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Tag Archives: Holly Taylor

Out of the Box: Look of the Week – An Americans Finale Round-Up

1 Jun

The Americans is over. They did that. And as there is so much Americans related content this week from costume rundowns at Racked to the many amazing reviews/discussions—PasteVarietyVulture and Vox are a few of my faves. There are also interviews with the cast and showrunners. At Esquire a Matthew Rhys profile reveals the role Adam Driver has in The Americans legacy, which was unexpected, but amazing. For podcasts the official Americans Slate one rounds off an excellent series with the cast. Todd VanDerWerff’s “I Think You’re Interesting” features a conversation with Matthew Rhys and showrunners Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields. I think it is interesting.

And I have a couple of pieces at other outlets that I am incredibly proud of. First, I wrote about how pop culture has been used in season 6 to illustrate wider points at Little White Lies. And in the final scene of the finale, something from Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears is referenced in the best possible way. In the goodbye post from a few days ago I mentioned that I have reviewed every single episode on TV Ate My Wardrobe since the season 1 finale.

Absent is the series finale and that is because I had the pleasure of writing about it for Collider. Some of my favorite essays about this show have been for Collider, I love that I got to breakdown this excellent/devastating/satisfying final outing. If you enjoyed my meditations on this show and particularly marriage, you will likely enjoy this review.

“Out of the Box” has also been absent recently—due to my increased workload elsewhere—but I do want to include some moments from the FYC event from Wednesday night. Because I love Keri Russell’s outfit. This Dior skirt and simple white tee combo is the perfect miss of casual and fancy. And also because feelings. So many feelings.From the season 1 premiere. Aka how to feel old.Great sock game.And from Jimmy Kimmel Live! Keri Russell has legs for days. I love a Hollywood Reporter roundtable and I was thrilled to see Matthew Rhys is one of the drama dudes. Also he looks super handsome in this photo. Someone get this man a period show/movie set in the ’40s. Also let him make his Griffith J. Griffith biopic. This story sounds fascinating. As is this dude’s mustache.There’s of course been a lot of finale discussion this week, but one of the most interesting comes from this panel with the cast and two former CIA Agents. It is fascinating. Martha Peterson reminds me so much of Becky Ann Baker, also she is a badass.

This will not be the last time The Americans is written about here at TV Ate My Wardrobe, but I really am thankful that a show like this exists, that it got to tell this story and I got to write so much about it.

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Saying Goodbye to The Americans

30 May

Television fulfils many roles; there are shows for all kinds of viewing experiences. In this age we call Peak TV, there are now more options than ever before. Shows you watch to keep up with the conversation, long running series’ you just can’t quit, the thing you stick on to fall asleep to, the ones you obsess over and can’t get enough of. It isn’t just new TV that is readily available, when Hulu added E.R. earlier this year, the level of chat from new viewers and old fans filled my Twitter feed for days/weeks, much to my delight.

My So-Called LifeThe X-FilesE.R.Buffy the Vampire SlayerThe Sopranos and Lost are all examples of shows that impacted me on deeply personal level. They made me understand what television could do and be. An inspiration to this career path I have taken.

In recent years Mad MenThe Leftovers, Friday Night LightsThe Good WifeHannibal and Halt and Catch Fire have resonated in way that have made me a better writer. But there is one show, which has run parallel to some of the biggest leaps I have made in my freelance career. And that show is finishing tonight.When The Americans made its debut on January 30 2013, this blog was just a twinkle in my eye. I was reviewing The Vampire Diaries for free for another site; I had a different blog that mostly consisted of (bad) Mad Men musings. Cut to April of that year and TV Ate My Wardrobe was born. It didn’t take long for the disguises to make an appearance on here. The second ever “Out of the Box” column,featured Elizabeth in curly wig and glasses.

I was hooked on The Americans from the first episode, from the first TUSK. The spy stuff was fun, but the central relationship was what drew me in. And this has since turned into thousands of words about Philip and Elizabeth Jennings. The costume design, which didn’t scream the 1980s of music videos, wasn’t just a case of throwing on a ridiculous outfit whenever the story called for a cover disguise. Big glasses, big hair, later big shoulder pads all factored, but it was grounded in the narrative. And as her permanent cover, no one has made me want to wear silk blouses as much as Elizabeth has made me want to wear silk blouses.

Now for a brief interlude with my Top 5 Elizabeth disguises. Not to discount the many dirtbags and mustache dudes Philip has played, but Elizabeth is my style queen. Yep even when she is Jennifer.

1) JenniferLovely, lovely Jennifer. The first appearance at Clark’s wedding was also an early “Out of the Box” contender. It is hard to make Keri Russell look dowdy, but this almost does it. And there is a vulnerability we don’t get to see too often when she has to interact with her husband’s other wife. Face eating specs are my weakness, Jennifer’s sartorial prowess in this area is strong.

2) Patty

Super glamorous Patty was the first time Elizabeth got to play into the ’80s trends we might expect. Big earrings, bigger coats. The first time Elizabeth had connected with one of her targets on a personal level. The Young Hee storyline was devastating, the costumes were incredible. And this shot from the Matthew Rhys directed “The Magic Of David Copperfield V: The Statue Of Liberty Disappears” is one of my favorites from the six seasons.

3) Brenda 

Brenda is probably the most on trend disguises Elizabeth has worn, she is a fashion buyer after all. And I was subconsciously influenced by Brenda’s specs when I bought my pair last year.

4) Velma (and Clark)

The blonde Velma look from season one and an outfit I would wear now.

5) I don’t have a name for this disguise, but everything about this look is fierce af. Also my Halloween costume inspo.

Back to the task at hand.

The reason why I wanted to write this specific goodbye post is because The Americans has made me, not just a better writer, but has given me the push into pitching various outlets over the last few years. The first costume designer I ever interviewed was Jenny Gering, the first professionally paid writing gig I got was writing about The Americans.

My knowledge of these characters, this world, what they wear, made me feel confident pitching articles calling Paige “The Final Girl” (will she be?), asking why Cold War panic was on trend, discussing the complex relationship dynamics of these characters and how The Americans is the rare prestige drama to get the teen family members right (it still is). Or how I obsessed for ages about the concept of ‘summer’ and ‘winter’ shows and finally got to put it in writing.

I have interviewed costume designer Katie Irish about Coach coats as pregnancy bump concealers, retro sports apparel and leaning in to the ’80s in this final season. I spoke to Jenny Gering about an article of clothing that rarely gets costume design column inches; the foundation garments, the underwear.

