Advertisements
Tag Archives: Matthew Rhys

2018 Emmy Nomination Wish List

11 Jul

Emmy nominations are just a day away! But before the cheers and jeers after the names have been read, here is a rundown of who I would love to see among the nominees tomorrow. Some are definite locks, some are long shots; all turned in amazing performances. I have tried to keep it to one pick per show — with some obvious exemptions — and separated them into drama, comedy and mini-series.

Obviously this is my list and so some of your faves might not feature. There is just too much TV. And I’ve probably also forgotten a performance I love. But these are the ones that have stuck with me.

Drama Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys – The Americans

No shocker here. They have been first on the list on my Emmy nomination wish list since I started this annual tradition, there was no way they weren’t going to be first for this one last time. The final season delivered in every single way, right down to the devastating finale.

Both Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys gave a weekly master class in how to say so much, often without barely saying a word. The things these actors do with the silence. Or a gasp. For that moment alone, Keri Russell should be taking home the very pointy trophy. Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer – Killing Eve

Again, I can’t just choose one. There is something so magnetic about Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer, both when they are facing off against each other and as part of the cat-and-mouse game. Killing Eve is one of the best new shows of the year; Oh and Comer are integral to keeping the narrative grounded when the action gets a bit more outlandish.Thandie Newton – Westworld

Maeve’s hunt for her daughter gave Thandie Newton the chance to show both vulnerability and fierceness in equal measure. Westworld is a show that I admire more than I love, but anytime Newton is on screen I feel less like the show is holding me at arm’s length. Maeve makes me care about the fate of these beings, more than simply intrigued about the puzzle element of Westworld.  Yvonne Strahovski – The Handmaid’s Tale 

There are many standout moments from Yvonne Strahovski on season 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale; the one I can’t stop thinking about isn’t from the roster devastating scenes where her face crumples or she actively partakes in this oppressive system. Instead it is the moment in “Smart Power” as they drive through the streets of Canada; this is the world how it was. A flicker of sadness at how her life used to be. Serena Joy attempts to act defiant while in Canada, to show she is unashamed and yet embarrassment is hard to hide when these reminders lurk at every elevator.

Serena Joy is complicit, but Yvonne Strahovski’s performance makes it hard not to feel some level of empathy. As with Serena Joy in that car, it is hard to look away.  Vanessa Kirby – The Crown 

Withering looks, the perfect put down; I need Vanessa Kirby to show me how to get this level of sardonic perfection. But there is the other side to Margaret, the cracks in the facade. The loneliness and bitter feelings, the desperate desire to be loved. I am going to miss Kirby as the Queen’s little sister (even if I cannot wait to see what HBC brings to the table). No one smokes cigarettes quite as sulkily as Kirby.Sarah Steele – The Good Fight

From the first time I saw Sarah Steele in Please Give it was love. And I am so happy that she made the move from The Good Wife to The Good Fight. The second season perfectly captured the mood of this turbulent political time; Marissa managed to be the voice of reason, humor and major scene-stealer who kept her head when shots were fired.

 

Comedy

Bill Hader – Barry

For the Macbeth moment alone, which I realize should be filed under “quietly devastating” rather than hilarious. But I can’t stop thinking about it. Never has this play made me feel quite like I have been punched in the stomach.

There are many other very funny moments though, in which Bill Hader’s comic timing is pretty much perfection. As he tries to spill his innermost demons and everyone seems to think he is referring to acting. Also the whole wearing an outfit that Barry saw on a J. Crew mannequin is one of the best costume moments of the year.  Zazie Beetz – Atlanta 

Season 2 of Atlanta is a gift. I could pick the entire regular cast, but I am going to single out Zazie Beetz for her work in “Helen.” As with a lot of “Robbin’ Season” there is something disorientating about the episode. They are in an entirely different location, pretty much everyone is in traditional German dress. There are actual demons. But ultimately it is about this central paring; Earn can’t give Van what she desires. He is getting in his own way. To see this relationship disintegrate over the space of half an hour highlights just how good Atlanta is as well as giving Beetz the chance to shine in Van’s disappointment.Betty Gilpin and Alison Brie – GLOW

