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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 5.02 “Pests” Review: Playing By the Rules

15 Mar

Lines are blurry on The Americans and rules are constantly being broken with each side doing what they believe they have to do in order to protect their country; however there are certain things that neither would do, right? This is one of the main questions at hand with Russian grain supply (that comes from the U.S.) being at the heart of Philip and Elizabeth’s new operation as they move from biological weapons that could cause mass casualties to a potentially more insidious tactic by their enemy.

Targeting food is something Philip never thought the Americans would do and after a long night of digging and delivering both the sample and bad news about Hans, when Gabriel tells them what this new plan might be Philip can barely contain his horror through his exhaustion.There are rules in combat no matter how cold this war actually is and it seems like both sides are feeling at a loss with some of the tactics at play. For Stan he feels it is his duty to stop Oleg from getting caught in the cross hairs of another operation; the CIA wants to recruit him no matter what. If they were to just let him be then they might see that he is doing important work back home as he investigates the corruption that threatens to destroy Russia from within. Patience is a virtue and the CIA want something to work with now and they believe Oleg is their guy. To them he is another cog in the machine, but – and to borrow from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – for Stan it is a lot more nuanced than that.

It also is not a coincidence that the establishing shots of the FBI and KGB buildings show just how similar each looks in all its concrete glory. Chris Long directs once again and he also gives the Jennings house exterior the same horror feeling as he did in the season 4 finale and last week’s premiere only this time it is daylight as the camera pushes in.

Stan has already lost one agent who he was working (in more ways than one) and Nina is the tie that binds him with Oleg. He pleads his case to the deputy AG and this is where the notion of rules and good/bad comes into play. Everyone has to have a code and he believes Oleg already gave them this huge gift and he should be allowed to go home and be free from the burden of that treason admitting recording. And it looks like his plan has worked to some extent as Oleg receives a message from Stan and a map of where to meet to discuss further. Although a big part of me thinks this isn’t really from Stan; instead it is the CIA using his name to secure this meeting and they will attempt their original plan that Stan so vehemently opposed.

Difficult conversations take place over friendly beers as Stan talks to Philip about his Paige concerns; concerns that he can’t quite verbalize beyond asking if everything is okay in Paige-land. The Beemans and Jennings are entangled in friendship and this burgeoning romance making this a ticking time bomb that Philip and Elizabeth know could go off at any minute. So far strong arming Paige to stay away from Matthew is of course doing the opposite; Philip has tried and now it is time for Elizabeth to have a go at explaining why this relationship cannot happen.
Elizabeth opts for talking while training and as with last week’s garage defense lesson scenario it is about giving Paige a sense of control while also emphasizing why Matthew as a boyfriend is a bad idea. The rhythmic sounds of Paige hitting her target as Elizabeth still dressed in her work attire coaches her adds to the tension and fraught nature of this conversation. This is also part one of ‘the talk’ and when Elizabeth asks if Paige is having sex she quickly follows up with pointing out that she doesn’t care if they are. Not what you would expect to hear from a mother as she talks to her daughter about sleeping with her first proper boyfriend, but Elizabeth has other concerns beyond the usual teen sex worries.

The Elizabeth/Paige dynamic continues to be fascinating as for the first time Elizabeth can be seen for who she is by her daughter. So much of Elizabeth’s decision to become a KGB officer and take on such a long deep cover mission is tied to her mother; the sacrifices she made (which were reiterated in terms of food last week) and her mother’s beliefs that mirror her own. With the training sessions she now gets to show her how to build on her strength and there is a deep sense of pride amidst the concern that Paige might inadvertently ruin everything by spilling their secret.

Tactics to keep Paige and Matthew apart are not working and when they return home from their digging expedition to find Paige’s bed empty, Philip and Elizabeth fear the worst. Where they find Paige is a concern for another reason as she was asleep in her closet as she continues to have post-stabbing sleep issues. There are no set parenting rules for dealing with first boyfriends and really they are no different from any other parent trying to work their way through first love. Except for that whole enemy spy thing.

Marriage strength between the pair comes in telling each other exactly what is going on; something Philip and Elizabeth have not always done and these bathroom confessions while applying night cream and brushing teeth reinforce just how good things are in this relationship even if everything else falls apart around them. This week’s conversation includes bonus heartbreaking Hans chat with Elizabeth telling Philip how excited Hans was about his sister’s forthcoming visit. The sighs and silences that punctuate all of their scenes speak just as much volume as any dialogue. Philip relays his chat with Stan while Elizabeth informs him of how unsuccessful her attempt at the Matthew problem was. The question of how long before Paige slips up hangs in the air with no immediate solution.

Babying Paige or even laying down threats (if only Paige knew how dangerous her parents are) is doing nothing and after a painful dinner out as the Eckerts with their new Russian defector friends – if Elizabeth could stab Alexei with her fork she would – Elizabeth comments that she is fed up with treating Paige like a “goddamn kid.” The scene that follows is up there with the stomach churning levels of when they first told Paige who they really are because Philip and Elizabeth aren’t your average parents and this isn’t your average sex talk.

In fact they approach this conversation as if Paige is an asset rather than their daughter and they are far more successful at relaying their message because of this change of tactic. They have both trained a lot of people especially when it comes to sex and while they’re inexperienced as parents in this particular arena they very much know how to manage feelings and not let them muddy things. It is a practical conversation and while we have seen just how fucked up the training they had was in this department there is a whole lot of compartmentalizing on their behalf.

This is also an incredibly sad scene because they’re viewing sex through this lens of their work, but it is also a weirdly bonding experience that gives Paige a practical tool and her parents’ piece of mind. In a weird way this is them teaching her about protection, but instead of a condom over a banana it is a way not to reveal their secret. Also I now want to go back and watch previous episodes to see if either of them ever use this technique.

In other big developments of the heart Stan finally mustered the courage to ask out the gym woman – Renee – and things are going well here. She’s the female version of Philip! Oh, Stan. It is also interesting to see Philip viewing her with suspicious eyes, but I guess he is always accustomed to looking at these things with spy eyes and Stan could be a target for this.

Also there are bugs aplenty in the greenhouse Elizabeth breaks into and because I’ve watched The X-Files my first thought went to bees that interrupted an all important Mulder and Scully moment. Thoughts of X-Files also courtesy of Stan’s new love interest. Instead Elizabeth ended up with a whole lot in her hair (despite the wig) and she tells Philip they need Alexei to help figure out what is going on with this agriculture business.

We also spend some more time with Tuan and find out that he really was adopted by an American family; a family who treated him well but who were also very pleased with themselves for this seemingly altruistic act. This might be where some of his resentment comes from along with the fact that his entire family (save his grandma) were killed by bombs in the Vietnam War. There’s a bit of a bond already with Philip and we see more of Tuan than both of Philip’s actual sons as Henry says he is at the library and the look on Elizabeth’s face when Paige tells her this is one of “yeah right.” Paige agrees and suggests he’s probably at the arcade. Meanwhile Mischa continues to make his voyage off screen.

Tension continues to build and deciding to open further to Paige will mean drawing her in closer; both to who they are and the job they do. The lines continue to blur.

Outfit I Would Wear in 2017

I’m so happy whenever Philip hits the court with Stan as this means retro sportswear. While not quite hitting the levels of this Dunlop tee, I would still be happy to have this stripe polo or Stan’s Adidas in my closet. Got to remember to keep an eye out on Etsy as costume designer Katie Irish suggested.