I went to a wedding earlier this month and even though I have bee freelancing for the last few years, this was the first time I felt fine saying “I’m a writer” when asked what I do for a living. In the past I would mention this career, but make some self-deprecating joke about how it was my side-gig. That I wasn’t worthy to call it my profession. I still get that imposter syndrome feelings, but they are getting easier to push to one side. Bury deep. What would Elizabeth Jennings do? I mean, not care about writing about TV shows for starters, but in this final season she has softened to the idea of what art can be. Just don’t ask her to watch a soap opera without pulling faces.

[Source]

Here at TV Ate My Wardrobe I have reviewed every single episode since the season one finale. I dread to think how many words this adds up to. I have talked best wigs, the marriage disguises, the vulnerability of Elizabeth, the huge season three truth telling moments and a personal essay about my wedding in relation to this secret service (that could now be Philip and Elizabeth’s undoing).

To the showrunners, Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields, thanks for making a show that didn’t pander to its audience. That was smart and sad with a thread of hope throughout.

To Emmy voters, now is the time not only to honor the show, but also two of the best performances on TV for as long as I can remember. I talk about it a lot, but it is worth repeating; the things both Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys do with their faces without any dialogue is constant wonder. And what they do with those words is just as compelling.

You never know what you’re going to get with kid actors when they are cast. Luckily Holly Taylor was a Kiernan Shipka and Keidrich Sellati was not a Bobby Draper. Noah Emmerich hasn’t always had flashy scenes that will play as a nomination clip, but it is a steely performance that deserves examination and praise. My stomach hurts just thinking about Stan in this finale.

It is a cast from top to bottom that has wowed, but special shout outs to Alison Wright, Costa Ronin, Annet Mahendru, Margo Martindale, Frank Langella, Dylan Baker, Ruthie Ann Miles, Miriam Shor, Richard Thomas, Brandon J. Dirden and Lev Gorn.To all the other many people that have worked on this show in the costume department to props. Those photos I always point out in the Jennings house, small details like that add to the depth of The Americans. And I am definitely going to miss writing about these characters.

Don’t worry, I still have a few more pieces in me still. I have no idea how this show is going to end, but just know I will be looking as sad as Philip and Henry do in this season three finale moment. Actually I won’t look half as composed as this.

The Americans 6.07 “Harvest” Review: Committed

10 May

Throughout our lives we make commitments; to a person, a job, a child. Most commitments can be broken in some way or another. You can quit, get a divorce. Some commitments come with a lifetime of responsibilities including being a parent, but even those can be broken.

The Americans has always been about marriage, family. The spy stuff is akin to football on Friday Night Lights. It sets the scene, ultimately guiding what these characters to do, but at the heart, the relationships are what matter.At the end of last season, Philip did the impossible. He got out of the spy biz at the behest of his wife. She could see that it was breaking him, but she couldn’t break her commitment to the cause. She couldn’t break her commitment to him. Elizabeth and Philip have been together for twenty-five years, but they have only been legally married for three, wholly devoted to each other for six years. Prior to events in the pilot it had been a very functional relationship, they were great work partners; they did all that was asked of them including having two kids. The perfect American family. You would never suspect a thing.

In the pilot their dynamic shifted, Elizabeth saw something in Philip she hadn’t previously seen. They connected in a way that went beyond duty. The weakness she used to see in him, the weakness that had him suggesting defection (Elizabeth would never) transformed into an understanding. In “Harvest,” Elizabeth sees her husband again as if for the first time. She finally gets out of her own way. Elizabeth isn’t oblivious, she would never have suggested he quit if she didn’t realize quite how crushed he was by all of this. But here it is like she finally gets it, the pain etched over his face is because he made a mistake committing to this life. The things you realize when cutting up a body with an ax in a parking garage.Big life events for Philip and Elizabeth happen in garages, basements of disused factories, their own laundry room. In the shadows they see each other. Elizabeth wasn’t sure Philip would actually show, but there is no way he could leave his wife in dire straits. Even if this means leaving Henry, giving Stan a reason to get suspicious of the places his neighbors go. Philip is wearing all the spy accoutrements, but he no longer has that feeling of pulling things off.  Elizabeth thinks this is ridiculous, but later she sees it. He can still perform when called to, even when it requires the grimmest of tasks. But he’s empty.

“Harvest” has a lot of callbacks to the pilot; the scene in which they drive to ditch Marilyn’s head and hands is reminiscent of the “In the Air Tonight” accompanied sequence of body dumping, followed by car sex. This time Patti Smith’s “Broken Flag” plays over the scene. There is no hook-up here. That was about connecting in way they hadn’t done before, they have come along way since then. Instead Elizabeth does the task alone while Philip observes. Stan’s sneaking around his best friend’s home is an extended version of the checking the trunk scene from the pilot. Philip isn’t waiting in the shadows gun in hand, there is now six years of history between them. A hunch led Stan into checking on his new neighbors, a hunch is causing him to check up on his BFF.Certain things aren’t adding up. The emergency trip to Houston during Thanksgiving. The late nights. Last week he was an accidental marriage counselor, now Henry is an accidental narc, his comments about how his parents leave for work at all hours as if they’re brain surgeons don’t help. The non-existent extended family.

Stan remembers that time Elizabeth went to stay with Aunt Helen, but Henry has never met her. Stan also recalls that it coincided with a crazy time at work. That time he shot a female illegal. The operation in Chicago also felt like a callback to the season one finale; they’re cornered, someone gets shot. They end up in a parking garage. Elizabeth remains unscathed this time. It is Marilyn who gets a bullet to the head. Harvest also ends up shot in the stomach, mirroring Elizabeth’s injury, unlike Elizabeth he doesn’t make it. Opting to swallow the pill he has been given. A pill Elizabeth is wearing around her neck. A pill she has told her husband about.The couple. It all comes back to the couple Stan has been chasing for years. The couple he now suspects could be living across the street. William’s delirious words about them as he was dying at the end of season four have come back to haunt them; the two kids, the pretty wife. Stan doesn’t have any real evidence, but the niggle is going to be enough. Plus there are now only three episodes left.

Stan is going to find out very soon and it is making my stomach hurt. That hug between Philip and Stan is heartbreaking. The trick to selling a good cover story is to keep it as true to life as possible, when Philip thanks Stan for all he has done it is genuine. Elizabeth keeping it together is real, so are the business woes. But they have both made commitments; Stan won’t be able to keep his word of being there for Philip when he finds out who he really is. Tension is building. Wordless scenes are something The Americans has always excelled at. The way Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys can have an entire conversation without saying a word continues to be extraordinary. Intimacy when extracting a tooth or cutting off body parts with an ax is not the easiest thing to convey, but they somehow elevate these horrifying moments into something much more than the task at hand (no pun intended).