Emmy voters will be looking at season 1 of GLOW, but it probably doesn’t harm the show’s chances that season 2 has just landed. Both Betty Gilpin and Alison Brie give standout performances as they grapple with their friendship fallout, the betrayal and having to work together. When Ruth asks Debbie if she wants to get a drink after the bitterness has cooled, the response that they might never be back at this place is a gut punch. And one that makes so much sense. It isn’t that easy to fix this.

Also the physicality of their work on GLOW is incredible.Yael Grobglas – Jane the Virgin 

Mid-way through writing these comedy dream Emmy noms and I realize every single one has made me cry. But those are my fave kinds of comedies; the ones that make you feel all the feelings. Petra has been on a journey; on this season of Jane the Virgin she has softened, let herself be vulnerable and found love with JR (Rosario Dawson). This is one of several very good bisexuality storylines on TV this year and this essay by Caroline Framke on how bisexuality is no longer a TV punchline is very good.Rachel Brosnahan – The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel 

Again, I love a comedy performance that also makes me weep. I recently rewatched the finale of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and these were tears of joy. Rachel Brosnahan talks at one hundred miles per hour, but every word is worth paying attention to. And she is damn hilarious. Oh, and I would very much like all of her coats. Please and thank youThe Alvarez Family – One Day at a Time

Don’t make me pick one member of the Alvarez family, instead Rita Moreno, Justina Machado, Isabella Gomez and Marcel Ruiz are all here. Again, this show makes me cry a lot. And laugh. It is the perfect show for these times; it gets to the heart of working class issues as well as immigration, depression and sexuality. It is also hilarious.

 

Mini-SeriesCody Fern – American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace

There are a number of standouts in the second American Crime Story; Darren Criss dazzled, Queen Judith Light broke me in two as she took her makeup off, but it is relative newcomer Cody Fern that I want to single out. Over just a few episodes Fern crafted a performance that gave so much life to David Madson before his tragic death. Often in true crime it is the killer that gets the spotlight, the victims are just a footnote (see People v. OJ) and while this is clearly Andrew’s story, the time spent with Andrew coupled with Fern’s nuanced turn means David is more than just a name on a list.

A lot of it is conjecture as we’ll never know what happened in those days, but thankfully the show reinforces Madson’s innocence after the initial police investigation did the opposite. Sarah Gadon – Alias Grace 

Sarah Gadon gives a captivating and magnetic turn as Grace Marks. Nothing is quite as it seems and I am in awe of everything Gadon does in this mini-series that wasn’t talked about as much as it should have been. Instead it is another Margaret Atwood adaptation that gets all the plaudits. There is enough awards love to share between the two. Taylor Kitsch – Waco 

So it turns out I have been getting Waco and Jonestown mixed up, so while this wasn’t about drinking the Kool-Aid (or its cheaper alternative) there is something about Taylor Kitsch as David Koresh that has me buying into the whole thing. Was Waco too sympathetic toward the cult leader? Perhaps. But Kitsch delivered on the magnetic charm of things and the show made sure that neither side was painted as the innocent party. He also somehow makes serial killer specs and that mullet work.Kyle MacLachlan – Twin Peaks: The Return

This time last year was spent obsessing over Twin Peaks. Part of that was trying to figure out when the real Agent Dale Cooper would show up. Kyle MacLachlan had several different characters to play throughout the return of Twin Peaks; all completely different from the other. Give this guy the Emmy he deserves.

 

Emmy nominations will be announced tomorrow by Samira Wiley and Ryan Eggold at 11.30 am EST. The Emmy Awards will be hosted Monday, September 17.

 

 

Advertisements

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.