This is also another week of wanting to wear all the high-waisted pants and silk blouses a la Elizabeth and the outfit she’s wearing when they have the talk with Paige is the ideal version of this. And I have never related so much to Philip as him halfheartedly throwing his jacket in the direction of the coat hooks by the door.

Answering a Calling: How Everyone Gets Sucked Back in on Hannibal

26 Jul

One chapter is over for Hannibal this season and the Red Dragon portion begins with a three year time jump. Moving forward by this amount is a wise move as it spares any lengthy courtroom scenes, which weren’t so successful when Will Graham was on trial last season (it did give us Freddie’s hat which I will forever be grateful for). It also means all the players in the Hannibal hunt have been given time to heal both physically and mentally; some have moved on in a big way and others seem comfortable in returning to their jobs with varying degrees of proximity to Hannibal.

Hannibal 3.08 FrancisThe episode opens with Francis Dolarhyde’s transformation and at no point does he speak or do we get to hear his real name (it can only be seen on his uniform name badge). A William Blake retrospective in an issue of Time gives a peak into the beast he becomes obsessed with and this is where the episode gets its title from; “The Great Red Dragon” proves to be so important to Dolarhyde he gets it etched on his back and kneels before this painting in a position of worship.

Hannibal 3.08 tattooBlurred butts ahoy! This has been very on trend this season and Bryan Fuller did mention at the Comic-Con panel there would be no blurring on the DVD.

This opening sequence does a good job of highlighting Dolarhyde’s isolation as you can see his co-workers chatting over lunch in the background as he sits alone. His attic dwelling with its broken mirror and portrait reinforces and when we see him picking up the teeth which inspired his tabloid nickname, his hood is up as a way to protect his identity and attempt to conceal his hair lip.

Red Dragon is the only Thomas Harris book I have read so this is the one portion of Hannibal where I know the source material and hopefully this won’t bleed too much into my interpretation because while he doesn’t speak, the way Richard Armitage moves and makes those guttural sounds indicates he is a killer who might just have a monster inside him. One thing we know is that he is a big fan of scrapbooking and as Hannibal predicted he is not so fond of the sensational name he has been given.

Hannibal 3.08 scrapbookingDolarhyde has also been paying attention to ‘Hannibal the Cannibal’ and despite Dr. Chilton’s assertions that people have tired of Hannibal’s crimes in favor of the new serial killer on the block, Hannibal is not without fans. While cutting out evidence of his latest endeavors we also see a family photo from Dolarhyde’s own collection and pictures are an important part of this storyline.

Some of those are moving and in a terrifying fantastical moment Dolarhyde is enveloped by the film turning him into the projector.

Hannibal 3.08 FDTransformation is important with the moon cycle acting as a countdown for when he will kill again. When he exits the home of the second family he killed covered in blood it acts like a kind of rebirth and briefly stops whatever is giving him the urge to kill. There are two sides to Dolarhyde; this duality also exists in Will Graham and it is Dolarhyde that causes Will to come back to the crime solving fold.

Photographs act as a prompt to get Will to come back and while it is an emotionally manipulative move from Jack he sees it as a necessary evil to stop another family being murdered. Will doesn’t want to see the crime scene photos using Molly and her 11-year old son Walter as an excuse; really it is him that doesn’t want to see them. Jack borrowed Will’s mind before resulting in the twisted relationship with Hannibal so it is clear how desperate Jack is as he has ventured up to Will’s secluded residence.

By not inviting Jack in, Will attempts to keep his home free from this old life, but the weight of responsibility is too much and Jack ends up staying for dinner. Dolarhyde has infiltrated Will’s peace with his crimes and if the photograph of happy families wasn’t enough to convince Will, well then Jack has his props at the ready to show Molly.

Hannibal 3.08 photosBy leaving Jack with his wife, Will is knowingly giving Jack the opportunity to make his case and despite everything telling him to protect the life he now has, he also feels responsible for the fate of whatever family might get torn apart next. So long to the brief moment of happiness we got to see on Will’s face.

Hannibal 3.08 Dear WillOld faces come to visit in several forms for Will Graham and he has a letter from Hannibal (in beautiful cursive of course) telling him “We have all found a new life, but our old lives hover in the shadows” followed by “I would encourage you as a friend not to step back through the door he [Jack] holds open. It’s dark on the other side and madness is waiting.” The newspaper clipping about the Tooth Fairy murders makes it quite clear that Hannibal wants Will to walk through that door and into his new abode.

Will obliges and he’s rather practical about it all as he explains how he might as well get it out of the way now rather than in an act of desperation when the countdown clock to the next full moon is approaching at speed. Will makes it clear he does not care for Hannibal’s note nor the clipping by burning them.

Chunky shawl neck sweaters and beanies for Will are more like his clothing of old and thanks to the shooting schedule there’s always a lot of snow on this show. The “Will Graham Glasses Watch” continues and the only point we see him wearing them this week is when he takes them off as he approaches Hannibal’s fancy pants cell.

Hannibal 3.08 HelloMirroring the end of season 1 and the roles are reversed; the only similarity is Hannibal’s part in creating the conditions for both scenarios as he framed Will and surrendered himself to the FBI. Hannibal’s surroundings both real and memory palace are far more opulent than the cell which housed Will and the memories which haunted him. You might say Hannibal has landed on his feet despite his lack of freedom as now he has everything he needs before him.

Last week Alana warned Mason that Hannibal is always playing; Mason did not heed these words and ended up with an eel down his throat. Now it is Alana and Chilton who are embroiled in a dangerous game of their own making as they lied in court and now Hannibal is considered legally insane.

Hannibal 3.08 Alana and HannibalAlana’s sticking to the fabulous pantsuits and her new power color of bold red in her visit to her former boyfriend and it is a conversation peppered with contemptuous remarks from both parties. It remains rather civil as they drink the wine which revealed Hannibal’s Italian location even as they trade barbs about Alana’s current job, how to categorize Hannibal away from lazy monster assertions – Alana thinks he defies categorization – and why she stopped drinking beer. They also discuss the number of people he was charged with killing, a baker’s dozen if you include Mason (“You’re welcome”) and the thinly veiled threat Hannibal made last week towards Alana’s life comes up again as he reminds her that he always keeps his promises.

Instead of taking this moment to storm out, Alana instead sits back down and while I am sure she does fear that he will come good on this promise at the moment she is protected. The Alana/Hannibal romantic relationship was frustrating because of the position it put her in; however I want to see a lot more of this dynamic because their back and forths are rather fun. Somehow there is still warmth and humor even with what has gone on. Plus she is now part of his Renaissance fan art collection.

Hannibal 3.08 sketchIn this conversation with Alana we get to see his memory palace in action:

Hannibal 3.08 Alana Hannibal 3.08 wineAnd in reality:

Hannibal 3.08 drawingHis former Baltimore residence is not the only place he spends time and the church in Palermo is just as vital. Hannibal’s fanciest of suits which are more Baltimore than his European collection appear in the moment where he listens to a choirboy singing. Hannibal is making the jumpsuit work for him, but I am always thrilled to see him in a three piece suit.

Hannibal 3.08 churchThis provides the soundtrack for Hannibal getting booked by the returning Price and Zeller (so happy to have them back) and a hint of the work Freddie Lounds has been up to. Lounds is later referred to as an “obnoxious flame haired woman” after she has tried to take photos of the dead woman at the funeral home.