When Philip pauses after they are almost interrupted—this is quite the public place to dismember somebody—it is like a lifetime goes by. The fact that he is doing this again, the only reason is for her. It is the kind of grand romantic gesture that only makes sense on this show. Elizabeth can’t quite fathom it in the moment. It takes the conversation with Erica for her to see. The pointed way Philip drops the matching poison accessory into the bag is such a relationship moment. It is purposeful because he effectively just had Elizabeth’s end flash before his eyes.The sequence in which they extract Harvest is reminiscent of another moment in the tooth extraction episode. The car “chase” in which Elizabeth is being tailed for hours. One of their closest of close calls. That one ended with everyone unscathed, this time they aren’t so lucky. Two on each side go down. For once, Elizabeth didn’t pull the trigger. Philip doesn’t add to his body count either, but he definitely got his hands dirty.

The Americans is very good at drawing on its rich, layered history. Stan brings up the time in Philadelphia from early on in season one (in the very good episode “Gregory”) in which the FBI lost sight of a source just for a moment. The body disposal moment called back to not only the pilot, but Annelise in the suitcase. There are the two flashback moments to already existing scenes, something this show uses sparingly. Visual cues that remind Stan of what William said, remind Philip of his real vows.When they get home Elizabeth has to leave straight away. The summit is only a week away—for both us and Elizabeth. Again there is wordless communication, she touches his face, his heart. Her way of saying thank you before disappearing into the night. Philip surprised her by showing up in Chicago, she makes a stop by the office the following day as a gesture of making sure he is okay. She notes she saw his expression while he was doing his ax-work. Erica is becoming a therapist of sorts for Elizabeth; the soothing drawing, the determination she has for working through extreme agony, but also noting the time she has wasted.

Philip and Elizabeth still aren’t on solid ground when it comes to their relationship. Too many secrets exist between them right now. She told him about the necklace, but not the what of the mission. He now knows there is an important part of the scanner in France. Will he tell Oleg? At this point, Philip’s main objective is to not have Elizabeth die in his arms the way Harvest did. She is very much work first, however stopping by the office signals she isn’t wholly consumed by work. The final scene with Philip sitting on the sofa thinking about his marriage can be read in a number of ways. For me it is a resigned felling that this is what he signed up for, his commitment to Elizabeth cannot be broken. That moment of bliss was a lifetime ago.And after this operation went to shit, Elizabeth offers Paige the option her father never got; to get out. But Paige, like her mother is headstrong. She wants to make a difference. But most notably she doesn’t want to be alone. She wants what her mom and dad have. Prediction time; this show is going to end in a manner fitting for a Russian tragedy. Paige will end up alone either because her parents die or she gets arrested while they escape. Just three episodes left.

All Aderholt needs is some red stringAderholt was thrilled last week. Now he is experiencing despair. All he needs is some red string to go full Charlie Day from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. While he won’t be as upset as Stan, it’s gonna hurt when he finds out he has shared the table with the woman that kicked his ass at the start of season three.

Earring Watch I recently got my ears pierced (I know). I have long been obsessed with Elizabeth’s earrings in and out of disguise. Her best ones are when her cover looks like this.

The old couple they will probably never get to become

On the flight how, Philip and Elizabeth’s disguises skew older than they are. A vision of what we won’t get to see. Also it gives Philip an opportunity to ask about the drawing without letting on that he has searched her secret stash.

Family Photos

These are the photos that provided the backdrop to Philip and Elizabeth’s fight on the staircase from a couple of week’s ago. Again The Americans production design team deserves a shout out for these very realistic shots of the Jennings family instead of using promo photos from the show.

The Americans 6.06 “Rififi” Review: Henry Jennings, Marriage Counselor

3 May

It has all been building to this. Those operations that seemingly delivered nothing, other than a whole lot of wasted man hours and bloodshed are finally producing results. The net is closing in on Elizabeth, she knows this particular mission is going to be tricky, but she has no idea how close Stan is to figuring it all out. The diplomatic pouch X-rays has struck the goldmine, the contents being the other half of what Elizabeth has been trying to acquire. This links to the warehouse she broke into, killing three guards, but leaving with nothing. As the FBI gets results, everything is slipping through Elizabeth’s fingers, including stability at home.

The halfway line for this final season has been crossed; tension levels have been set to high.All is not well in the Jennings house. This has been the case for almost all of season six, but the opening scene had both Philip and Elizabeth looking at each other with a seething contempt previously unseen. Philip is disgusted with Elizabeth for murdering people in front of a kid, which she notes she didn’t actually do. Well, the murder part yes, but not in front of the child. He just had to see the bloody aftermath. Informing Elizabeth that he’s not going through with the Kimmy plan is met with the level of bitterness you would expect, Elizabeth digs deep with her choice of words.

First by noting that of course he wasn’t going to do it, then by saying he just wanted to fuck her because he wasn’t getting enough at home. Low blow, Elizabeth. And the first f-bomb uttered this week. A word that hasn’t been uttered before (to my knowledge) on this show. It feels like a twist of the knife. It is also a good example of how well The Americans uses words. The impact is felt here and later on because of how rare this is. The distance between Philip and Elizabeth has been vast; even when they inhabit the same space there is a wall. Whether a physical wall such as the one in their garden or the kitchen island, or a metaphorical one. They came back together briefly last week, but this is the worst it has been between the pair. Even when they were separated during season one it didn’t feel this bad because they still had to work together. They’ve slept in separate rooms before, but when Philip told her “it’s over” regarding the Kimmy op it, it feels like a very loaded phrases about them as well.

Not too fast though, there is still something that can save this marriage. And his name is Henry Jennings! Ah, Henry. Comes home for Thanksgiving to find it isn’t just freezing outside. First he thinks he is helping out with Philip’s business woes because he’s told his rich friend’s dad all about it. Philip is already feeling emasculated by one child, now the other one goes and mentions his business failure.* Then Henry gets offered a cigarette by his mother; she barely even reacts when he comes outside to see her. Henry might be somewhat oblivious to what goes on at home, but this tension is hard to ignore. Because he has been away for so long it is even more obvious that all is not well.

*Poor Stavos, he’s been at the travel agency for an age but he’s first on the chopping block as his sales are low. Capitalism at work in its most devastating fashion.Philip plays hookey from work to hang with Henry, if Henry hadn’t picked up on all the cues like the sleeping in separate rooms, then Philip’s frustrated “FUCK” response to his car going off the tracks at the slot-car racing is definitely enough for him to wonder what on earth is going on at home. Everything is crumbling. Philip tells Henry that “Everything is fine. I love your mother, she loves me. It’s just sometimes… Everything is fine.” This really isn’t all that convincing, but it is the second time this season they have reiterated this point to their kids, Elizabeth did this with Paige a few weeks ago.