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 6.09 “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.

The Americans 6.08 “The Summit” Review: Ill Communication

17 May

Communication is essential to a good marriage. It is one of the core pieces of advice that has been consistently dispensed in magazines, self-help books and in many conversations you have before you get married. Communication is also really important if you work in the spy business. Whether getting information from a source or relaying it an effective manner, being effective at dispensing intel is a vital work skill to have. Philip and Elizabeth Jennings are very good spies. They are not always the best communicators when it comes to their relationship, as we have seen during six seasons of The Americans.

King and Queen of the wordless conversation; however when it comes to using their words, they could do better.Compartmentalizing is a skill required in a job that involves this much violence, lying, sleeping around and maintaining a double life, but it has often led to the greatest fractures between Philip and Elizabeth. Prior to this final season, their marriage had been in its strongest and now legally binding place. The flashback to the secret ‘just for them’ ceremony last week makes even more sense in context of “The Summit” opening scene. Because holy shit, Philip spills all about his Oleg betrayal and it goes over about as well as expected.

The last time Philip kept something from Elizabeth was when he slept with Irina in season 1, which ended in temporary separation. This cuts even deeper because it isn’t just about lying about sleeping with an ex. It is about their work, their life. He has been spying on her, reporting his findings to someone they don’t even know. It doesn’t matter that his reasons were for the good of their country, he has been lying for two months now. Pointing out that he tried to tell her on a couple of occasions—dude you really didn’t try that hard—is far from a valid excuse.

Dead bodies and tooth extractions are nothing in comparison to the pain in this scene. They have been together for over twenty years, which means they can communicate through nothing more than facial expressions. But words don’t come so easy. They let it hit breaking point before addressing an issue. Here it took Philip having to cut off someone’s head and hands before he tackled the problem head on (no pun intended).

Over this season he has been trying to reason with Elizabeth, but neither of them have been in possession of all the information; Philip didn’t know exactly what or why Elizabeth was racking up a high body count, Elizabeth didn’t know that she is being used as a way to get Gorbachev out of office. Again the speech Elizabeth gave to Tuan at the end of last season comes into play; they are so much better when they are working together. Yes it was better for Philip’s mental well-being to get out, but it has been at the cost of Elizabeth’s. There are so many moments in this opening scene that feel like a stab to the back for Elizabeth, it is also truly a pleasure to watch Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys in this scene, even though it is heartbreaking to see this relationship hit the point of almost no return. He can barely look at her at first, knowing full well how she will react. This is an act of infidelity. The way Russell says “And?” at the mention of Oleg’s information request, followed by the sucking in of her cheeks is chilling for anyone who has been on the Philip end of this conversation. Again, the spy stuff is not relatable, but the essence of this conversation is universal.

The calm tone, the measured words all initially mask the anger at this betrayal. A prelude to her spitting out, “go to hell!” Or when he makes sure he mentions that he told Oleg she was amazing and loyal. Like she wants to laugh at how he tries to find absolution in a compliment.* That ain’t gonna work buddy.

*I just rewatched this opening scene because it’s truly stunning. You notice something new every time. After that attempt at buttering up Elizabeth, Keri Russell does this amazing thingwhere she stops an eye roll midway through it. The gut punch sound when Philip reveals just how long all of this has been going on. It’s all just so good. And so heart-wrenching. 

Honestly, I could go line-by-line, but I won’t. It is that good. In fact this entire episode should be Keri Russell’s Emmy submission because the things she does with her face. There aren’t enough words to describe just how good she is at showing the swirling conflict within Elizabeth.A season of every operation going bad with an ever growing body count is going to take its toll. While Elizabeth doesn’t spend much time with her husband in this episode, his words gnaw away at her. They aren’t always great communicators, but now his voice is inside her head. That statement about getting her to think about what she is doing, why she is doing it, is so important to in Elizabeth’s decision making throughout “The Summit.” This is why they were such an effective team; she would react on instinct, he would question their orders. You need both.  He tells her he would do anything for he, he just did. Nothing says romantic overture quite like dismembering someone so you can protect your identity. But he has hit his breaking point.