Hannibal 3.08 HannibalYes I had to chuckle at the “Kitchen Nightmare” headline.

Alana is not the only one sharing words and treats with Hannibal as Chilton enjoys fine dining and a dessert he has had with Hannibal before. A dessert which includes blood and Chilton asks the question you don’t ask Hannibal if you have sat at his dinner table and gets the answer he was hoping to avoid “The blood was from a cow only in the derogatory sense.” Eat the rude and all that.

Chilton provokes Hannibal with the discussion of the new serial killer du jour – like the show Hannibal is niche – and as is generally the case with Chilton he wants to know the opinion of an esteemed mind on the subject.

Hannibal 3.08 dinner with ChiltonReporting his findings to Alana about their ‘cabal’ confirming their involvement in Hannibal’s trial outcome and why they lied; they are attempting to save everyone else from the ‘monster.’ Yes he would have got the death penalty and yet he would have probably found some way out of it. And as Alana pointed out previously she was up for Hannibal getting tortured, but less so for his death even if it puts her in the firing line. For Chilton fame motivates this choice and with Alana it is more likely a sense of duty. Concern is in her voice as she discusses Hannibal’s presence and she informs Chilton that Hannibal has written “a brilliant piece for the American Journal of Psychiatry” debunking Chilton’s book about him.

They are all walking cautionary tales when it comes to Hannibal and yet they’re all getting pulled back into his influence. Everyone is playing the most dangerous game.

Hannibal 3.08 stagThe stag is of course Will’s thing, but it is worth nothing that Alana has one in her office.

Hannibal 3.08 the teamSure is good have the crime solving gang back together and a return to the storytelling format closer to previous seasons. The first half of this year was incredibly ambitious, but at times it did feel weighed down by some of the dialogue and continuous slow mo shots of blood.

Returning to Baltimore and a crime where they don’t know who the killer is, gives a sense of familiarity; Will’s pendulum swinging followed by “This is my design” coupled with a red stringed winged looking form was really good to see. It’s not all old tricks as Will’s flashlight was used to illuminate where the bodies had been and this whole sequence prior to Will’s recreation of the murders is disturbing both because of the crime and the dangerous path he is about to walk down. A path he tries to resist, but he knows he will have to embrace the darkness (and Hannibal) to save another family from this awful fate.

The Americans 3.12 “I Am Abassin Zadran” Review: All in the Family

16 Apr

Family on The Americans blurs the line between truth and lies starting as one and becoming the other and Paige continues to struggle with what she was told a couple of episodes ago. Last week Elizabeth divulged more about her mother than ever before, which to us as the viewers is of great emotional significance, but to Paige it is another part of this web of deception. It doesn’t matter that her parents are now revealing the real parts of themselves when they have been lying for her entire existence. Paige isn’t Philip and Elizabeth’s only concern as the multiple operations they are running hit a critical juncture; the human element means that no matter how well they plan something there is the potential for things to go awry, which is what tends to happen on this show.

The Americans 3.12 Elizabeth CIAIn fact the operation with Abassin Zadran goes without a hitch (at this juncture) as Philip and Elizabeth successfully plant the seeds of doubt while having to hear a cheerful tale about how much satisfaction he gets from killing communists. Both remain composed while he talks about gutting and Elizabeth even takes a moment to massage his ego by calling him loyal and brave. As with most assets it is all about saying what the person wants to hear to get them to comply without even realizing it. This is the operation we have been following all season and it’s why Philip has been hanging out with a fifteen year old girl who isn’t his daughter and it is good to see them get a relatively straightforward win even if it comes with such brutal execution.

Teen girls and specifically Paige and Kimmy are at the heart of yesterday’s Americans post and one matter discussed was how Paige might act out. Instead of going for the traditional act of teen rebellion, Paige instead hits her parents where it hurts; with religion and her relationship with Pastor Tim as she left a note saying she was going to stay over after a lecture. A big hell no moment from Philip and Elizabeth mostly out of fear she might spill their secret and also partly because they are angry at her insubordination. So they once again leave Henry alone with just the company of TV and his beloved computer game; is this Henry neglect going to come back to bite them? It’s not like he will Jared them or anything but I do think they need to start paying some attention to child number two, well besides how much he might be able to hear when Paige is yelling about this family not being real.

“Don’t jump all over her.”
“You know what I mean.”
“No, maybe I don’t. You wanna teach me how to handle my own daughter?!”

First of all this exchange between Philip and Elizabeth is a great example of what makes this show so special; it is a typical parental debate about how to handle a wayward child with a strong hint of implied knowledge that they will react unfavorably. Elizabeth proves that she can remain relatively calm in this instance and while nothing is really resolved they manage to get their point across that Paige can’t act like this. This is where The Americans deviates from the family drama as with this knowledge Paige now holds the key to their downfall and as they are high level operatives it will be a huge loss for the KGB. When they return home, the garage acts as a kind of holding cell as they block Paige in and reinforce how much they need to be able to trust her and because the space is so small it adds to the tension. The way they use this house and the familiar settings heightens the drama because everywhere is tinged with the family life that also feels pretty alien to Paige at the moment.

The Americans 3.12 Philip and ElizabethLater on Paige interrupts her parents who are discussing the Martha problem in the confines of their bedroom with Elizabeth and Philip remaining seated when she enters. Armed with a family photo album Paige questions the so-called relatives who feature and whether they are really their blood. Of course they aren’t; Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell do a stellar job of managing the awkward acceptance that this going to be just one in a long line of having to admit to things which they faked with quick glances at each other. There is also a strong sense of agitation from Paige as her voice gets louder and Elizabeth as she tries to remain calm.

The Americans 3.12 bedroomAnd then it all gets too much for Elizabeth and she does the thing that Philip warned her against doing as she literally jumps all over her trying to stifle Paige’s speech by putting her hand over her mouth. This of course goes horribly and Paige utters a very familiar “Don’t touch me” giving me flashbacks to fifteen and some dumb fight about whatever. If Philip was an asshole he might point out to his wife this is what he was referring to earlier, but Elizabeth is quick to register regret at how this escalated.

Philip remains seated and we get to see him framed in the center of the two most important women in his life trying to calm the situation and failing. It once again ends with Paige departing and at this point they haven’t really ended any conversations with Paige as she always exits first.

The Americans 3.12 PhilipGiving Paige space is wise, but this needs to be resolved so Philip goes to see Paige on her own turf. Like Paige did earlier, he uses photos as a way to reach her and when he enters he sits on the floor with her maintaining an equal level rather than going for a superior position. Philip is better at reasoning with Paige because at this point Elizabeth is incapable of completely controlling her emotions. Elizabeth tends to be the colder one of the pair but since she actually fell in love with Philip when it comes to their family her feelings are more intense and harder to dismiss. Photos are Paige’s tool to point out everything is fake and Philip uses this same tool to show her how real things are. Yes Cousin Roger and Aunt Helen are points of fiction – Philip mentions Elizabeth being unwell, not that she got shot – but everything in this house is real.

