Tag Archives: 6.01

The Americans 6.01 “Dead Hand” Review: “Everything is Divided Up”

29 Mar

Personal and political have been entwined on The Americans since the pilot; Philip has always been the more pragmatic, seeing the larger picture, whereas Elizabeth will do whatever her country asks of her. It is part of the reason why they are such a good match. There is balance. But it could also end up being their greatest downfall.

In season five this job began to take its toll on both husband and wife (now official); a decision was made to get out, to return home, but there is always something else.  After giving Tuan a speech about how he wouldn’t make it alone, Elizabeth decided it was best for Philip for him to get out. Too tired and beat down, Philip went from the “it’s us” emphasis to agreeing to this compromise. They’d stay and Elizabeth would carry on. Cut to the start of season six, which jumps from 1984 to October 1987 and the state of the Jennings marriage is fractured. The divide has happened on the home front and back in Mother Russia.

Photo credit FX/Patrick Harbron

Gorbachev has been in power for two years, but there is still a push/pull between the old and new way of thinking. The INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) Treaty is what is on the table in a forthcoming three-day summit in Washington DC between the old foes. This is why Elizabeth’s workload has gone up on the last few months, it is why she is running on coffee and cigarettes. “Dead Hand” opens with the kind of montage The Americans excels at; telling us everything we need to know about the state of Philip and Elizabeth’s marriage. Much like the last time there was a big time jump midway through season four it is set to an ’80s classic track, this time Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over” sets the tone.

Philip has built the travel agency into something bigger; the new office is far more spacious, his office has a window where the blinds no longer have to be drawn. On the other end of the spectrum, Elizabeth has multiple operations going at once requiring a cavalcade of wigs. These operations range from care worker to honey trap. The latter hasn’t got any easier either as we see Elizabeth in the shower washing the skeeze off her, while wearing said wig. As the episode progresses we see Elizabeth looking more drawn, the lack of sleep is showing and she is serving up a level of weary face that became a Philip signature. They do say couples start to look alike.

Meanwhile, Philip physically looks lighter without the burden of being a spy. Sure his home life isn’t what it once was—there is an aching loneliness when Elizabeth arrives home in the opening montage and all they can muster are half smiles at each other—but he’s enjoying all the trappings of America without the weight of the double life. He gives great pep talks, has a sweet new car with all the modern extras (electric sunroof! portable radio! car phone!) and has found a reason put those cowboy boots he coveted in the pilot on. Yep, Philip is now a hands on boss and it is good to see recurring employees like Stavos has made the move.

Style shifts over the last three years has Philip switching to v-neck sweaters; his shirts are more fitted, his suits more boxy. He looks good. Meanwhile Elizabeth still has her arsenal of silk blouses, but she’s also invested in some outdoor smoking knits, what appears to be sweats and oversized sweaters. Elizabeth also has a pair of cowboy boots, but don’t expect to see her dancing anytime soon. These are for her trip to Mexico. A trip shrouded in secrecy and part of the big divide back home. It is where the “Dead Hand” of the episode title is explained and it sounds terrifying; tldr everyone dies regardless of who strikes first.

Here she acquires a new piece of jewelry with an extra; yep it has a cyanide tablet and if Elizabeth didn’t already have the weight of the world on her shoulders, she is now wearing death around her neck.

Speaking of necks and the first kill of the season is delivered in a swift moment after Paige encounters a beyond persistent dude. Elizabeth will do whatever it takes to protect her daughter. And this isn’t the first guy she has stabbed in the neck for her child. Ah yes, Paige is very much in the spy life as she is being trained to be part of Elizabeth’s team (they are not aware of the family connection) and partakes in a hangout at Claudia’s.This early scene establishes this has become a routine; three generations of women that look like family. Russian television is watched, stories of home are shared and Paige even gives a rundown of her politically leaning college classes. Any tension between Claudia and Elizabeth has gone, Elizabeth is happy to do whatever missions Claudia sends her on with minimal questions asked. Philip was the one that pushed back and without him here this resistance is no more.

Ah yes, that mission. The one that brings both Oleg and Philip back into the game. An old friend visits Oleg and home, I missed Arkady and I’m glad to see they found an organic reason to bring him back. Arkady is now Deputy Chief of Directorate S and he has a favor to ask Oleg. In this conversation we get a lot of exposition about what has happened to Oleg over the last three years, again it feels organic. Everyone knows what he did, but there was no real proof. Not that the lack of proof has stopped someone getting a bullet to the head, but Oleg’s connections saved him.

Now, like his father he works in the Ministry for Transportation. He’s happy, he has a fabulous beard, a wife (Elina, one of the blind dates) and a baby boy; why would he risk that? Well, Arkady knows what kind of guy he is and taps into the honorable side. The side that warned the Americans about biological weapons. Arkady thinks Oleg is the guy to get Philip to spy on his wife, he refers to Philip as being “different” and notes that he met him once.

