t seen the movie – I also like that certain quotes aren’t restricted to one time or one group of friends. Julie has now passed this one on and it now means something in her past and present.

The tone has been a whole lot less angsty and even though there are arguments and the like it hasn’t felt all that heavy (dog putting down aside). Javier continues to be hilarious and I love how impartial he is and of course his cat looks like that and is called Mummy (it was Mummy, right?). Meghan continues to be hilarious both when she is sick and using Felicity’s Mac without asking first.

They’re leaning a lot towards the female friendships which I’m all for and it’s hilarious when Noel is excluded from the girl chat, but I do wonder if Noel has any kind of dude friends. If only he didn’t have such an issue with Ben and then that would solve Ben’s problem of being isolated in his married lady story. Bonus.

I really liked the scene when Felicity was trying to pick an outfit that was a 3 and Elena kinda lied about her super hot strapless top, but Noel’s slack jaw reaction revealed Elena’s white lie. On this occasion this is a perfectly acceptable use of Elena’s meddling. Of course Felicity changes into her pink sweater which I’m sure she was wearing in the previous episode.

How long do we give David? I’m going two more episodes tops.

Felicity 2.07 MeghanJulie: That Mean Girls reference is dead on. Kids, gather ’round. Back in the ’90s all of us were told that you would die if you had sex. That’s actually what happened. Mean Girls doesn’t lie.

We do have a Filofax here, but I think it’s something different from a day planner. Like, a Filofax would sit on your desk; you wouldn’t carry it around with you. Wait. Nope. I just looked up what Filofax is and it’s totally a day planner. I was thinking of a Rolodex. This paragraph is useless.

But, yes, Ben should grow a spine and dump stupid Teri Polo and her Filofax. She is the worst and she made me just go off on a tangent about what a Filofax is.

One of my favorite quotes, a TV quote and not a movie one, is “There’s no Anderson” from Friends. You use it when you’re running your mouth off on a topic you know nothing about.

I think Javier’s cat was either “Mami” or “Mommy.” Probably “Mami,” since he’s Spanish.

David has been in how many so far? Three? If he signed on for a four-episode arc, his days are very numbered.

Anything else to add?

Felicity 2.07 Ben

Emma: Teri Polo is good for something now that I know what a day planner really is. And I think you could be right about David.

One final quick thing and that’s Elena calling the dog the ‘r’ word and it was so weird to hear her using this term. It definitely dated the episode and now I’m wondering when this word stopped being something that was casually thrown around like this.

Julie: Oh my yes! I completely forgot about the ‘r’ word. That was jarring, and I’m surprised it was still “OK” to call someone (or something) that back in 1999.

 

Julie Hammerle is, according to Klout, an expert in the areas of both Morgan Freeman and glasses. Her writing can be found at chicagonow.com/hammervision and you can holler at her on Twitter as well.

The Americans 2.13 “Echo” Review: Finding Meaning and Purpose

22 May

Spy life and family are so intrinsically linked on The Americans because Philip and Elizabeth created theirs to help maintain their cover. Dread has been building all season culminating in a stomach churning finale; going in a soul crushing direction that is completely unexpected and one that explores the overall purpose of these characters and the children they were compelled to have. Compartmentalization is a key component to how Philip and Elizabeth operate and this has been challenged all season, with Philip having a hard time reconciling some of his actions and switching off from the terrible things he has done. Danger has come from outside of their family unit and while I mentioned the threat from within during some of the early season 2 promotional materials, I never expected the twist that has the potential to destroy this family unit.

The Americans 2.13 picnicPaige’s interest in religion came across initially as a way to create conflict in a manner that sidesteps the usual teen rebellion tropes while being fundamentally opposite to her parents’ beliefs. The reason why Philip and Elizabeth have so much disdain towards organized religion is not something they can share with their daughter adding to the already building tension. Elizabeth acknowledged how much Paige is like her a couple of weeks ago and how Paige is looking for meaning in the wrong place. Elizabeth thinks that Paige would benefit from finding meaning and purpose in something bigger than her, so what happens when the KGB reveal their plans to indoctrinate a second generation of illegals who are born to ‘American’ parents on US soil? The twist is particularly insidious because it takes away their children’s choice, repeating the cycle by using the same grand declarations about a cause that is bigger than any one person.

The initial horror comes courtesy of Jared and the discovery of who really killed Emmett, Leanne and Amelia. All this time either Larrick or another unseen force has been the likely culprit and Jared was never a suspect. Jared’s blood spluttering confession is incredibly jarring as he’s done such a good job of protecting his cover and acting the innocent; from his reaction to the bodies in the hotel room, to his tears when Elizabeth first met him. Since Elizabeth first saw Kate meeting Jared out of disguise, she knew something was up and Jared did react far too calmly to the upheaval to his life, not that I ever saw this coming. Philip and Elizabeth both look on in dismay at Jared as he confesses his crime while choking on his own blood and neither of them can hide their shock. They’ve spent so long looking over their shoulders wondering when someone is coming for them and they never contemplated this was a domestic issue wrapped up in the cause.