The Americans 3.12 baby photoAnother fantastic job by the props/art department as they continue to kill it with the Jennings family photo collection. There is nothing more irritating than being taken out of a highly emotional scene by bad photoshop or personal pictures which are clearly from the promo department. We get an instant connection to this moment because it looks like a real family photo celebrating a very important arrival. It brings everything back to their family and the experiences which are not fake. A family camping holiday is the other reminder Philip brings and Paige mentions how Henry was afraid a bear would eat him, something Philip didn’t know because Henry had made Paige promise she wouldn’t tell (we all keep secrets). It is a really lovely scene between father and daughter without the level of fraught tension from their recent scenes. Photographs can create an illusion as a smile doesn’t always mean a person is happy and yet they also freeze a specific time/place allowing us to experience it again and see the truth.

Despite Gabriel saying no last week to Philip’s request for Elizabeth to see her mother, Philip is pushing forward with this plan and even goes so far as suggesting Elizabeth takes Paige with her. As before Elizabeth hesitates when it comes to this conversation and it’s like his chat with Gabriel lit a fire under him as he pulls the ‘if you don’t take her, I will’ card. A hard card to argue with and Elizabeth tells Paige about the trip idea (accompanied by Ultravox “Vienna”) making sure Paige knows that it is her choice if she wants to come or not. It’s like Philip and Elizabeth are finally on the same page (boom boom).

The Americans 3.12 Claudia and GabrielGabriel has an interesting conversation about the state of everything with Claudia (!) and it is so good to see Margo Martindale share a scene with Frank Langella discussing their long history, the amount of menu choice and what to do about the Jennings family. Jared is referenced and how this disaster caused a huge rift in the Centre and yet they still want to progress with Paige. Claudia thinks Philip is the problem and yet Gabriel also has doubts that relate to Elizabeth and her ability to deal with Philip since this plan has been set in motion. As with how Gabriel manipulates his agents, Claudia does the same to Gabriel telling him how much faith the Centre has in him. This is right down to how Gabriel reaches for Elizabeth’s hand, so does Claudia do the same to him. Oh Claudia, do you not remember what Elizabeth did to you when you tried to interfere with her family last time?

Doubt is creeping in all over the place and another photograph prompts questions. Stan makes a surprise visit to Martha’s and luckily Hans is watching the building as he tips Philip off that someone from the government is inside. Hans is not the loose cannon I thought he might be, but I guess there is still time for that to change. Martha’s wedding photo with Clark is safely hidden in her drawer and when she went to look at it, I figured she was going for her gun. This picture is the perfect example of the lies Paige was talking about and while their marriage is technically real (although not at the same time as Clark is an assumed identity); it means something far greater to Martha than it does to the person behind Clark.

The Americans 3.12 Martha bedMartha is beginning to fall apart and being driven out to the middle of nowhere to have secret chats with your husband is not reassuring. Alison Wright delivers a heartbreaking performance of monumental proportions first when she tries to pretend that everything is fine on the phone to her parents followed by her confrontation with Clark. She tells her parents she is staying there and Clark that she is going to her parents so what is she really packed for? If she leaves in this way the FBI are going to figure it was her who planted the pen and this trip has finality to it. Philip tries everything he can to convince her that it will be fine and none of his words help so he goes for the extreme option revealing not only his true face but pulling off the wig. We’ve only seen Philip’s wig removed twice; first during a fight, the second time he ripped it off in anger and this reveal is huge. There is something sinister about the slow, measured way he removes the pins slowly showing who he is and I can’t see Philip letting Martha out of this alive, not now he has revealed his true face. Yes I think he genuinely cares for her, but there is only one family he will protect and that is his real one. It is worth pointing out Philip has not had to kill anyone yet this season and this looks like it might change. Oh, Martha.

In other operations Arkady is already fed up of the chit chat they have to sift through with Operation Mail Robot/Zephyr and it takes Oleg and Tatiana to reinforce how important it might be. Tatiana is an intriguing character as she appears to be invested in Arkady keeping this position and she is worried if he pulls the plug this quick then it will look bad on him. Personal conversations can be used to exploit the agents who are having them; affairs can equate to blackmail potential. Also Stan and Agent Aderholt had a very heated chat about Nina and the distinctive beeping of ol’ mail robot can be heard in the background so I wonder if this back and forth will cross their desks. It’s not just Nina they talk about as Elizabeth is also referenced as the illegal Stan shot and who he thinks maybe beat up Gaad and Aderholt way back in the season premiere.

With just one episode to go of this exceptional season it is hard to see how they are going to tie everything up and I expect a lot of this will continue next year including the Lisa storyline which is briefly covered this week; Maurice continues to be a huge thorn in Elizabeth’s side and if looks could kill he would have been eviscerated by now.

Shot of the Week

The Americans 3.12 kitchenThe reading of Paige’s note and I love how despite Elizabeth being slightly out of focus you can see the anger on her face and tension in her shoulders. Henry is the ultimate latchkey kid and his back is turned away from the source of contention with Philip puling concerned dad face. He hasn’t even taken his coat off yet.

The Americans 3.12 MarthaThe Martha/Clark chat of attempted ‘everything will be fine’ is framed in this wonderful light/dark way and I think it is safe to say it will not be.

Disguise of the Week

The Americans 3.12 big blue phoneElizabeth wears her CIA disguise for her phone maintenance worker hotel trip and there is no way Neil will suspect this is the woman he hooked up with last week. This is my favorite of the Elizabeth wig collection and this giant blue phone just adds a whole extra something to the shot.

Outfit I Would Wear in 2015

The Americans 3.12 PaigeIn the wide shot the jeans are a little unflattering when the shirt is tucked in this much, but I dig Paige’s plaid shirt.

The Americans 3.06 “Born Again” Review: Got to Have Faith

5 Mar

Telling Paige the truth is one constant talking point on The Americans this season; we’re now hitting the halfway mark and Elizabeth has still yet to pull the trigger on this potentially life ruining plan. Different kinds of faith are discussed at length in “Born Again” from Paige’s baptism to Philip using this as a reason why he can’t sleep with Kimmy and still keeping her close at the same time. As with pretty much every episode of The Americans there is layer on top of layer of what is real and what is fake, intersecting so much that at times it is hard to separate the two. Real experience informs the ‘characters’ they take on to deal with their assets and this duality leads to a whole lot of messiness that could blow up at any moment.

The Americans 3.06 Born AgainLast week I spoke at length about this idea of making it real and one way characters achieve this is by using a personal experience and extrapolating what might help in their current situation; this is where religion comes in and saves the day for Philip from both an ethical perspective so he doesn’t have to sleep with Kimmy and on a more spiritual one so he can work through the bombshell Gabriel has dropped on him. Anyone else starting to get the feeling that Philip is starting to miss Claudia right about now?