The great Jennings kid duties divide is no more apparent than with Henry because his screen time this season has only been with Philip, whether over the phone or watching him play hockey. The running joke is of course the teen boy gets shuttled off to boarding school, but I have always thought that Henry would end up playing a vital part in their downfall because he is the most American of all of them. Plus he is still pretty tight with Stan. For now it looks like he might be saving his parents’ marriage and he doesn’t even realize it.When Elizabeth offers him a cigarette she says that he is an adult now, that she can tell him things. But she still doesn’t tell him every single thing. This would be a betrayal to Philip. Later while she is in Chicago about to attempt a mission that has very slim odds of succeeding, she phones Henry to have what most would consider a very normal mom/son chat. She asks about school, girls, how everything is going. It feels like goodbye. Henry recognizes how not normal this conversation is so when he tells his dad about it, Philip knows that things are bad. He’s just been poking around her wig cave, seen her vase drawings, sending a coded note to Oleg—it is very fun seeing the spycraft side of this all set to Tears for Fears. Henry also can’t understand why his mother is so unhappy when she has everything, if only you knew Henry, if only you knew.

Last week ended with a phone call that would cause this deep rift between husband and wife, this time it is a reconciliation. The last time they spoke it was less than cordial; Philip didn’t want to let this tension fester, Elizabeth responds with something more conclusive telling him “take your Forum bullshit and shove it up your ass.” Way to spill your feelings, Liz. She admits that what they are attempting in Chicago is probably not going to work, they need more people. He wants to know if she is asking him to come, she isn’t. He tells her to come home, she can’t. Leaving Philip with only one option, to offer his help.

Earlier he bitterly mentioned how she had somehow dragged him back into this, this time he is doing it of his own volition. No one is asking him to, but there is no way he can leave her with her neck on the line like this. He loves her, she loves him. Some sacrifices are worth making. This is what happens when Elizabeth asks her son how he is doing at school.I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was thrilled that they will be working together again, even if it has a ‘one last job’ feeling. Philip and Elizabeth are the best agents they can be when they are working together. Her words to Tuan have come back to haunt her; you can’t do this work alone. But it is worrying that Aderholt has pretty much figured out all the ways to track down illegals. Including the cars they use, the garages they rent, how they keep safe houses and targeting priests. All the pieces are falling into place. It is going to happen fast.

Soon they will know the people they have been eating many dinners with are the same people Stan was talking about in his way too intense Thanksgiving toast. As a viewer it is fun to hear about how they have been acquiring so many cars, safe houses and wig caves. See also getting to watch Oleg with his coding kit.The episode title comes from the French movie, Rififi. AKA the greatest heist movie in history. I haven’t seen it so I’m going to have to take the word of this very Timothée Chalamet looking dude’s word for it. Elizabeth takes a break from killing anyone this week; instead she is in the recruiting business. It is unclear exactly what she wants, but it has to do with Senator Sam Nunn, Wikipedia tells me he had a lot to do with nuclear disarmament. A good indicator as to why Elizabeth is sniffing around this kid.

The Rififi trivia from not-Chalamet—because of course this dude has to correct her—was also relevant in the long battle between the Soviets and the US; it is a French film, but director Jules Dassin was American. He was blacklisted as part of the McCarthy-era trials.

A stomach churning episode that digs deep into everything that is so good about The Americans. The inevitable Stan discovery is so close, there is no happy ever after in this world. Everything is far from fine, but at least Henry got his parents talking again. Got to take those small victories where we can.

Teens in ’80s Jeans (Part III)Paige was frozen out of Elizabeth’s plan, she had to smile through Stan’s toast, but she did get to spend some quality family time with her brother. Including him giving her a look as if to say “What the fuck is going on with mom and dad?” Not that she could say. She also had to wear these less than flattering jeans. Great shirt though.

I Heart ’80s Athleisure Retro sports apparel is always my fave. This is no exception. It is also worth noting that Erica is having a major influence on Elizabeth. Instead of smoking, Elizabeth sketches in this moment of high stress.

MAIL ROBOT  After that bitter pre-credits exchange, the physical comedy that followed was welcome. Stan gives Aderholt some sass about how every time he goes downstairs someone dies, when Mail Robot gets in the elevator with them, Aderholt asks if he wants to blow off steam. Shout out to Agent Gad (RIP) and the last unprovoked attack.

The Americans 6.05 “The Great Patriotic War” Review: Trying Your Best

26 Apr

The Americans pilot opens with Elizabeth in a bar wearing the first of many wigs, sidling up to a government employee, who she then extracts some information with the power of a blow job. Sex on this show has always been a tool in the spy manipulation arsenal, a signature move if you will. What “The Great Patriotic War” does is showcase how sex complicates things, as well as underscoring why Philip didn’t want Paige to become embroiled in this work.

Paige is getting exposed to everything Elizabeth reassured her husband that she wouldn’t; she has seen her mother covered in the blood and brains of someone else, now she is using her sexuality to get information (despite Elizabeth forbidding her to do so). And at this point Paige still doesn’t know how to separate the personal from the professional, something her parents occasionally have an issue with.The reappearance of Kimmy last week means a return the parallels that ran throughout season three between the two teens.  Back to a time Philip was doing everything in his power not to sleep with a girl that was pretty much the same age as his daughter. And his tactics worked. “Jim” became a surrogate father type for Kimmy, even while Philip struggled at parenting his own inquisitive daughter. Kimmy has gone from typically rebellious teen with daddy issues to a stable, well-adjusted young woman. She even quit smoking weed two years ago.

The things Philip says to her about being proud are true, even if he is using it as a tool for manipulation. To finally get her into bed. I pretty much watched that scene in the car through my fingers, knowing what was going to happen next. Kimmy is no longer underage, but it is still creepy as fuck. Watching Philip steel himself for that inevitable is crushing, right now he will do anything that Elizabeth asks of him because she really hasn’t asked for a lot and he can see how much the work is grinding her down. And the plan works. Kimmy smiles, while Philip grimaces. How he has he found himself back here?

Elizabeth’s plan to get Philip to plant drugs on Kimmy in a Communist country is hardly fool proof. They don’t even know whether Kimmy’s dad will give the information they need. Considering how well Elizabeth’s operations have been going this season, it is highly likely that he wouldn’t. Elizabeth is trying her best with what she has, but what she has is not amounting to much. She can’t even get her art homework done. It is such a weird moment to see her get rebuked by someone else. Erica continues to needle Elizabeth in a way we haven’t seen since Young-Hee. But Erica’s condition continues to get graver; will she end up with nothing here too? Thomas Schlamme directed “The Great Patriotic War,” his sixth outing behind the camera on The Americans. And interestingly enough he also directed “Dimebag;” the episode in which Philip came up with using Paige’s interest in Christianity to solve his horny Kimmy issue. Featuring a scene with Philip and Elizabeth at their most lighthearted, getting stoned and giggling over prayer suggestions. As with any moment in this show, there is still a level of darkness; Philip notes that when she gets older he might have to sleep with her. Prophetic words it turns out.