Just like that Arkady brings back not one, but two agents. Because Philip can’t ignore the signal and his whole demeanor changes in an instant. Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman” kicks in just as Philip’s jaw clenches and everything Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell do with their faces and posture in this episode is everything I have been yelling at Emmy voters for years. They convey so much without saying a word.

Photo credit FX/Eric Liebowitz

The Philip/Oleg meeting is a coming together of these two worlds. Two worlds that are enmeshed and yet have always (well almost) been separate. Oleg knows the way to convince a very stubborn Philip, who keeps on insisting he is out of the game, is by emphasizing the risk he has taken. If Oleg gets caught he’s fucked, he has no diplomatic immunity and if he gets sent home he will be killed. Philip the ever loving husband notes Elizabeth is just doing her job, but Oleg sews the seeds of doubt about which side Elizabeth is on. Philip knows her well enough to get that she might be on the hard line side.

Over the course of this episode Philip and Elizabeth share three scenes; the first is wordless, the second is a stilted conversation with Elizabeth explaining why she can’t watch Henry play hockey and the third threatens to boil over. Since the whole sleeping with Irina thing, they’ve been pretty good at not keeping things from other. And it seems like Philip is going to tell her about Oleg, but Elizabeth’s lack of sleep causes her to lash out. She doesn’t want to talk and especially not to Philip. His concerns about her state of mind are warranted, but right now they are far from being on the same wavelength. Reagan is about to ask Gorbachev to tear down this wall and the one between the Jennings has never been higher.

At the Movies It is unlikely that Philip will be taking Elizabeth to see Wall Street when it comes out in December.

Outfit I Would Wear in 2018Paige’s jeans are a little too high-waisted and acid wash for my taste, but this jacket and striped shirt are right in my wheelhouse. A new haircut also gives Paige that college age feel.

Disguise I Want to See More OfElizabeth wears a lot of disguises in the season six premiere; the one we see the most is care worker Stephanie. Here she is trying to spy on Gilmore Girls Max Medina, or rather Scott Cohen as Glenn Haskard, an important person working in the State Department. Glenn’s wife Erica is an artist and it looks like she is going to tap into Elizabeth’s fractured psyche. And if you’re wondering about the real artist behind these pieces check out this interview with Alyssa Monks.

And I spoke to costume designer Katie Irish about season 6 here.

The Good Wife and the Saint Alicia Brand

22 Sep

The Good Wife kicks off the new season with yet another surprising move and while it might not elicit the same heart getting ripped out of your chest feelings as the Will twist did, it still packs a punch. Diane moving from her old firm to Alicia and Cary’s was what I expected to be number one on the agenda, instead this moves into the background as Cary ends up in prison as a result of some advice he may or may not have given – there is allegedly a recording which we don’t hear and Cary insists that he didn’t do the crime he is accused of – and what’s great is how equally disorientated both Cary and us as an audience are at Cary’s initial arrest and subsequent incarceration.

The amount of world building The Good Wife has achieved in the previous five seasons is showcased in “The Line” as old faces resurface from family members to former love interests and perceptions that were established in the very first episode are still very much on point.

The Good Wife 6.01 Alicia handshakeTake Saint Alicia and the brand that is making Eli pull out his big guns to get Alicia on board the State’s Attorney campaign ship. Eli is convinced Alicia should run despite her lack of interest in this political position and the polling numbers support his belief that she can win. Alicia’s brand is enticing to both women on the left and right as she stayed with her husband and set up her own business; she is both fiercely loyal and independent striking that rare balance.

Skeletons lurk in Alicia’s closet when it comes to her relationship with Peter, not only her past affair with Will but also the current ‘faking it’ marriage status. Add in the slight flirtation with Finn and the photos Castro already has of Finn leaving Alicia’s apartment which he planned to use against Finn, but could easily double for Alicia smearing (no matter how innocent this visit was) and there is a reputation to be besmirched. Calling someone a saint is a rather high pedestal to put someone on and Alicia could be knocked off this perch in quick fashion if someone was to stumble on hotel room records or CCTV footage. Will might be dead, but he could easily come back to haunt Eli if he goes ahead with this.

Eli is excellent at his job even while his daughter mocks him (I’m beyond thrilled to have Sarah Steele show up once again as Marissa, more from her please) and he expertly manipulates Peter into getting on board with his Alicia plan by using Castro to rile him up. Eli has another issue to consider with the Florricks as he is still concerned about the intern Peter has been flirting with, an intern who doesn’t wear underwear (they said the word ‘panties’ far too much for my liking in this episode) and will happily show the office that she isn’t when confronted about it. Lauren is the intern Eli was told he couldn’t fire last season and while the vagina flashing is maybe a stretch, she represents everything Eli worries about when it comes to Peter’s brand.