Gabriel continues to be a sneaky bastard by playing all the angles with Philip and Elizabeth as he tells Philip about the child he thought his first love had made up back in season 1. Does this Mischa exist or is it all part of the big push to get Philip to continue down this extremely compromising path? The cause isn’t necessarily working as a tactic to get Philip to do whatever it must take but Gabriel knows how strongly Philip feels about his children and this includes one he has never even met. With Elizabeth he pushes her button relating to action and while she claims she is handling all things Paige he notes she has done just as little as Philip in this area. By prompting Elizabeth in this manner she starts laying the seeds by taking Paige on a trip down an edited version memory lane so. Gabriel also tells Elizabeth that Philip is losing faith in him and that she can deceive Philip is he is holding Elizabeth back on the Paige plan. This is definitely not going to cause issues…

Control is key and Gabriel has returned to the position of handler with a very different relationship dynamic in front of him and so he is exerting weakness in them where he can to aid the cause. At the moment this does appear to be working and despite the united front Philip and Elizabeth present and deeper bond they share, there are still fundamental differences between them and Gabriel knows this. Kimmy is one such tool as the window for how often Philip has to get in her house is much shorter than he expected; once a week rather than once a month. The whole spiritual excuse for not wanting to sleep with Kimmy is not going to cut it and Kimmy is noticeably cold with him when he approaches her post school. Enter the real part of Philip’s life in the fake story and something he hasn’t told Elizabeth yet – I’m pretty sure he was going to but Elizabeth started talking about Paige – about his 20 year old son as the reason he has gone back to church. He asks Kimmy to pray with him and not only does she do it, but she adds on her own part showing her compassionate side. And I think we now need to switch Poor Martha for Poor Kimmy because this is only going to end in heartbreak.

The Americans 3.06 Elizabeth and PhilipPaige is pretty certain of what she wants and who she is; the baptism goes ahead without any upset. Well the only consternation comes from her parents and Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell give a master class in subtle facial expression changes moving between distaste and fake smiles at what they are witnessing as Paige takes the plunge (echoing the opening scene from the season premiere of Elizabeth in the bathtub). After the baptism Philip asks Paige if she feels any different to which she replies “more at peace.” On the surface this is just one of those awkward conversations between a teenager and her father as he tries to explain to her that she never has to do anything she doesn’t want to and she should just be herself. Paige reads this as being about drinking or drugs, which of course it has nothing to do with (plus Philip is becoming well versed in this end of teen rebellion thanks to Kimmy). This is all about suggestion and he is laying the groundwork in his own way pushing Paige away from this spy path without her knowing.

Bonding time isn’t just set to father/daughter and Elizabeth gets to influence in her own way first when Paige walks in on her having a sneaky cigarette. This is a funny scene as Elizabeth goes to hide her habit and then is all ‘fuck it’ about the situation (I have been here, but with the roles were reversed). Paige reveals to her mother that they know about her secret habit (last season she did have a late night cigarette which Philip rightly suggested the kids would be able to smell) and she remarks that neither she nor Henry is clueless. Oh if only you knew Paige, if only you knew. And soon you might as after this late night discussion about praying – Paige thinks Elizabeth should try it – at the end of the episode Elizabeth opens up partially about her activism past. This includes the first mention of Gregory in a long time and when Paige asks if her dad knew Gregory it acts as a reminder of how messy things were between them back in season 1. I mean it is still messy now, but this is a very different notion of complicated.

Elizabeth doesn’t mention any real particulars other than saying that some of what they did was illegal, but for the greater good and when Paige asks if she has ever been arrested Elizabeth slyly mentions she never got caught. This is another case of The Americans giving the audience a relatable moment as it is normally in your teen years when you realize your parents are people who had lives before they were parents and Paige’s response is the perfect mix of confusion and wonder. Of course there is so much more to tell and I can’t imagine Philip will be thrilled to find out what Elizabeth has done even though she hasn’t really done anything at all. This is also a good point to mention how incredible Holly Taylor has been this season as the role of teen complication on a show like this is a hard line to walk without stepping into frustrating obstacle territory (see Homeland and 24). The writing is also important here and while they have given Paige a storyline that is a teen rebellion of another kind I love that she still asks for a later curfew when Elizabeth mentions how proud she is of her; she is still a teenager after all.

The Americans 3.06 smokingSneaking about is part of their everyday life, however the most surprising act of this kind was not spy related as Philip and Elizabeth shared a sneaky joint out of their bedroom window. This scene was so unexpected and so delightful that I kept imagining something awful would happen to kill the laughter. It did end on a slight buzzkill with Philip mentioning if the operation dragged on and Kimmy got older then yeah he probably would have to sleep with her and yet this was far more chilled out than last week’s disturbing sex training montages. Philip suggests the whole thing in a very cute, simple pulling the joint out of his pocket and gesturing they smoke it way and it doesn’t take a lot of convincing to get Elizabeth on board.

Last week being stoned led to an incredibly devastating and important conversation between the pair. By sharing the spoils with Elizabeth it opens them up in a different way and we get to hear them making a sound that is far too rare with uncontrollable laughter. I want to bottle up the giggling noise Matthew Rhys makes because it is Amy Poehler levels of magic. Yes they are still talking about serious matters and yet they can find the humor as Philip points out how Jesus came through for him with Kimmy and Elizabeth tells Philip about Paige suggesting she tries praying. This scene really is everything.

We cut from this moment to the next day with an appearance from mail robot! Mail robot no longer carries classified files and Martha’s oh fuck expression foreshadows exactly how Clarke is going to feel about this. Also in the FBI office Stan finds out that one of his very close FBI friends has been killed in a plane crash and as this doesn’t connect to the overall story it comes across as somewhat disjointed. Stan is also still feeling all the feelings for Sandra even with a new woman in his life and the whole EST business is an extension of this idea of finding something to believe in. Plus it provides us with another super awkward dinner at the Jennings house as Henry doesn’t know when is the right time to stop asking questions. Oh, Henry.

The Stan/Oleg team-up is absent in “Born Again”, instead we see Nina using the same technique as Philip and Elizabeth inserting her real life story into one that will help get what she wants. In prison Nina’s objective is to get Evi to talk so Nina can get a lighter sentence and she goes about it like a pro first with the nightmares we witnessed a couple of episodes ago followed by recounting her two loves – the communist and the capitalist – and how both loved their country more than her while talking about the differences between men and woman. Nina earns Evi’s trust and then betrays it as quickly as she can wolf down a proper meal and glass of wine. Is this going to be enough or has Nina got another cellmate she will have to break first?

Shot of the Week

The Americans 3.06 ElizabethWhat this resembles is the key art from the first two seasons which played heavily on the red of Russia and while it is just the utility room turned darkroom Elizabeth is striking bathed in red light.

Disguise of the Week 

The Americans 3.06 Kimmy Pink FloydNo new disguises this week sadly and instead here is Jim trying to distract Kimmy long enough to get the operative into the house to plant the briefcase bug. His first attempt involves pot and Pink Floyd, but Kimmy wants to take a bath. With Jim. And thankfully Philip convinces her to go in solo. I love how pissed off the bug lady looks when Philip asks for her earrings as a distraction tactic.

Outfit I Would Wear in 2015

The Americans 3.06 Elizabeth and PaigeThis doesn’t give us the full smart/casual outfit Elizabeth is wearing combining slight flared jeans, heels with a waistcoat, scarf and this fantastic long coat. Also so much hair envy right now.

Feeling Bad on The Good Wife

2 Mar

The Good Wife deals with constantly changing moral grey areas and the word ‘good’ is in the title after all. The notion of what this means has been present throughout whether in the way Alicia is perceived as a woman who ‘stands by’ her husband or in her job that sees the blurring of ethical lines at times. Now as candidate for State’s Attorney Alicia has a brand which suggests moral order of the highest with her Saint Alicia nickname, but behind the scenes she makes compromise after compromise; first with her position on religion and this week with the money she will take to give her campaign the boost it needs to keep up with Prady.

