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Tag Archives: 6.09

The Americans 6.09 “Jennings, Elizabeth” Review: Topsy-Turvy

24 May

Elizabeth Jennings made a monumental decision last week on The Americans. She went against a direct order. In the penultimate episode she goes one step further, not only does she defy her superior, but she actively prevents someone else from completing this particular mission.

After a season of botched operations and high body count, Elizabeth steps in to prevent another person from losing their life. People have been dying around her for as long as she can remember, in this particular case she can’t let another comrade die on the streets. And finally an operation of hers goes according to plan. It is a victory that comes with at a huge cost.The reason why Elizabeth has been such a good soldier is she will do whatever it takes to get it done. The vows she took for country mean something to her. We have spent six seasons watching Elizabeth as the more hard line of this spy duo, we know exactly who she is. She is a disappointment to Claudia, but she has never lost sight of her integrity. In a serious of flashbacks we see Elizabeth in training back home. When she comes upon an accident involving a motorbike and a horse, instead of helping the injured man she takes a different route. She is acting as if she is already in the U.S. where such activity could draw unwanted attention. She is later reprimanded because “You don’t leave a comrade, on the street, to die in Moscow.” She was following orders, but in this moment she could have improvised to save a life.

As she fights off exhaustion from staying awake to make sure nothing happens to Nesterenko, these thoughts swirl because it is the first time she is actively going against her orders. Elizabeth does stop the would-be assassin—who also happens to be Tatiana, even the Centre improvises from time to time—from doing the deed, she heads straight to Claudia’s to tell her. It is hard to view events in this episode without thinking of it in terms of this being the penultimate ever episode.

There is a chance that Margo Martindale could appear in the finale, but this very much feels like the last conversation between this pair. It is incredibly charged, Elizabeth doesn’t pound her face in as she did way back when, the animosity that once existed is no more. In fact there are a lot of hurt feelings, even if neither woman is willing to show too much emotion. This is not who they are.Claudia’s words are like a knife to the heart as she effectively tells Elizabeth that this one decision has undone everything good she has done. The Paige training now means nothing. Claudia compares Elizabeth to the women she fought with during WWII,* the highest of compliments. All before dismissing her belief system. Claudia doesn’t think Elizabeth really knows what she is fighting for; she says she thought she knew her. But if Claudia really knew Elizabeth—as Elizabeth herself points out—then she would know going behind her back and using her as a tool for the overall agenda is the greatest betrayal. And last week alone she found out that pretty much everyone she has put her faith in lied to her.

*I recently read “The Unwomanly Face of War” by Svetlana Alexievich, which documents the experiences of many Russian women that fought in WWII. The things these women did on the front line is incredible, their stories deserve to be told. I would highly recommend this book if you have an interest on this topic. It also goes a long way in explaining a character like Claudia.

What makes this scene truly great is how measured this conversation is. Neither woman screams at the other, there is no violence. And more importantly there is still a level of care layered with some contempt. Elizabeth asks where Claudia will go, home of course. But what will become of Elizabeth? The sneer levels from Margo Martindale when she asks “What’s left for you now? Your house? Your American kids? Philip?” Oh the disdain when she says his name.  They look at each other for a moment and Claudia calmly eats the food she has just prepared. Little does Elizabeth know that one of those things is about to get taken away. The family home is the heart of this unit, but now it has been compromised. A home we are now saying goodbye to. The kitchen and the island within continues to be used in such an effective visual way. This scene between Paige and Elizabeth mirrors their big fight from season four, when the world was first introduced to Keri Russell’s forehead vein. This time it has multiplied. Now Paige is revealing just how much she knows about the methods her mother uses to get information. Seeing people die wasn’t Philip’s number one fear way back when it was first floated that Paige she join the family biz. Nope he was worried about her ending up in a suitcase a la Annalise.

Sex has been a topic that has been broached on a number of occasions this year as Elizabeth has been trying to dissuade Paige from sleeping with someone for information. Paige has been doing her own research, she is not stupid. Though she doesn’t get the idea of having sex with someone you’re not attracted to. When she heard the story about Jackson she put the pieces together, she is appalled. Appalled because her mother slept with someone so much younger, appalled because it confirms some of her worst suspicions. She calls her mother a whore, which goes down about as well as you can expect—I need that “excuse me” gif to add to the season one classic. Time for another life lesson Paige.

Elizabeth has done everything in this lifelong fight for her country. Sex is part of this. It doesn’t mean anything in this context. Paige has invoked Philip as a person that can’t stand to be in the same room as her mother because of these kind of activities. If only Paige knew exactly what her father did as a spy, the other wife he had, the girl her age he just fucked. Elizabeth notes that “Nobody cared. Including your father.” Philip is no saint, even if he has quit the spy world. He does not get absolution in this.

Speaking of which, his meeting with Father Andrei starts off with pleasant enough. They talk about his marriage. The vows he just broke. Philip mentions Elizabeth is not someone that trusts easily, Father Andrei responds that something has got her to stay with him. This has not completely broken them as a couple. When Elizabeth grabs their go bag with all the money, passports, license plates and weapons she also grabs their real wedding bands. These vows, this marriage. It is important. Philip, these American kids. They are all she has left now and it matters. Tension has been building all season, it explodes the moment Father Andrei mentions the FBI. Philip realizes they are compromised, the way he looks at every person in the park like they could be an agent. He walks calmly before breaking into a run. It is genuinely one of the most nerve-wracking sequences this show has done as it feels like Philip could get caught here.