But Philip can’t go through with the plan, even after he has crossed the physical intimacy line. Every episode this season has delivered those Emmy-worthy moments, but I can’t get over the phone call Philip makes to Kimmy. He’s out of disguise, which brings another level to it, as he tells Kimmy he can’t go to Greece. Philip has fucked her, but he can’t take the risk of fucking with her life. They have already destroyed too many people in the name of their country. Too many kids.

Elizabeth notes Kimmy is no longer a kid, legally she isn’t. But she is still a young person with a bright future ahead of her. There is no way he can control Paige’s path, but he can with Kimmy. What he is risking is huge; his entire relationship with Elizabeth could rest on this (oh and the fact he is going behind her back with Oleg), but he does it anyway.Both Matthew Rhys and Julia Garner crush the emotion of this scene. Garner because Kimmy has just been told the person she has wanted for a long time will no longer be in her life, Philip because he is “trying his best.” He got a taste of the spy life again and it was not good, but the tipping point comes after Stan is a lot more loose lipped than he has been in the past. Coming over for a beer after a hard day at work used to be the norm, now Stan rarely does this. Stan tells him about the double-murder and the 7 year-old boy that got to see the bloody aftermath of Elizabeth’s handiwork. Even without knowing Elizabeth did it, Philip *knows* Elizabeth did it. Another kid impacted by the work.

Elizabeth and Claudia’s Russian history lesson for Paige this week centers on the Great Patriotic War aka WWII; they underscore just how much the Soviet Union lost in comparison to the U.S. (400,000 to 27 million), the battle that changed everything (Stalingrad, not D-Day) and the poverty that followed (Elizabeth mentions eating rats). The history book erasure is a valid point. They suffered, they died, they won. But this doesn’t justify what Elizabeth has been doing this season. How every operation and episode has added to the body count. Each death has come as a result of operations not going to plan; Elizabeth attempts her “got a light?” (how very Twin Peaks) tactic again, this time she is interrupted.Plan B involves going up the fire escape and into Gennadi’s safe house. A plan that would have been fool proof if Stan hadn’t succeeded in getting Sofia to give Gennadi another chance. Elizabeth goes to exit the kitchen, first hiding behind the fridge, then the door. But she is spotted, there is only one way out of this building for Elizabeth alive; another bloody mess bringing her work back in the orbit of Stan.

Also in the orbit of Stan is Oleg, but he gets a different visitor asking exactly what he is doing back in the US. One-time love interest Tatiana approaches as a friend, but when Oleg uses study as the reason he is here, she loses her shit. She is mad that he used the information she gave him about the bio-weapons, costing her career. She has been stuck in the same position ever since, her star was previously on the rise. Tatiana calls him a traitor and later at the Rezidentura she underscores how little he can be trusted, putting his life in danger. It doesn’t feel like things are going to end well for Oleg.This episode clocks in at just under 60 minutes, currently some shows unnecessarily extend their run-time (shout-out to Kathryn VanArendonk’s A+ piece about this trend), this is not one of those cases. Thomas Schlamme makes very scene feel worth it, every word by writer Hilary Bettis is earned, the performances from top to bottom are fantastic. In a long list of very good Americans episodes, “The Great Patriotic War” is up there with the best. And we are only halfway through the season.

There is a fluidity in the way the camera moves, whether it is capturing Elizabeth’s daring Gennadi plot, moving from hiding place to hiding place or the closest The Americans has come to a walk and talk scene. Instead it is walk and argue starting with Paige essentially yelling “You’re not the boss of me” at her mother in the garage, then Philip and Elizabeth carrying on this heated discussion moving from the kitchen, to the stairs and then the bedroom.Elizabeth’s “it’s none of your business” retort to her husband about who Paige is sleeping with is also very teen like, but she goes from being incredibly defensive to accepting that Philip was right about Paige not being cut out for this business. But this is not what he said, he reiterates this by saying “She can do it, my point was always that she shouldn’t.” This argument starts because Paige lost her cool in a bar, a super skeezy guy laid his hands on her so she reacted. But this was impulsive, drawing unwanted attention that could put the entire family in danger. It is also worth noting that Paige’s surprise visit interrupts a tense debriefing scene after Philip gets back from his Kimmy trip, every conversation in this sequence feels unfinished and emotionally charged.

Right now Paige feels empowered. So while Elizabeth is out murdering more people (albeit she does it without drawing attention to herself), Philip swings by Paige’s apartment to find out just how much she knows about fighting. And to teach her an important lesson.What Philip gets is another case of Paige acting superior as she tells him “I know you’re not into what me and mom do.” Like he doesn’t share an interest in their hobby. Instead Philip tells her to come at him, his hand still in his pocket nonchalantly as she quips about how they don’t have pads. Again the contempt in his voice is impossible to ignore (again it is delicious to hear) as he notes “There aren’t really pads in the real world.”

He pulls some moves out of the bag, easily putting her into a choke hold. This moment is Philip giving her a vital teaching moment, to make sure she doesn’t feel invincible, but he still looks incredibly disgusted at himself. As he does multiple times in this episode.Before Kimmy, the murders, Paige being a know-it-all; Philip and Elizabeth do experience something we haven’t seen all season, real physical intimacy. For a brief moment they are back to how they were. Last week it almost happened, but Elizabeth rolled away from her husband.

Schlamme previously directed one of the most intimate Philip and Elizabeth scenes, thankfully this time there is no tooth pulling. Here the only thing getting removed (on camera) is Elizabeth’s earrings. The camera moves from a static shot to overhead as they lean into each other, then lying down on the bed. The calculator beeps causing Elizabeth to laugh, it is good moment. Cut to a now familiar setting the next day; Elizabeth smoking outside with Philip coming out to see him. But there is a lightness, a spring is his step* as he notes that he hasn’t slept that well in ages with Elizabeth joking “I wonder why.” She still hasn’t slept well, the reason probably has something to do with what follows in the kitchen, as she asks him to go to Greece because without the Kimmy tapes she’s screwed. Sex again comes into focus as a manipulation tool; was Elizabeth just doing this so Philip would bend to her will.

*A nice costume detail here is that Philip hasn’t put his sneakers on properly because he isn’t going to wearing them for long. Also the brr noise he makes is the most adorable.

This is far more complicated than the many people they have slept with for information. Yes part of her probably did this to make him more compliant, but they have both been lacking and yearning for this connection. Paige thinks it is ridiculous that she would ever sleep with someone she didn’t like, Philip and Elizabeth know this feeling all too well. And it is not like they are fucking the empty void in the couch as Elizabeth’s first paramour ended up doing.