“You don’t think I’m a human being?” The hurt in her voice at her interpretation of what Philip said is clear, but even if she hasn’t understood what he said right away, her actions over this season have been pretty extreme, even for Elizabeth Jennings. Her body count stands at eight—nine if you count Rennhull—she could have added another two to this tally this week, but something stopped her. And that something was probably this conversation. That eight does include Erica, which isn’t really fair as this one was out of kindness. Using Erica’s paintbrush is poetic, even if this scene is incredibly hard to watch.Another incredible moment in face parts acting from Russell, Erica like Young-Hee before her tapped into a side of Elizabeth we never really see. The kind of bond that Philip developed too easily with is sources, Elizabeth fights against. Again, this is why they are so good together. They complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Orders come from above, but they pull the trigger. They take the knife and shove it in the jugular. Not the Centre. They are not just a mindless automaton, they are the ones who ultimately make a choice to kill or not kill. It is why Elizabeth doesn’t go through with her orders to kill Nesterenko. It is why she doesn’t kill not-Chalamet* aka Jackson the intern. With Jackson she has already seduced him; he has delivered what she needed him to do, even if he did take a peek inside the box discovering the recording device. She could easily kill him and no one would be any the wiser. Instead after a moment deliberating, she lets him go. The chin quiver trick has never worked on her before, but here she relents. It is sloppy of her to not tie up loose ends, but it is the human thing to do. Philip is in her head.

*At one point Elizabeth says “Later” to Jackson and it was impossible not to conjure up images of Armie Hammer cycling away

Nesterenko is saved (for now) because Elizabeth has listened to the tapes. He’s not dirty at all. He doesn’t deserve to die by Elizabeth’s hand. Philip’s confession was bad, but Claudia’s is a knife twist like no other. Elizabeth has always done what is asked of her, no questions. Now she wants to know. The stakes are so high. Claudia asks if she has lost her confidence, she scoffs at this notion. Instead her eyes are wide open.The look on her face as Claudia tells her everything about the plan to get Gorbachev out of office is again another Keri Russell showcase. The subtle flicker of betrayal as she finds out Claudia has been in on the whole Mexico plan the entire time, but she has been protecting Elizabeth—which I believe in a twisted way she does. Claudia is old school, everything we have learned about her in the Soviet History lessons for Paige this season has been preparing us for this. The way she looks at the TV when Gorbachev speaks is full of loathing. But Elizabeth is horrified that her work will be tampered with to make it look like Nesterenko is a traitor, that she is being used. Nesterenko is a good guy; he doesn’t deserve death by manipulation.

Elizabeth is warned not to throw away her many years of service over this. A threat she ignores. Not that there is any time for a warm and fuzzy make-up chat with her husband. She’s still super pissed off at him for fucking her over as well. He was disloyal to her in the name of their country, a tactic he hopes will soften things. Instead, Elizabeth is focused on the mission at hand; to get a message to Oleg, to stop Nesterenko from getting killed. Father Andrei wants to meet up, but she doesn’t have time for that. Little do they know that they are compromised in so many different ways.The garages they store things in—or burn things in, another heartbreaker of a scene—and a priest, maybe their priest has been singled out as being a potential lead. The priest Philip is now meeting up with. Stan has been watching the house; did he go to bed after Elizabeth got home? He will no doubt hear her leaving again.

Stan took photo of Elizabeth to one of Gergory’s guys who couldn’t positively ID her. All he remembers is her amazing hair and that she smoked like a chimney. It will be quite poetic after all this time (and the Felicity legacy) if Elizabeth’s hair is their downfall. The doubt continues to grow for Stan. Just two episodes left means a confrontation is coming sooner rather than later.