P.S. Lauren, your dress is super cute, but underwear should be a given in a work place like this.

I’m not sure how much Alicia would actually care if Peter did sleep with Lauren as she really has severed those kinds of ties with her husband in the wake of Will’s death; I expect there would be an exasperated eye roll followed by a ‘because, of course’ reaction. The voters would definitely care as Eli’s polling suggested and Eli is pulling out all the stops to ensure Peter doesn’t resort to old habits.

The Good Wife 6.01 Alicia and FinnThere are far more pressing matters than Eli’s latest attempt to get his doomed ship back together as bail for Cary has been set to the crazy high $1.3 million (to match the street value of the heroin in question) and Alicia has to work several angles to obtain this money. Despite the current fractured state of her relationship with Cary as a result of wanting to bring Diane on board, Alicia is even willing to get a second mortgage on her house to get Cary out. Cary has already faced a test in prison regarding his loyalty to Bishop and while he didn’t lose a finger, he did receive a rather nasty hand gash which he then had to pretend he got from falling on the bars. Cary is a target in lock up in part because he used to be an ASA and because he poses a risk to Bishop. He passed the test and that should afford him some protection even if he’s received the wrath of a guard for not following certain rules like crossing lines and keeping his eyes to the ground.

When Cary enters prison his suit has a disheveled appearance, but with his pocket square still neatly in place he looks like a rich dude who has been done for a DUI or some kind of drug possession – so grateful they mentioned the last time he did drugs was the hilarious season 1 mushroom incident – and when Cary changes into the beige prison uniform he looks small and vulnerable. The puffed up chest lawyer confidence is all but gone.

Diane is having to maintain appearances with Louis Canning and David Lee as they try and figure out her next move; David Lee doesn’t think Diane will move to Florrick, Agos as it is “too small potatoes” with Canning accurately acknowledging that it appeals to “Diane’s romantic soul.” It matches Diane’s brand and her client roster is worth an impressive and significant $30 million. This is in part what Diane is selling herself on to Alicia, that and the prestige her name brings; a name that could counterbalance the damage to this fledgling firm from Cary’s arrest and the Lemond Bishop connection.

Costume wise both Alicia and Diane are on top of their power game despite the tidal wave of shit that has hit them both from last season and in this episode. Alicia is all Hugo Boss suits and Emilio Pucci puffed sleeve blouses. Alicia’s color palette sticks to darker tones and neutrals like grey; however as the ensemble below shows this isn’t about becoming a wallflower and she still stands out thanks to precision tailoring and flourishes like those sleeves.

The Good Wife 6.01 AliciaDiane is also not someone to fade into the background even with the fake retirement story she is serving up. This means an exquisite raspberry colored St. John Collection draped dress and Pono statement necklace. The shot below gives me shivers and with Diane representing Cary (as Alicia has been removed) he has yet another excellent and very vocal advocate. Perhaps this will get him on board with Diane as a new partner.

The Good Wife 6.01 DianeCary is but a pawn in the quest to bring down Lemond Bishop and no matter how hard Bishop tries to convey an appearance of being nothing more than a business his reputation precedes him and after all this is a pretty accurate assessment of how Bishop makes his money. Bishop can use intimidation to get Cary to keep his mouth shut, steer Kalinda away from her line of questioning and get the bail money. The latter is an issue now that Finn has requested a source of funds hearing as the funds are not from a legitimate source and were originally delivered in a duffle bag with $200,000 more than they needed (the removal of this extra money was hilarious). Does this mean Cary is going to languish in prison for even longer? Maybe they should tap up Colin Sweeney instead.

When Alicia suggests Finn is going hard after Cary because of his sister’s overdose she crosses a line by using her personal knowledge to suggest an ulterior motive. Instead he just wants to get one of the biggest drug dealers behind bars which seems like a perfectly valid reason and they shake on it not ruining their friendship.

There is an ease to Alicia and Finn in their playful back and forth even as Finn gets her disqualified – in an aside he notes how he didn’t want to go against her – that is free from the meaningful looks and complicated history that Alicia shared with Will. Not that I’m advocating a hook up just yet (this thing has to build) and gifs of Will and Alicia over on Tumblr still feel like a punch to the gut, but I have to admit that seeing the shoulder squeeze of thanks and the friendship declaration handshake makes me more than glad to have Finn Polmar as a an opponent and Matthew Goode retaining his regular status. Is he going to become the latest thorn in Eli’s side if he messes up the Saint Alicia brand?


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