This will be the end of it for Philip, if he just did what Elizabeth asked, but he can’t and it isn’t. With just five episodes left it looks like things will come crashing down for this relationship before the Berlin Wall does. But part of me still believes they will come back together for each other, but I can’t see a happy ending. It is The Americans, after all.

Dream PhoneOther than this being a crushing scene for character reasons it also reminded me that I really wanted a phone like this when I was growing up. I did not get it.

Costume wish list

What better way to dress up a shirt than with a collar pin. Paige is crushing the style stakes this season, even as she finds out about the very bad things that happened to the Soviet Union during WWII.

Drinking Tips Claudia and Elizabeth give Paige a lesson in how to drink more; have a shot of olive oil before you start. Holly Taylor does not recommend this. Also I now very much want to get drunk with Claudia (and Margo Martindale).

Family Portrait 
A point I keep returning to is how well the Jennings’ house is used in times of harmony and discord. And that they have an excellent production design department. The pictures on the wall reinforce this notion of family; showing what is always at stake.

The Americans 6.03 “Urban Transport Planning” Review: The Way We Were

12 Apr

Nostalgia is powerful as it can make us long for a time that was less than perfect. Change can be hard particularly when the place you long for no longer exists. This final season of The Americans encapsulates how romantic notions of where we came from can cloud perspective. Elizabeth and Claudia are teaching Paige about her Russian heritage, but Elizabeth is very much stuck in the past, clashing with the political progress being made. A collision course has been set and knowing the global outcome makes it is hard to not scream at Elizabeth to let go. Pizza Hut is indeed coming to Moscow.

Hatred for America still burns inside Elizabeth, the look on her face when Philip mentions serving zharkoye to Stan is a flicker of betrayal. Season five focused on food, but it has always been an important aspect of The Americans. It is a family-centric show, so naturally a lot of scenes take place in the kitchen; the heart of the home. It has been a long time since the tap has been left running or the radio switched on, this used to be a place where they talked work and family. Paige demanded to know the truth in this very room, it is where Philip tore Paige’s Bible, late night cigarettes and sex as salvation. The Jennings kitchen has seen it all.Philip and Elizabeth growing up in poverty means they are particularly attached to the small amount they had. It isn’t about what you liked and didn’t like or getting bored of eating the same thing—Paige, still so American—but appreciating what you had.

Elizabeth sneaks some leftovers to Philip, which he can only manage one bite of because he is stuffed full with takeout, which is very reflective of Philip’s push/pull between American culture with his home. Smell is very important when it comes to memory and this moment of connectivity between husband and wife fills this void. It also reads as a nod to the caviar surprise from the second episode of season one. Circumstances are very different; then they were truly getting to know each other on an intimate level, now they are adrift. For a brief moment it feels like it used to, the intimacy is back. But the food ends up down the garbage disposal and they have a bitter back and forth about the state of the world.

The shift in body language goes from pointing toward each other to standing apart. Philip doesn’t think Elizabeth can speak for people back home as she hasn’t spoken to anyone there in over twenty years, her retort of “neither have you” is met with a weighty silence. This would be the time to tell her about Oleg, but he just can’t do. Philip clearly fears whatever Elizabeth is working on and her passion to do whatever needs to be done. Later he contemplates it while brushing his teeth. She asked him to let her sleep and now he does. The amount Philip clenches his jaw at the moment, he’s gonna need a trip to the dentist. And not the basement kind.

A quick costume note to point out how great the winged shoulders of Elizabeth’s coat look in every shot. And if you’re wondering where it comes from, alas it is a custom design by Katie Irish. You won’t be able to pick this one up from Coach. A heavy sigh emanates from most of the major players this week. Elizabeth has no time for talking of feelings. It doesn’t matter that EST has rebranded to The Forum, you will never see Elizabeth indulge in this program. This isn’t a new stance from her, but the work is very much starting to weigh on her, even if she can’t admit it to anyone. She is unwavering in her anger toward her daughter. There is no sleeping over on a work night.

When Philip tells Elizabeth he told Paige she could talk to him, she snaps that she was doing just that. Elizabeth’s lack of empathy here made me laugh out loud because it is so brutal. And yet this is how Elizabeth has chosen to protect herself from all the horrible shit she has done. The cracks are starting to show.Again, Keri Russell gives a masterclass in showing Elizabeth’s exhaustion before steeling herself in front of others. The ‘out damn spot’ opening sequence is incredibly telling, but it is the moment she realizes she has to kill yet another person (that makes two murders and one death caused indirectly at her hands) which delivers the “Give Keri Russell all the awards” moment of the week.

Elizabeth’s repeated stressing that it is important Evan doesn’t spill anything about this meeting is undercut as soon as he mentions his girlfriend as she works in the same department as Elizabeth. The fake smile flickers as he eyes register exactly what must be done, but it is the moment after she has choked Evan that betrays how Elizabeth is really feeling. A mixture of “not this again,” exhaustion and emptiness as Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love” plays over the top (another incredible music choice and one that connects me to my family as Cohen was my dad’s favorite singer).

Three missions have gone to shit in such a short space of time. Elizabeth has a team, but doing this alone is really fucking with her strike rate. Elizabeth might not be scared of dying for her country, but at this rate it is going to happen sooner rather than later.While Elizabeth is killing yet another guy, Philip has suited and booted or rather wigged and mustached as he keeps with his meeting with Oleg in the park. Matthew Rhys is also doing an incredible job in showing Philip’s betrayal; he is part disgusted at himself with a dash of looking like he wants to vomit, complete with the classic Philip ‘soul being crushed into a thousand pieces’ face. There is no easy solution to the Jennings martial strife, but we all know how Elizabeth feels about Philip lying to her, so this is really not going to go down well when she eventually finds out about the park rendezvous. Although it is not like Elizabeth has been particularly forthcoming either.

One person wants to help Elizabeth and Philip fill their relationship void and that’s Father Andrei. The last time we saw this priest was in much happier times for this couple on their big day and he can sense all is not well with this marriage. Like the audience, he has a personal investment and he tells Elizabeth to bring her husband the next time they see each other. She explains Philip is out of the spy biz, but Father Andrei insists.Will some spiritual guidance be the surprise fix? That fact that Elizabeth is willing to admit to Father Andrei there are issues with Philip is quite a big deal; last week I mentioned Elizabeth on Claudia’s couch as giving off therapy vibes, but this conversation is even more like that. I can’t see Elizabeth showing a lot of vulnerability in front of Claudia, but Father Andrei is another story. He knows them on this intimate level because that ceremony was just for them. There was no ulterior motive or reason behind it. This is what could bring them back together

Unlike the last time Paige saw a violent act up close and personal, she doesn’t seem particularly shaken even though she can’t get it out of her mind. Or at least on the surface level she isn’t. The following day Elizabeth is far kinder to her daughter with regard to this operational error. Elizabeth points out she also made a mistake with this guy, but Paige put everyone at risk. There is also the emphasis that Paige’s job will be different. She might not be throwing on a wig or seducing strangers for information, but the evidence of this is lacking. Is Elizabeth kidding herself?Meanwhile Philip is having a hard time financially due to expanding the business and not having the sales to match. He sweet talks his way into deferring tuition payment—he’s still got it—and gives pep talks straight from “Success through Positive Mental Attitude.” It is awkward as hell.