The Summit” is ripe for making viewers feel anxious, the tension is building, the match has been lit; we know how Gorbachev’s story will pan out, but these personal tales are still very much in play.

Movie of the WeekPhilip is adrift this week; his wife hates him, his son isn’t around to take his calls, he fired his most loyal employee. So as a distraction and a way to reconnect with his heritage, he rents a movie. But Philip has to put on a disguise to do so because he wants to rent Гараж (The Garage).  A movie that would be his downfall if Stan swung by unannounced. A movie Elizabeth only barely registers is on.

Employee of the Month

Ah, Stavos. Firing your oldest employee just before Thanksgiving is a dick move so it isn’t surprising to that Stavos won’t let Philip in. Philip tries to justify it by telling him the business is going under, he’s got out before the shit has truly hit the fan. The travel agency is of course mirroring the Soviet Union, Stavos is the Philip in this scenario. But he isn’t happier because he got out early. Also Stavos notes that he is aware of the dodgy backroom antics, to Philip’s surprise. But Stavos is loyal, unlike some. *mic drop*

What follows is a suit fitting, which feels so full of doom that I can barely bring myself to think about it.

A wall of Philip and Elizabeth sketches

This is a pretty good likeness to be honest. Philip and Elizabeth are so fucked.

Amazing artwork 

Miriam Shor has been incredible as Erica this season, but artist Alyssa Monks has been vital to this storyline. Her paintings are haunting and I’m so glad they got a lot of screen time this week. Even if ultimately Elizabeth did end up burning the one that tapped into her soul. Also, she definitely wishes she had asked for a smaller one.

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 6.04 “Mr. and Mrs. Teacup” Review: Staying the Same

19 Apr

Nothing lasts forever, things move on, regimes change. The final season of The Americans is hurtling towards the end of the Cold War; those who want to see progress are being met with resistance. The Berlin Wall is still up, but everything around Philip and Elizabeth is crumbling. Elizabeth’s body count continues to grow, not only that but she is yet to yield any significant results. The radiation sensor continues to be her white whale, she is tired all the time. The anchor of this show is this relationship, right now all is not well in this area either. The marriage is adrift.

No, Elizabeth doesn’t want a beer (though she could probably do with having one).Philip is having a hard time with his version of the American Dream. Instead of looking sad about his spy work, he’s looking increasingly glum at the paperwork that just doesn’t add up. In a catch-up with Stan he waxes philosophical about business, why there is this incessant need to grow. Philip is not so good at this capitalism thing, he likes the idea of staying the same. Stan mentions how his father used to say “The more you want, the more you get.” But the reality is very different. Just because you want something, doesn’t mean you’ll get it.

Later Elizabeth jokingly asks—yes there are still some lighter moments in the dark, much like Elizabeth’s drawing lesson—whether Philip is rich yet, his “I wish” response is tinged with regret.Opposition to progress in relations between the US and Soviet Union is partly because a section of those in charge want the dynamic to stay the same. Oleg mentions that some worry they won’t be Communists anymore if any deal transpires. An identity crisis. In this sense, Philip is caught between these two ideologies. And he always has been. Elizabeth knows who she is, how she feels about this country. But Philip has fallen for aspects of this American life. The only time he has looked generally at ease this season is while he is line dancing with his staff, but his business is on shaky ground. Elizabeth thinks he will figure things out, he is not so sure.

The episode closes with Philip at his desk surrounded by papers, thinking back to the scraps he used to eat as a kid. His face as he contemplates his sandwich suggests his distaste for the capitalist cycle he has found himself caught up in, but even with this financial peril it is still a much better scenario than the poverty he grew up in. But there is always a fear that he could return to that, the real possibility that he could lose everything.If Paige is mirroring her mother, then Henry is very much his father’s son. He has the ‘soul getting crushed into a million pieces’ face down after Philip tells him they might not have enough money for boarding school next year. There is plenty of time to turn it around, but Philip seems pretty resigned at the moment. This episode is also sponsored by deep sighs of pretty much every character. The split in the Jennings family is felt most in the scenes where the kids are being discusses.