The panic on his face as he surveys his escape options in the basketball court, the way the camera spins around him. It is a close call, the closest maybe even. Things at work are “topsy-turvy,” clearly their code word for everything has gone to shit.Meanwhile Stan is picking at that scab. The one that is six years in the making. The episode gets its title from Stan searching the FBI database, first for Elizabeth, then his BFF, followed by Dupont Circle Travel. He then drops by unannounced to see Philip at work. Philip’s reason for Elizabeth not being there isn’t a lie; they have had a fight about their business. Just not the travel industry.This doesn’t make Stan feel certain either way so he floats his theory to Aderholt. Starting at the beginning with Timoshev to the hair/smoking comments. Aderholt thinks it is ridiculous, but the camera stays on him long enough for him to wonder “what if?”

Oleg is picked up when he retrieves Philip’s very important message. A message he wants Stan to decode. In another excellent one-on-one scene, everything that Oleg is fighting for is laid out. If he has to sacrifice himself, he will. He is not giving up his source, even when Stan shows him a photo and says they can make a deal. What Oleg wants is exactly what Stan does; peace, food on the table for his family. Oleg underscores how important Gorbachev is in making this happen. It is something that remains unresolved, but I can see Stan helping Oleg out. There is a mutual respect. They are alike in more ways than having loved the same woman. It wouldn’t be the first time Stan went outside the lines.There isn’t much time. There is only one episode left. So far this final season of The Americans has been incredible. What happens next will only help cement its legacy. Part of me really wants the Jennings family to ride off into the sunset, but I know that is unlikely and will probably not be the most satisfying end to the story. Soon we will know.

No stitches requiredPastor Tim ain’t no snitch. Even if he did look like he wanted to throw up during this entire conversation. Good to see Kelly AuCoin again and he justifies why it was a good thing Philip and Elizabeth never made it to EPCOT.

Also it looks like there is a chance a different man of God could bring them down. One who has seen their faces, he knows their real names. The irony that a Communist is found out because of a religious man.

I get excited when places I have stayed are on TVI was momentarily distracted during this opening scene while Elizabeth surveys Nesterenko wondering if indeed this is the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City. I am pretty certain it is. I have stayed here twice and it has been used for a number of films/TV shows including Nora Durst’s stay in the iconic Leftovers episode “Guest.”

Fun fact, it was also used in Wall Street. A movie that was released one day after the Washington Summit in December 1987.

Earring Watch I have always been fond of Elizabeth’s choice of disguise earrings, but as I mentioned a few weeks ago, I have recently had my ears pierced so I’m paying even more attention. These are amazing.

Height differenceObviously Stan is not really there to offer a loan to Philip. Philip at this point is unaware of Stan’s suspicion. A very tense and awkward scene not only because Philip is put in a very shitty feeling position. Matthew Rhys looks tiny next to Noah Emmerich. Also this is definitely the last time they are together without Stan truly knowing who Philip is.

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Public and Private Spaces on The Good Wife

17 Nov

“I always hated it that these offices were glass.”

Private spaces are hard to come by on The Good Wife and offices made of glass windows mimic the scrutiny of Alicia’s current situation. There are few places where Alicia doesn’t have to contend with all eyes on her and one such place is her home, but even this is not entirely private as the security camera shot of Finn leaving her building reminds us. For Cary he doesn’t have the luxury of feeling safe anywhere, including his home as his life has been threatened and he’s incredibly vulnerable.

The Good Wife likes to play with different locations and once again elevators are used to great effect to show a variety of emotional states. “Sticky Content” was written by Good Wife creators Robert and Michelle King and they are experts at producing an episode that oozes tension and forward momentum weaving both the campaign and Cary stories together.

The Good Wife 6.09Attack ads and introductory videos are the campaign order of the day with David Krumholtz joining the Florrick team as Josh Marnier, a campaign media specialist. Josh is another expert who ends up having to tell Alicia that her strategy is wrong and how she just needs to let her ideals go and let them do what they do best. Marissa Gold returns as Alicia’s bodywoman and all round voice of reason/snark. So far Alicia has been a pretty terrible candidate and she should have gone to Johnny straight away with the shoe box of dirt rather than stewing over it with an Alicia sized glass of wine; no matter how much will power she possesses, she was always going to crack. Like Johnny I am pretty cynical of Prady’s motives as this comes across as a manipulative power move wrapped up in an ‘oh shucks, I’m just a good guy’ routine. And it works as the first envelope sends Alicia into a mini tailspin. The Finn and Will (*sob*) photos don’t have an impact; it’s the ones of Peter and Ramona that sticks the needle in.