In other job related conversations there is an odd one in the Beeman kitchen where Renee points to the success of Philip and Elizabeth’s relationship is that they work together. Stan notes they don’t do that much work together anymore as Elizabeth is in charge of the corporate clients (lol at this excuse for her not being in the office much). When Stan finds out the truth… Anyway, Renee floats the idea of joining the FBI, which is bizarre because we of course still don’t know whether Renee is for real or a spy. Stan shoots this idea down because she is too old (the cut off is 37) and I wonder if we will ever find out if Stan is the Martha of this marriage.Stan has some pressing work business including the disaster that is Sofia and Gennadi. Sofia is a bad Soviet if she thinks Soviets are good at keeping secrets and they end up pulling them both out. Very publicly. Gennadi wants to stay together and tasks Stan with fixing his marriage.

There is also Stan’s catch up with Oleg where they catch up on old times including Nina. There is a mutual respect even if Oleg is still pissed at him for the CIA stuff. Stan warns Oleg to leave because he doesn’t have diplomatic immunity, but that meeting in the park still takes place. Each storyline looks set to overlap in a big way and it is only going to get more fraught. Strap in, this is only the beginning of the end.

Get Me That Electric Blue Eyeliner Another week. Another new wig. Or rather a wig we haven’t seen since season one. There are no Stephanie curls, but Elizabeth can get up close to Glen in this getup because she looks so different. Plus she has her back to the group they are tailing. The electric blue eyeliner/pink lipstick is the one.

What is Henry Up To? Henry’s jeans aren’t so acid wash as he rings to tell his dad about his hand in the hockey win. Sadly for Henry he calls at a bad time and this is the first time Philip has referred to spy shenanigans as work this season.

The DARE poster detail is just one reason I love the production design team on this show.

Hat Watch This isn’t the first time Paige has worn this pink beanie this season and while she hasn’t got to wear a wig yet, she does have a steady rotation of hats. Good job it is winter. Elizabeth also got in on the beanie action with Father Andrei, giving her a break from the cavalcade of wigs she’s been wearing this season.

Fun fact – Elizabeth has already worn ten different disguises in three episodes, the most she has ever worn in an entire season is twelve (season two), the least is six (season four).

The Americans 6.02 “Tchaikovsky” Review: The Dark Parts

5 Apr

Elizabeth Jennings has a lot on her plate. Not only is she running all the operations alone, when she used to have a partner to share the load, but now she is also being taught how to draw. This is of course part of a very important operation, but Elizabeth could end up exploring a part of her psyche that could be enlightening. But only if she lets it.

Right now she doesn’t get why someone would dedicate their life to something she sees as unimportant, but being told to draw what’s dark is pretty much what she does every day. Her darkness isn’t the mug before her, but the life she lived for all of her adult life. Erica explains that drawing is about looking at what is light and dark, but Elizabeth has spent so long in the moral grey area her eye isn’t trained in this way.The world Elizabeth works in is far from black and white, no matter how much Reagan tried to paint the Soviets as the Evil Empire. A point that Elizabeth reinforces when Paige mentions some light reading she has been doing on the tactics of spies. Paige is still very much in the dark about some of the things her parents have done in the name of the cause; when she asks outright whether operatives use sex as tool to get information her mother lies. The truth would be devastating because as we saw from last week’s opening montage Elizabeth is still very much using this tactic. Not to mention the many men and women her parents have seduced in the name of Mother Russia including the one that ended up as a wife and the one that ended up in a suitcase.

Dancing around the subject Elizabeth explains that those close relationships with sources could turn into something else. This conversation also reinforces how cut off Elizabeth is from everyone else; there is no water cooler in the spy biz. Or at least not in the version Elizabeth lives.

Words like monster and evil have been applied to Elizabeth in the past, most notably in the incredible season three episode “Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?” when she forced an old lady to kill herself (I watched this episode again recently and Lois Smith is devastatingly good in her condemnation of Elizabeth’s justifications). Here she tells her daughter that things aren’t black and white, the world is complicated.But the weight of doing this alone is getting to Elizabeth. She lies back on Claudia’s couch talking to her as if this is therapy appointment—Matthew Rhys directed this episode and the intimacy of these moments is extraordinary—and when Paige comes in things switch from work chat to another Russian history lesson.

Elizabeth might scoff at artists, but she appreciates classical music. She took Paige to see The Nutcracker and Claudia explains that Tchaikovsky was all she could listen to after the war. It all sounds very melancholic to this classical music novice’s ear, but each woman seems to take something different from this moment. I really love what is going on with the three generations of women this season. These moments are really effective. We have come a long way since Elizabeth beat the shit out of Claudia; now Elizabeth is asking Claudia to continue with Paige if anything happens to her. This is a disturbing conversation when you think about her relationship with Philip because he has been entirely cut out of this huge part of this life.

Considering how many risks Elizabeth is taking that now seems more likely than ever. Whether it is switching out wigs/outfits within the State Department walls or wildly underestimating how much General Rennhull wants to help out the enemy. Formally a Colonel, who first appeared in the season one finale, “The Colonel” (btw I am so glad I rewatched all of The Americans before this final outing), Rennhull believed he was sharing intel for the greater good. It was to stop a crazy arms race that was more a sci-op than technology that would be possible in this period. But it spun out of control (as things do on this show) and he ended up killing someone to save his skin. It also shows that in this world, anyone can come back. No matter how long ago they were involved. It isn’t an easy life to escape no matter how much you try. Just ask Philip and Oleg.

Elizabeth uses this knowledge as leverage to get a lithium based radiation censor—for the Dead Hand—but what she doesn’t factor in is Rennhull’s state of mind. He would rather kill her than go to jail or betray his country again. The climatic moments in the park has Elizabeth using her kids as a way to stall, to get sympathy and after a brief tussle, Rennhull shoots himself covering Elizabeth’s face in his blood. It is quite the striking image, one that Paige sees as she runs over to make sure her mom is okay. Just another day at the spying office. Of course this isn’t the first time Paige has witness the aftermath of a violent act, but it isn’t getting any easier. And I don’t think Paige is ready for Disposing of a Body 101. After all, it was meant to be better for Paige in this line of work. Not the shit Elizabeth has been through. Getting a bloodier version of Dustin Hoffman in Straw Dogs vibe from this shot. Again, Matthew Rhys did an incredible job behind the camera as well as in front.