Philip is appalled that Paige has seemingly got over the whole seeing her mother covered in another man’s brains thing. They have already moved onto the next thing. He also doesn’t hide his scorn for Paige parroting her mother’s “sometimes bad things happen in the world” line. The way Matthew Rhys says “the world” is dripping with contempt and it is delicious. The things Philip has seen, he doesn’t need his daughter acting so high and mighty, like he doesn’t know. An argument is brewing, but Philip leaves before one can start saying there is no point. This feels far more unsettling than if they did have a blowout shouting match.It isn’t all pointed conversations, there is a long overdue moment of intimacy. They actually touch each other for the first time this season. Not only that, but Philip tells Elizabeth about the financial trouble their business is in—of course Elizabeth doesn’t know the names of the new staff—and she shares just how tired she is. A tender kiss fills in this void, the ache returns when Elizabeth rolls over. There is only so much sharing Elizabeth can do, she is not the talker. Sex used to be how they worked out their frustrations with each other or this job, not right now. Girl just wants to sleep.

We don’t know exactly what reason they gave Paige about why Philip quit, but Elizabeth reinforces the notion that Philip still loves them; however this job gets too much for some, even the best. Elizabeth is showing signs of this herself. Keri Russell continues to show Elizabeth’s exhaustion in the labored way she moves at home, the look on her face when she realizes she didn’t get any intel from the World Series opportunity—it is always fun to see their safe house/wig cave spaces. Ultimately, Emmys don’t really matter and yet I’m going to so annoyed if Keri Russell or Matthew Rhys don’t win for this final season.Even in heavy disguise, Rhys shows the exact moment Philip weighs up betraying his wife for his country. He weighs up everything Oleg says realizing that her loyalty could be manipulated by those seeking to stall progress. There is an rapport between these two men; they are both risking so much, but sadly this will be the last time they can meet in person as Oleg is being monitored by the FBI. The FBI resources are stretched thin, but it isn’t worth the risk.The information Philip gives is passed on by Oleg to his father using a code over the phone. Igor then delivers the message to Arkady. Here we find out that everything Igor has told his son about how everyone is doing, is a lie. They are fraught with worry about the mission Oleg is part of. Arkady tells Igor the reason why Oleg wants to do something that matters is because of him; this is his legacy, in a corrupt system Igor has instilled a sense of honor in his son to do the greater good, no matter the risk.

Legacy is something that came up last week when Elizabeth was talking to Paige about why she isn’t afraid of dying for this cause. It is bigger than her. This notion of what we leave behind is mentioned again, but this time in the form of Erica’s art. Erica is in a regretful mood, wondering why she even bothered. She wishes she had spent more time with her husband—will Elizabeth ever leave the work for her family? Which legacy is more important? Elizabeth exploits this vulnerability to get intel on the Russians working on the negotiations. It would be a sweet suggestion, if it wasn’t so calculated. It doesn’t work anyway, as Erica is far too sick to be out of the house.The information Elizabeth got from Evan (RIP) is used to break into the warehouse, but the shit really hits the fan. Well what we can see of it. This sequence involves flashes of light; from Elizabeth’s gun, flashlights and it is incredibly disorientating. I get what they are going for, but I would like to see a little bit more. Elizabeth makes it out just in time, empty handed once again. This pretty much sums up her work this season.

Claudia gives her yet another mission; the teacups of the episode title. They don’t feature this week, but Elizabeth has been tasked with getting rid of Gennadi,as his defection will be a propaganda gold mine for the Americans. This puts her back in Stan’s orbit as he is still being used as a counselor of sorts for the pair, much to his annoyance. He can’t quite get rid of this pesky pair. Elizabeth is looking to make sure he never has to hear from them again. Putting her team on Stan, Elizabeth makes sure that Julie aka Paige is nowhere near this operation because Stan would quickly ID her. Paige, is undertaking her own little spy op as she hooked up with the guy that her mother told her not to. Using sex to get information is not part of the grand plan for Paige. Sadly for Elizabeth, it doesn’t look like she is going to keep her out of this side of the spy biz after all.