Alicia FlorrickThis is far from the first time we have talked about this idea of being good nor is it the first time Alicia has discussed it in such an overt manner as she does at the end of the episode, however The Good Wife manages to discuss this same topic in new and interesting ways as Alicia continues to wrestle in private with how far she will go to get what she wants. With the State’s Attorney race it polarizes the previous quandaries Alicia has faced from her personal relationships to how she conducts herself as a lawyer.

In the past she has more than happily – okay she has been super skeezed by Sweeney on countless occasions – represented Colin Sweeney whereas now she knows she can’t be seen with him in court without negatively impacting her SA chances. Alicia has no time for Sweeney in “Dark Money” openly dismissing him until he calls her bluff and threatens to tell the press where her PAC money is coming from. A compromise in an endless stream is met and she gives him legal advice but refuses to appear in court. Sweeney is cool with this and she does indeed give him something to use on the stand. After the big blowup between Alicia, Cary and Diane at the end of the last episode I was surprised that none of this tension was present this week especially as Sweeney is essentially running to Alicia at any given opportunity and sidelining the lawyers who are actually representing him in court. It does position Alicia on one side with Cary and Diane on the other but there aren’t any repercussions from this screaming match, in fact it is like it never happened.

The version of Alicia on the show Sweeney is suing over – ripped from the headlines “Call it Murder” – is “not for sale” and while this a little on the nose it is something Alicia has to deal with this week. Alicia’s relationship with Prady is cautiously friendly and it would have been so easy for the show to have made Prady another distasteful opponent. It is far more interesting this way and I feel like I’m cheating on Alicia by saying this but I don’t think I would even mind if Prady won this thing, especially as Alicia’s PAC keep stooping to new levels of awful with robocalls targeting areas who might be put off by the rumors suggesting Prady is gay and that he supports gay rights. Alicia is constantly battling her team and calls them out for the West Wing themed Twitter accounts – yes I yelped with joy at the Twitter handle @TobyZiegler44 although I am disappointed the profile pic is the egg of sadness – and the negative campaigning. This is all well and good, but Alicia still takes the ‘dark money’ on offer and money she only found out was available after seeing Prady receive a call from someone called Redmayne.

Guy Redmayne is very wealthy and he has a substantial amount of cash to give to either Alicia or Frank. Redmayne spends most of his chat with Alicia inappropriately pawing at her legs and hands which she fake smiles through, but it is when they get onto the topic of her opponent that things shift from sleazy to horrifying as he uses homophobic slurs to describe Frank Prady and his opinion of Prady has been shaped by the robocalls Alicia complained about to her team earlier in the episode. She is complicit without being complicit. What she could have done is tell Redmayne that his money is not wanted and instead she stays quiet rather than objecting. When Redmayne talks to Prady he refers to Alicia as a sex object suggesting all kinds of degrading he would do to Alicia in bed – which Redmayne is using as some kind of litmus test to see if Prady is gay or not – Prady does not stay quiet and voices his disgust and is greeted with a shoulder shrug comment from Redmayne “right, but I’m rich so it really doesn’t matter.” The moral high ground is won by Prady and Alicia’s campaign just got the financial boost it needed.

Both politics and the law can be shady; we’ve seen Alicia wrestle with dilemmas in both arenas going back to the first season when she removed a hairbrush that could be considered evidence against their client (in 1.14 “Hi”). Saint Alicia is far from saintly and it wouldn’t be all that compelling if Alicia always chose the moral high ground. Money makes a campaign stronger and Alicia wants to win, which is why sucking it up and smiling at this asshole was the right call for her campaign. But she can still feel like shit about it and it would be a concern if she didn’t question the lengths she is going to.

The Good Wife 6.13 wine cardiganCue an Alicia sized glass of red, a wine cardigan and a good cry with a comforting hug from her daughter. Grace immediately contradicts her mandate that “everybody is bad in some way” by telling her teary mom that she can’t be bad “because you’re the best person I know.” I will give Grace a pass on this because she probably believes this to be true and she is trying to make Alicia feel better about her moral crisis. This is the season where they have finally figured out how to use Grace effectively and I wonder if this is because there is only one Florrick child to deal with.

The Good Wife’s portrayal of both its legal and political arms shows murkiness throughout offering up a variety of paths these characters might take that could lead to victory despite a dodgy background or could land the least complicit person in jail. Even in the Lemond Bishop story he has to deal with everyday problems and not resort to his usual illegal methods; for him the dilemma between really doing something to the bully who is hurting his son versus doing the responsible adult thing is one of the hardest decisions he has made. Also how dumb do you have to be to bully the kid of a notorious drug kingpin? Kalinda has to decide whether to protect herself or the child in question and it is unnerving to see her so unnerved; Bishop’s kitchen continues to be a hotbed of terrifying tension. If only Marissa Gold could be a bodywoman to everyone (myself included) and point out when there is an awkward silence. She will also bring you milk and cookies.

Hello, Hello, Hello: The Comeback 2.08 “Valerie Gets What She Really Wants” Discussion

19 Jan

The Comeback aired its season finale over the holiday break and there was no way we were going to let it get lost in the end of year shuffle. So while this is a little later than normal I am joined once again by Kerensa Cadenas to discuss all things Valerie Cherish, whether we want another season and how neither of us could keep it together for the final 15 minutes.

the Comeback 2.08 ValEmma: For a finale that included shit pouring out over Valerie’s driveway I don’t think there has been a sweeter or more hopeful episode of The Comeback and after fearing that something dark and awful would befall Valerie this was the ending I really wanted but wasn’t sure we would get. There is still no word on whether there will be a season 3 and even though I would LOVE to see more Comeback episodes I would also be okay with leaving the show here because it really is a perfect way to close out the series.

Valerie chose Mickey over the Emmys and all season they had been hinting at how much Val would do for both fame and recognition appearing on a show that annihilated her career and personality. Relationships have been strained and it didn’t appear like there was any way back for Valerie and Mark after their parking lot blow up but it turns out people can surprise you. As we’ve discussed before Valerie is not mean or cruel, she’s just a bit oblivious to how some of her actions might impact those around her and she is very driven when it comes to her career, but on the biggest night of her career and her crowning glory it is the man who has been by her side for 24 years who she runs to.

I don’t know how much Valerie has changed since this success because to me she’s still pretty much the same Valerie and this is apparent when she doesn’t realize that people are applauding her when she walks into Juna’s party. I think maybe she’s still the same but other people are responding to her differently, except Mickey and this is another reason why it is important that she leaves the Emmys for Mickey and not Mark. Juna’s long concerned hug encapsulates this and she can’t understand why she did Seeing Red in the first place, which is a pretty normal reaction because who would submit themselves to Paulie G and that portrayal? This is all part of the “everything is fine” big wide smile mantra she has perfected and it is why those moments of real concern for Mickey really stick with me. They are the OTP of this show and I can’t tell you how glad I am that they didn’t kill him off.

Do you think Valerie has changed?

the comeback 2.08 Juna hugKerensa: I’m not sure Valerie will ever entirely change but I do think that things personally for her got shitty enough where she had to realize what she was doing. If you think about it in the first season, yes, professionally things were a wreck for her, but at the time personally things weren’t bad. Maybe got a little strained because of the reality show but it wasn’t a complete utter rock bottom situation like this was with Mark leaving her and Mickey’s illness. She was crushing it professionally but kinda had to turn a blind eye to everything else until it was wayyyy past the point in which she could continue to do so.