Alicia is all about control so when something disrupts this she tends to react in two different ways; confrontation and avoidance. These normally coincide with each other so she rings Peter up to yell at him – and the manner in which he answered sounded like his voicemail – and instead arranged the sit down interview to show how happy their marriage is. The second moment comes when she pops into see Finn after the super fake all smiles and hand holding Peter interaction. What this is motivated by is anger at Peter and Ramona coupled with desire as they’ve been flirting it up a storm for weeks now. A line is about to get crossed and Alicia seems somewhat relieved when she finds his office empty, but then he returns coffee cup in mouth and his usual super charming/attentive manner. The sofa conversation is the unlikely combination of awkward and comfortable; the warmth is there and yet there is an unspoken tension that overspills with a brief touching of hands. With Peter this gesture was empty and symbolical, here it is spontaneous and fully charged.

The Good Wife 6.09 finn's officeWhat this is reminiscent of is those moments in “Heart” and “Red Team, Blue Team” between Alicia and Will where empty office spaces and heightened emotions led to Alicia letting down her guard and allowing herself to be impulsive. Of course this is a very different set up and an interruption/realization of how public this space is causes Alicia to flee before anything more intimate can happen. The following day the weirdness of the night before is discussed and Alicia refers to the mood as “worrisome” – I think this is Alicia’s way of saying I think you’re hot but I can’t right now – and that people have expectations. It’s even more complicated than when Alicia was involved with Will and even if they want it to be simpler that’s just not happening right now. The line has been crossed as feelings have been verbalized (underneath layers and layers of subtext) and if they can find somewhere that has actual non see-through walls then maybe a conversation can be had (or something way more fun than talking).

Perhaps Alicia should take a page out of her husband’s book and improvise with the spacious car he is being driven around in. Peter rebuffs Alicia’s Ramona accusations, however it is worth nothing that he doesn’t deny having an affair with her back when they lived at Highland Park and this also supports the theory that Lauren is his child. Peter is also lying about the Ramona thing as the car smooching demonstrates. Alicia claims that she is angry not because she is jealous or that their agreement is invalid, but because this could fuck everything up for both of them. I think a small part of this is jealousy, particularly if this infidelity stems back to a time when she thought she was in a good marriage. At the same time it is very telling in how strongly she emphasizes that no, she will not be standing by his side again (“not in a million years”).

After this conversation Alicia is red dress wearing, guns blazing and she is willing to use and exploit her scandal and tragedy to sell herself in the introductory video. It sounds so incredibly fake and sincere all at once, because we know exactly how she really feels, but she’s selling to a public who don’t know her yet as the woman who went back to work in a time of hardship (she didn’t wallow) and then saw gun crime take away the person who took a chance on her when no one else would. There’s the perfect amount of misty eyes and resilience, plus she looks killer in that red dress. Until of course Prady’s mother wears the same dress in his own boohoo version of his life and why he wants to run; this is where I think the Prady campaign are being tricksy as if they did their research they know that Alicia’s power color is red. Coincidence? I think not. Or maybe I’m too cynical, but I don’t think Prady is the good clean guy he suggests he is.

the good wife 6.09 alicia's dressDigitally changing the dress doesn’t work and she ends up looking like she’s wearing a wallpaper design and trying to recapture the (fake) sincerity of the previous version falls so flat. We do get the jokey version of Alicia including why she wanted to be home with her kids “because child services said I had to be” as she eye rolls through her terrible, terrible second attempt. It’s really fun seeing Alicia sucking so much at this, not that her campaign team is reveling in this really bad performance. In the end the decision is made to just go with the same dress as it is a far better option than this new take.

A leak is to blame for the Prady DINO attack ad, which comes in response to a “Who is Alicia in bed with now?” negative commercial from the Prady PAC. This is in reference to her clients (Sweeney and Bishop), but they could also be laying the foundations for affair accusations and this question could easily apply to both work and personal matters even if it is just an insinuation.

Let’s talk about one of The Good Wife’s favorite locations:

the good wife 6.09 elevatorElevators! Here this space looks huge and it shows Alicia as contemplative and lonely after the interview reinforcing the idea of a good marriage with Peter. This is her returning to the office to go see Finn and maybe do something about their flirting in what could be considered as a retaliation move.

The Good Wife 6.09 Cary elevatorFor Cary this space is precarious as he doesn’t know what will welcome him when the doors open as he’s just heard a tape with Lemond Bishop threatening his life. It’s a tight claustrophobic, perhaps even coffin like location and at his building the shots are either in a close up or emphasizing how closed in he is. The flashes of someone with a gun coming up and shooting him add to the tension and fear. Elevators mean a whole lot on The Good Wife and we have seen them used as a place to sob alone, hook up or even as a host of awkward conversations; they can be equal parts private and public.

Cary’s home is no longer safe and in a bold move he chooses to visit Bishop in his after an encounter at the office reveals Cary’s new bodyguard (when the elevator doors opened – see you never know who is going to be on the other side) insinuating Cary has flipped. With Bishop’s son present in his home this is probably the safest place Cary could have gone to have this discussion with Bishop, but it still doesn’t stop Cary and the audience from feeling nothing but fear as Bishop’s presence alone is intimidating in any location. Cary is back on Bishop’s good side, but how long is this going to last with jail looming over Cary’s head?

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