Earlier in the episode, Elizabeth tells Paige how proud she is and this validation is all Paige needs. I have a feeling we might see the Emmy forehead vein when Elizabeth finds out about this extracurricular activity.While I’m on the subject of teens, Kimmy is back! And she might not be a teen anymore. Kimmy is at college, so the opportunity to switch out the tapes is limited and it doesn’t help that she won’t be coming back before the summit. Instead she is going on vacation to Greece with her friends, not if Elizabeth has a say in things she won’t. Kimmy notes Philip’s sadness, saying he is stuck. An apt description of where Philip is right now.

Teens in Jeans

More amazing ’80s jeans to add to Henry and Paige’s pairs. I am thrilled Julia Garner is back on this show. The Kimmy storyline has always walked the incredibly uncomfortable line, but I love her trajectory from troubled teen to grounded college student. In a twisted way, Philip is a big part of that.

Pattern Clashing Superstar 

As Philip’s business woes get bigger, his pattern clashing levels go up. Here he wears pinstripe, window pane check and paisley.

No Man is an Island

I’ve talked about the use of the kitchen in the Jennings house a lot; the island this season is being utilized as a visual and physical barrier (see also the first photo at the top).

To watch the Times Talk full video with Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys and co-showrunner Joel Fields, head here.

The Americans Times Talk Panel (Video)

15 Apr

It isn’t quite Emmy roundtable season* yet, but TV panels aren’t just for awards campaigning. The Times Talks series delivers a fascinating discussion about The Americans featuring Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys and co-showrunner Joel Fields. This is ideal Sunday viewing for me on a Sunday of excellent viewing (see also Beychella and John Mulaney on SNL).

*I am convinced thanks to this photo of Evan Rachel Wood and Rachel Brosnahan that Emmy related stuff is occurring

And as it is the final season there is an element of celebrating the show, while also remembering that there are still seven episodes to enjoy. Everything from the current political climate, writing process to disguise highlights is covered (including one that seems to have made Russell horny af). As with a lot of Americans panels it is insightful, while keeping things mostly light despite the heavy subject material.

Elizabeth’s high body count comes up; Russell talks about how difficult it has been playing Elizabeth at the start of this season and how she reconciles these elements. There is also an amazing impression of Beloved Character Actress Margo Martindale by Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell (skip to just past the hour mark for that).

As this is the final season there will likely be more of these (including the ATX Festival) and hopefully Russell and Rhys will be taking part in Emmy roundtable season.

And let’s hope the Hart to Hart reboot becomes a thing. Even the miserable version.

Ex-aspirational

Depression, creativity and the pressures of growing up, as told by a twenty-something not living her best life

Julie Hammerle

Nerds Need Love Too

Sofa and Remote

I love talking about TV as much as I love watching it

Ellie Writes Stuff

About this and that

Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

Authors, Bloggers, Fashion Assassins

Twitter Music Club

A rotation curation music club, based on Twitter, mainly for Kiwis

INTO ROW Z

If you enjoy a challenge, like Claude Makélélé, read my blog. Its about sport.

lost somewhere in new york city

We rock a lot of polka dots

sankles

We rock a lot of polka dots

frocktalk.com/

Just another WordPress.com site

Cultural Learnings

Television Reviews and Analysis

judgmental observer

film, tv, popular culture, higher ed, unicorns

Rookie

We rock a lot of polka dots

ScreenFad

TV show news, reviews, recaps, spoilers, and photos

The Frisky

We rock a lot of polka dots

Tell Us a Story

stories about true things