The Americans 2.13 Philip and ElizabethThroughout this finale (and season) there are many micro gestures and movements often between Philip and Elizabeth as they convey so much to each other without saying a single word. It’s something The Americans excels at and it’s a show that demands you pay attention otherwise the some of the nuance is lost. This happens in this scene after Jared takes his last breath and Philip sinks backwards finally exhaling (mirroring my inner feelings after this intense scene). It’s something Elizabeth does at home before Philip gets back as she rests against the couch in a move that if that piece of furniture wasn’t there and if this show was more melodramatic she would have done so anyway and just fallen to the floor. Exhaustion, relief, fear are all reasons behind this and when Philip and Elizabeth embrace after they have got home from their danger vacation all of these things are communicated in how they are holding each other and in their eyes. Looks in the car between them as they daren’t say anything even if the kids are sleeping show just how in sync they are, well in sync on almost everything.

Simultaneously setting up conflict for next year while tying up the loose ends of this season is expertly handled as Claudia reveals the why of how Jared was recruited against his parents’ wishes. It looks like they are giving Philip and Elizabeth a choice, but really they’re saying the exact same thing to them as they did to Emmett and Leanne; we want your child to work for us and you have no choice. Philip emphasizes the notion that Paige is “our daughter” and yet she is a product of their cover and in this respect she belongs to the KGB and this larger thing they are all part of. This taps into a very specific part of Elizabeth and she has yet to waiver when it comes to their overall purpose. With Philip it is a different story and he has been more prone to disillusion, targeting his daughter is a very good way to add to these feelings.

No matter how united Philip and Elizabeth are, there is always going to be this fundamental difference between them and the Centre could exploit this to get what they want. There is also the danger of what will happen if they do tell Paige who they really are and I think Philip understands there is a chance Paige will reject this path and her parents. Paige is already pissed and confused, she tells Henry that she’s already counting down the days until college when she can escape this “lunatic asylum” and I’m not sure the truth would make her feel any different. It’s a risk and one Elizabeth is contemplating.

The Americans 2.13 meeting ClaudiaElizabeth has a habit of when it comes to these discussions of cutting them off when it’s not going in a direction she’s happy with and it is a tactic she has been employing all season. In fact this is a way to undermine Philip’s opinions as she switches subjects or calls the kids for dinner to abruptly end a discussion. This leaves it all up in the air for the audience as well and now we are left contemplating just how serious Elizabeth is with this consideration. Cut off sentences and half finished stories are a consequence of the double life and it’s part of why compartmentalizing can be so difficult to comprehend. They discuss Paige while they wait for Fred (RIP) in full disguise and to them it’s the most normal thing in the world.

Sharing stories of their childhood like Elizabeth revealing how at 14 (Paige’s age) she looked after her mother for 10 months when she had diphtheria and she still managed to go to school. Her life was hard, but she made do and this isn’t a complaint and more a statement of fact. Philip begins to share his own tale and his is from when he was a couple of years younger than Henry – both use their own children as a reference point – and we never get to hear how Philip outsmarted the kids who attacked him as they’re interrupted by the police scanner. Whenever they talk about their past they are breaking the rules that were laid out before them and it shows intimacy and trust between them as they peel back the layers of who they were before they became the Jennings.’

So Paige is Elizabeth and Henry’s very much his father’s son; Paige is questioning and dismissive whereas Henry is open and enthusiastic. In a way both are living vicariously through their children as they’ve never had to experience the hardships they had when they were growing up. Philip wants to protect them from ever having to deal with this, it’s why he’s so forceful as reminds Elizabeth “We swore we would never…” The children are meant to be off limits, they are meant to protect them and yet Elizabeth sees Philip’s fear as a slight against who they are and what they do. The through line this season has been family and we’ve hit the point of examining what is more important; family or the cause? For Philip the answer is easy, for Elizabeth it is not so cut and dry and I expect this will dominate the start of next year.

Elizabeth’s desire to tell Paige the truth is also a selfish one as she wants to show her daughter who she really is, as she did with Jared when she turns up at the cabin without her disguise and in a super cool looking leather jacket. To her daughter she is just a very neurotic travel agent and it hurts that she can’t reveal who she really is. I don’t think Elizabeth even contemplates that Paige might reject her; I think this is all Philip thinks about.

The Americans 2.13 Elizabeth leather jacketFor a brief moment I considered the idea that they might kill either Paige or Henry in the finale, but if they had I think this would have driven both Philip and Elizabeth away from the cause. Instead Larrick decided to go with the turning them in option, except he didn’t count on Jared having a gun. Larrick didn’t go out quietly, instead it resulted in a fight that involved both Philip and Elizabeth in handcuffs and the gun Larrick had tucked down the back of his pants being used to kill him. Larrick has been truly terrifying and his unpredictable nature has made him the kind of villain I’d like to see more of on this show.