I think that’s what made such a hugely emotional impact on me as well, for Valerie to go to Mickey during the Emmys, a time where she was finally going to shine is what’s important. Whether or not she entirely changes, for me isn’t the point, and I honestly don’t expect her to fully.

Do you think so?

the comeback 2.08 kitchen speechEmma: This is the night Valerie has been working/hoping for which is why it means so much that she leaves especially as everyone keeps telling her that she is going to win. I did wonder at one point that if she stayed then she wouldn’t win, but I’m so glad they went with the alternative. When Valerie gets the Mark text about Mickey collapsing she is initially unsure about what she should do with Jane telling her she has to stay because she is going to win. This is the perfect end for Jane’s documentary if Valerie does win and while I think we were both worried about the finished product (which we of course don’t get to see) Jane misses out on the perfect ending when Valerie leaves without her usual camera crew trailing behind her.

The big filming style switch threw me for a moment but it was jarring in the most magnificent way as the documentary format fell away and left us looking at Valerie in a completely new way. It is the perfect way to shoot this moment because Valerie is no longer starring in her own reality show and it was simply stunning. This is Valerie stripped down not trying to be the most liked best person and this is the most likable best version of her and those cameras aren’t there to capture it. And how beautiful does she look in that gown with the red umbrella?! From the awkward Uber pickup to Mark’s face when he sees her sitting in the hospital room. I’m getting teary just thinking about it.

And when she wins and her speech is so perfect; the kitchen speech prep calling back to the pilot was devastating in its loneliness whereas this is all love (well except for the unseen/unhappy other patient). It made me SO happy and I really was expecting this finale to be so dark whereas it was a big huge win for Val and us watching her. What did you make of the camera style switch and the way she won?

The Comeback 2.08 camera switchKerensa: I loved the camera switch. I thought it was such an interesting parallel that Valerie’s day to day is stunningly beautiful while the reality TV version of her life isn’t. I sobbed through those final 15 minutes and then when she actually won, I think my heart stopped for a minute. I think the way she won was perfect though, she got to share the moment with the people who really mattered to her, the people who’ve been rooting for her for years, not all the camera crews and all that.

Although, her practice speeches while eating in the kitchen would have been GREAT to see onstage.

Emma: Watching last night’s Golden Globes and with all the chat about rain earlier in the day made it hard to not think of Valerie Cherish.

The kitchen scene really works in a similar way to the no reality show cameras in the hospital scenes as it seems like she’s really forgotten they are there, mostly because I can’t imagine her eating this much on camera on purpose. This bit where she gets out the frozen cake (that’s what it is right?) is the perfect representation of those times where you do just want comfort food.

The crack in the wall and the torrent of shit that followed was very on the nose in how it mirrors what’s going on in Valerie’s life and it also gave one very disgusting (and hilarious) sight gag when Brad brings the dress over. This is followed by one of my favorite shots of the season as she is carried to the car by Billy and a shirtless Brad. What did you make of the whole getting ready stuff and especially Jane’s territorial attitude?

The Comeback 2.08Kerensa: Oh the getting ready stuff was incredibly uncomfortable especially when Valerie goes and begs her neighbor to let her get ready in his home. And all his points about Valerie being incredibly selfish were so on point.

Jane’s territorial attitude has been very apparent in the last several episodes and I’m not super surprised? I think she has that attitude a little bit about Valerie, who she does care about, but I think it’s grown more because this HBO project for her is a big deal. She’s making a documentary about women, that’s funded and that would eventually be on HBO–and show what we can assume will be Jane’s vision about women in Hollywood.

What do you think?

The Comeback 2.08 JaneEmma: You’re comments about Jane’s vision are spot on and really I would love to see a Jane spinoff show that runs parallel with this one to see her side of it all. I also think she cares about Valerie, but that she also wants to have an impact on both how Hollywood is run and with her documentary work. I don’t think she’s that bothered about accolades considering her Oscar is a doorstop and she is also aware that an award doesn’t necessarily equate to better work after. She obviously didn’t want Valerie to leave as it takes away from her documentary but in a way this empty chair is a much bigger moment for her to use in her doc. I also love that Paulie G goes up to accept the award and he is essentially shooed away.

We see some returning faces from season one including Jimmy who emphasizes that this is only one night and while it is important, it is not as important as the relationships in your life. I do wonder if this was the extra push Valerie needed when choosing Mickey over the Emmys. The other Room and Bored face making their first appearance this season is Chris and I was surprised (and skeezed) by the brief attraction I felt towards Kellan Lutz. I loved everything about these scenes from the girls following him around cell phone in hand in a zombified state to the fact he only had eyes for Val. In our last chat you wondered if Val was going to sleep with Chris and while she could have done she chose not to so were you happy with how this played out?

the Comeback 2.08 KLutzKerensa: For one, I think this is arguably Kellan Lutz’s BEST work. He’s really great actually. And I agree with you, I was weirdly attracted to him too? But for me, that attraction might not be brief 😦

I loved Val’s whole interaction with Chris. Mainly because that is a DREAM LADY SCENARIO. I mean, in every stage of life, haven’t you always wanted someone from your past irregardless if you were into them or not, to learn of their long yearning feelings for you, trying to get it in and then massively rejecting them?! I have had SO many of these (all dream unfortunately). I never thought she was going to sleep with him though. I mean it was obviously fun to be flirted with and when he swept her into the bathroom (!) But Val’s never wavered–at least–from what we’ve seen about Mark, so I never expected her to go there with Chris. Did you?

Emma: It’s so good and I love that she points out how good it has made her feel. That’s all she needs from this encounter is a self-esteem boost because even though she’s getting all these plaudits and praise nothing can beat a more personal moment like this. And we know Valerie cares what people think and to have a young, hot guy like Chris see her as a sexual being is definitely not what she was expecting. And like you I didn’t really expect to see her fall for his charms other than taking a ride home and the compliments as in her eyes she is still very much a married woman and I cheating doesn’t seem like a Val thing to do.

So the season ended in this really happy and inspiring way, which could be the perfect way to wrap up the Valerie Cherish story but I also want more. I want to see how Val reacts to this new found appreciation of her work and if her marriage can be salvaged as the end of the episode suggests it can. Do you want a season 3?

The Comeback 2.08 Emmy winnerKerensa: I don’t want a season 3. Valerie is very important to both of us and obviously an iconic character but I feel like that finale was the perfect ending for her.

I’d rather leave Val on a happy note than have to see her suffer again. Do you want a season 3?

Emma: I feel how I do about the end of Friday Night Lights in that I would LOVE to spend more time with these characters but both endings are perfect. The slight difference is with how few episodes there are in The Comeback’s run I think there is still a lot more story to tell, so if they announced a third season then I would resist. Seeing Valerie get the happy ending does make me reluctant for them to make more, but I wouldn’t say no to more Val.

Kerensa Cadenas is a writer living in Los Angeles. She is an Editor for Snakkle. She also writes for Women and HollywoodThe WeekThis Was TelevisionForever Young Adult, and Bitch magazine. You can follow her on Twitter to read her thoughts on teen TV, snacks and terrible pop music.

New Girl 4.13 “Coming Out” Review: Field Trip

14 Jan

On New Girl this season Jess’ work and personal life are entwined as a result of her relationship with Ryan, but since they started dating in secret we haven’t seen their attempts at covering this up at school. Now they don’t need to because Coach did his research and found a previous case allowing them to confess all to their peers. Sneaking around romance stories are a sitcom staple but as this show has had at least two of them it makes more sense to get straight to the reactions to their relationship. Plus as we have seen in the past the teachers at Jess’ school aren’t the most stable so of course they react with suspicion and chaos follows.