As Elizabeth juggles her care work (and art classes) where she offers her euthanasia services—while lying about how effective morphine can be—and the various other multi-wig requiring ops, Philip is having some money woes at the travel agency. Not so much life and death, but Philip is learning the price of expanding the business too much. Capitalism at its finest. A call to a very relaxed and happy sounding Henry has his son noting how forlorn his dad sounds—see Henry is perceptive. But with the Oleg thing hanging over his head it isn’t surprising to see that very familiar clenched jaw.In terms of Philip/Elizabeth interactions it follows the same pattern as last week, but without the fight at the end. She comes down for breakfast, which is a cigarette outside and later on they have a stilted conversation (also while she is smoking). She shares the vaguest of information with him about Paige; it is heartbreaking to see just how much she is keeping from him. This is worse than when they were screaming at each other about whether to tell Paige in season three. They are shells of themselves with each other and you can feel the ache emanating from them both. Philip’s different perspective is why they were so effective as a team, he took the time to think rather than act on a duty bound impulse. Without this Elizabeth ends up in a park at night with blood all over her face. Just how long will it be before he gets pulled back in? Her impulsiveness is a strength, but it can also be a near deadly weakness.

The Jennings aren’t experiencing marital strife per se, more like marital emptiness. Maybe they could do with the not so stellar marriage advice from Stan. Stan is mostly working homicide, but Sofia and Gennadi—the Russian couple from last season—are experiencing relationship woes that could impact a long running operation. Gennadi is a courier and we get to see his operation play out with another excellent music choice; “Slippery People” by Talking Heads. How to x-ray a diplomatic pouch while undetected is hard

And just like Philip, Stan seems reluctant to be drawn into his old life. But the return of Oleg certainly causes some interest.

The Felicity LinkFelicity could teach Elizabeth a lot about art. I don’t think Elizabeth would enjoy it very much. Felicity could also give Elizabeth some curly hair tips for her Stephanie wig.

Teens in ’80s Jeans The ’80s jeans continue to be amazing. Particularly the ones they give Holly Taylor and Keidrich Sellati to wear.

Fake Teeth

When I spoke to costume designer Katie Irish, one of the things she mentioned was the fake teeth that everyone loves, but rarely get used because the actors can’t really speak in them. Well, they made an appearance in “Tchaikovsky” in one of the many new Elizabeth disguises.

Smoking Cardigan UpdateElizabeth has more than one. We will continue to update the smoking cardigan collection as hey come. There’s a lot of walls between Philip and Elizabeth right now.

Out of the Box: Look of the Week

30 Mar

A quieter week for “Out of the Box,” but a very good one for magazine content including gasp worthy covers and a reunion that warmed my soul. It was exactly what I needed to see on Wednesday when I was knee deep in work. So, thank you for that.

There are also ladysuits, animal print, kitties and some very good costume design. This is from last week at a FYC event (Emmy season is coming!), but I missed it and I can’t not include Cody Fern demonstrating that leopard print makes for a perfect button-down shirt choice. This is how you add sartorial flair to a black suit.

Fern plays David Madson on American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace and was a revelation. Here he looks nothing like his ACS character; the hair wave he is serving up is fantastic. Sound the ladysuit klaxon! At the A Series of Unfortunate Events season two premiere, Allison Williams gives great menswear in Gabriela Hearst.

Timeless continues to be the most fun and delightful show that also has me wanting to know more about the historical events they cover. This cast also continues to be the most fun and delightful as evidenced on Abigail Spencer’s Instagram.

The most recent episode, “Hollywoodland” paid homage to Queen Hedy Lamarr and also featured some stunning ’40s costumes. And the Timeless lipstick game is so strong right now. This Gucci jumpsuit has recently graced these pages, but it is definitely worth a second look on Holly Taylor. This is from Anna Silman’s profile of Taylor for The Cut and Silman is one of my favorite interviewers at the moment . In the piece they talk about Taylor’s background growing up in this industry and what she plans on doing next.

And for all things Americans season six as Paige falls further into the spy biz here is my review of the amazing premiere and my interview with costume designer Katie IrishGrown-ish star and TV Ate My Wardrobe fave gives great cover on Essence. And for Grown-ish style tips, here is where you find a lot of the costumes; this is a show that mixes aspirational and affordable. This made me gasp in the best way. It has been a very good week for Christina Aguilera including this Drag Race moment.

Paper continues to do very interesting things and this is beautiful (song title ref intended). But this isn’t an indictment on makeup because as Aguilera mentions in the interview “I mean, I’m a girl that likes a beat face, let’s not get it twisted.” We can do both.
Entertainment Weekly excels when it comes to WB reunions—first Felicity, then Buffy—and this Dawson’s Creek issue hits all those sweet nostalgia spots. It is always heartening when a cast comes back to celebrate the show that made them famous and they do this in spades.

There is a 55-minute reunion show which delivers on the feeeeeeelings and fun including Michelle Williams seeing the Crying Dawson meme for the first timeI yelled with joy about this on Twitter because there is nothing better than Michelle Williams opting for a cover with Busy Philipps over a solo shot. As Joanna Robinson put it “Let’s all enjoy the fact that Michelle Williams clearly has a Busy rider.” Yes this is now my lock screen image. Yes I am extra when it comes to this friendship.

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 Americans Final Season Trailer: “It’s On Us”

14 Mar

The Americans returns in two weeks (March 28) and a new trailer is dishing out end of Cold War anxiety. Philip all but quit the spy biz at the end of season five, but his wig wearing game is still strong.

There is a strong sense that things are not going to be okay for our fave spy couple because even Elizabeth looks rattled. In some movies and TV shows, smoking means a character is a bad guy, in The Americans it is a sign that Elizabeth is stressed. There are flickers of scenes shown in earlier trailers such as the aforementioned pensive smoking and a bloody Elizabeth, but here she looks panicked when in full disguise. Plus a chat with Claudia reveals what they are up against. It finally looks like things are swinging Stan’s way.

Matthew Rhys continues to be the king of expressing the erosion of Philip’s soul with a look of the eye. From sitting alone, enduring another awkward group dinner with Stan (this time with Aderholt) and explaining to Elizabeth that they are complicit in all of this. But with the appearance of Philip in a wig it is clear he is willing to do anything; maybe not for country, but for his family. Also his plaid shirt game has never been stronger.

And Paige has a decision to make about her future career; to spy or not to spy?

Plus new cute wigs including a look that made me think of Diane Keaton and a brief appearance from Max Medina.

The Americans returns for its sixth and final season Wednesday, March 28.

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