Philip meets with Arkady for the first time, showing just how serious he is by risking his cover as Arkady is often subject to surveillance. It’s a very brief meeting and one that conveys just how strongly Philip feels about this. We’ve seen how the KGB use manipulation and points of weakness to exert control and I suspect they will attempt to drive a wedge between Philip and Elizabeth to get their second generation spy (this storyline reminds me of “Project Christmas” on Alias). Season 1 focused on the shakiness of their marriage, but this was prior to the bond they have now and I wonder how easy it will be pit them against each other now they are in love.

Rolling StoneBecause I love magazine covers here is the issue of Rolling Stone Philip picks up to browse while he is talking to Arkady. It is from April 1982 and the “Beware the Pentagon” headline is rather appropriate. Warren Beatty is giving me Peter Gallagher vibes in this photo sans the eyebrows. Also that cover line. Seriously.

Back to The Americans and I’ve almost hit 2000 words without mentioning the other plot of dread as Stan contemplates treason for love. It’s another case of how far someone will go for their country, in this case it’s Stan and protecting the US against the Russians. Despite having nothing in his personal life beyond Nina now that Sandra has moved out and a son who couldn’t give a shit, it is not a simple choice. Stan rejects Sandra’s correct intuition that something is bothering him, showing that even with their recent stranger status, twenty years does count towards something.

Stan didn’t even want to get surveillance reports for Oleg and probably gave himself an ulcer as a result of this so it was always unlikely that he would give over something as huge as Echo even if it was to save the woman he loves. Stan even went through with wearing a wire (giving himself another ulcer most likely) and getting the information (floppy discs!), but running away with Nina and betraying his country is not something someone like Stan is capable of. Like those on the opposite team he has limits and he chose duty over love. But tell Nina he’s sorry. I can’t hold it against Stan for failing Nina and despite some impulsive reactions like killing Vlad; he’s one of the good guys. The FBI is bigger than him and if he betrayed that he would lose his identity and this was laid out in his discussion with Henry in “Stealth.”

The Americans 2.13 Nina and LeninSo what about Nina? Options have run out and the envelope full of cash Oleg gave her last week is of no help now as she is trapped by circumstance. Nina’s story has been tragic all along and it’s been one long fight for survival since Stan first approached her. There’s no fight left in her as she leaves the Rezidentura as she’s come to accept her fate and there’s nothing she can do to stop her trip to Russia and most likely her execution. Oleg has connections and he clearly loves her, but I don’t think this is enough to save her; if it was he would have used this move by now. The Lenin portrait is so defiant and the framing of Nina next to this shows her own defiance and sadness. This is truly heartbreaking as this character’s resolve and attempts at self-preservation in the face of certain doom has been incredibly compelling, as has Annet Mahendru’s performance.

It’s hard to find fault in any of the performances and another quietly devastating scene comes courtesy of Martha and her desire to have children. Martha doesn’t know if her marriage to Clark is enough and we know it isn’t because of who Clark really is. I’m glad they’re not going down the pregnancy route with Martha at the moment as Philip already has far too much on his plate without this extra concern, but on a personal level I want so much more for this character. Martha is currently proving her worth with the files she is stealing – in Stan’s dream Martha is seen taking a file off the mail robot showing that he is aware of her deception on a subconscious level – and ideally for her it would be best if she can’t give Clark anything that might be useful. This isn’t the kind of show that will let her bow out that easily and it’s significant that Philip becomes aware of the gun that now sits in the same drawer as her bottle opener.

This season has built on the solid foundation from last year and by going deeper into these relationships and setting higher stakes it has gone from strength to strength. It’s hard to sum this all up without a series of hyperbolic statements but it really does deserve all the plaudits and praise. Matthew Rhys has been the season’s MVP as he has been a ball of emotions quietly simmering and then exploding. The pain that is etched on his face for half the season followed by the real joy he gets from spending time with his children (cool dad new car dancing for example) has been a real pleasure to watch. Playing a slightly more balanced role has been Keri Russell and she has been no less exceptional and her pain has often on the quieter, more understated side and the chemistry between the pair is undeniable whether it is spooning on the couch or getting a lot more intimate on the dining room table.

the americans 2.13 drivingThe overall production quality also deserves a special mention as the direction, particularly in “Behind the Red Door” (which I singled out at the time) has been magnificent. The shot above is so simple and yet it highlights the level of dread as Philip and Elizabeth scoop up their kids in the middle of the night and jump in their car. All there is them and the open road and yet it’s never going to be just them as a family and this season finale has made this abundantly clear.

 

To have a look at our rundown of the best disguises from season 2 head here.

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