Jess just wants people to like her and this is one of those lesson episodes where characters realize that doing the right thing isn’t always the easiest or most popular. And you might end up with a face full of wasps.

New Girl 4.13 Coach and JessElsewhere Schmidt has a medical issue which is stopping him from going into work (an ulcer caused by work) and despite Schmidt’s very vocal protests Nick is going to show him how to do nothing for a day. Schmidt is desperate to become Don Draper, but he’s destined for mid-level if his boss has anything to do with it and this is far from the character his office is trying to emulate. The only person who doesn’t really have a work story going on this week is Winston as he spends the episode talking up the crystal he has been given by his colleagues (in a way this is a work story I guess) in a creepy but all-knowing way.

Coach reacts to no longer being the hot new guy in the teacher’s lounge by convincing Jess and Ryan to reveal their relationship. When this doesn’t have the desired effect he attempts a Ryan like sensitive nature and cardigan styling, which instead gives off a whole murderer vibe. What “Coming Out” reinforces with all the characters is that it is better to be yourself and Coach gets his hot status back when he leaps to save the kids from the nest full of wasps which has been unleashed. It’s painful, but he seems into it.

The same goes for Jess and while she is still concerned about people liking her because this is her standard position, Cece points out – this episode needs more Cece – she has to go in and be herself while owning it at the same time. And own it she does while also telling Ryan that she loves him in front of all the other teachers. And that goes well too as he responds in the same way. So far the whole Ryan relationship has been relatively drama free and as I mentioned last week I am glad he has become more than just a three-episode thing. Now the “I love you” moment has occurred I’d like to see more of Ryan beyond dreamy perfection, not that I need angst but there is only so far that dreamy perfection can take you. Even with a butt like that.

Schmidt has always wanted big things so to be told he is nothing more than an amazing mid-level employee is the push he needs to look beyond his current job. After a day of mooching in a Nick fashion he points out that Nick used to have grand ideas (cue college flashback) and now he just spends his days doing nothing. On one end you have Schmidt working too hard in a job that isn’t going anywhere and Nick is at the other standing still (or lying down). Put the opposing positions next to each and what you end up with is a desire to work together. This has disaster written all over it, but maybe it might produce something amazing like computers for babies. Back in season 1 they came up with Real-Apps and while this ended up cutting Jess’ boyfriend Russell there is also potential here.

Taking the leap, doing what you’re scared of and breaking out of a routine are all addressed in “Coming Out” and Winston’s crystal might be nonsense, but it also helps some of these characters confront personal roadblocks. Also all-knowing and wise Winston is hilarious. And it leads to one of the funniest tags this show has ever delivered. Much like Schmidt’s job prospects this is a mid-level episode; however it has the potential for more especially if it goes into business with Nick Miller.

New Girl Style Watch

New Girl 4.13Jess wears two very cute dresses this week with this ‘Jenny’ houndstooth dress from Shoshanna and later an umbrella print ModCloth frock. The blazer in the photo above is the same one Jess wore from J. Crew in last week’s episode. Also from J. Crew is the quilted red jacket in the picture at the top of this review. All are on my wish list.

New Girl 4.12 “Shark” Review: “I am Woman, the Smartest Species of them All”

7 Jan

The construction work that led to the loft getting a landline earlier this season on New Girl is back to stir up a debate between Schmidt and Jess with regards to getting things done; Schmidt thinks palms need to be greased whereas Jess is all for friendliness and by the book actions. Appearances are not all they seem as Nick and Coach discover when Winston graduates from the police academy and they fret for his safety when they see the small stature of his training officer, Aly. They can’t quite figure out how the guy who paints cat bowls for not only his cat but his roommates – where is Ferguson? – isn’t going to get stabbed by a kid on the job and their attempts to protect their friend are both dumb and very sweet.

New girl 4.12 SchmidtThe shark versus dolphin approach is reminiscent of the Jess/Nick debate from “Landlord” back in season 1 when Nick argued there is always an ulterior motive for generous acts (on this occasion he was proven right as their landlord thought they were going to have a threeway – this is still one of my favorite episodes). The winner of this debate between Schmidt and Jess is vague in that Jess is successful in getting the night construction switched to the daytime; however she has to use some nefarious tactics for this victory. No palms are greased, nor does she send an envelope filled with fake blood and a note saying “I know” instead she targets one of Schmidt’s weaknesses with his vanity.

Earlier in the episode Schmidt frets about his new tailor and how his cuff lengths on his jacket are not quite right, so when Cece mentions his cuffs seem a little off right before he is meant to argue in favor of nighttime construction it throws him off in the exact way Jess predicted. Jess feels a little dirty for resorting to this manipulative tactic (after some awkward straw mouth missing gloating) but really Schmidt had failed with his attempt to get Councilwoman Fawn Moscato (played brilliantly by Zoe Lister Jones with a character who wouldn’t be out of place in Pawnee) on side. Moscato is the kind of woman who can get Schmidt to do her bidding as she’s a little bit mean and has all the power (much like his relationship with his boss in season 2); she manages to appeal to everything he’s turned on by. Have you ever seen Schmidt look happier or more puppy like than when he stuck his head out of the window after he took hairspray to the face?

Schmidt is even impressed with how Jess effectively used his insecurity against him and it adds validity to his shark argument. The highlight of Jess agitating Schmidt comes much earlier in the episode as she keeps invoking the word “bro” and when everyone else follows suit it becomes even funnier as Schmidt gets more wound up.

Jess does attempt to go through all the correct channels, first by filling in endless forms while Ryan gets bonkers horny on red wine. Followed by performing a speech with visual aids – the visual aid is Ryan dressed as a construction worker and he continues to be impossibly handsome – that lays out the argument in a succinct manner. It’s very Jessica Day. A quick word on Ryan and I am so glad he has become more than just the standard 3 episode arc love interest as he doesn’t feel out of place in this group, plus the aforementioned handsome. He is still pretty perfect and this might be a problem in the future as currently the only conflict comes from the forbidden aspect of their relationship, but at the moment I am really enjoying what Julian Morris is bringing to the show. We do learn that Ryan’s uncle was arrested for having sex with a dolphin and Cece’s reaction to this random piece of Ryan information is pretty much perfect as she is “having a lot of difficulty nailing” him down.

This is a good guest star week and Nasim Pedrad slots in nicely to the New Girl world taking no shit from Nick and Coach as they air their concerns about Winston’s new career. I can understand why they might worry for their friend after watching Winston’s crazy antics for the last few years (although I really need to see Evil Winston – flashbacks please!), but dudes don’t judge how badass a woman is by her stature because she will kick your ass. As is the norm there are a lot of very funny Winston moments this week with his crossword idea being high up there for me; “Who likes cats? Winston across.” There is a whiff of Let’s Be Cops to this plot which was going to happen at some point with this storyline and if that movie had been Nick and Coach trail Winston I would have been much happier.

New Girl Style Watch

New Girl 4.12 JessThis outfit is a twofer as Jess is wearing a super cute Eva Franco summer dress paired with a black blazer from J. Crew which is giving me all the Liz Lemon feelings right now.

New Girl 4.09 “Thanksgiving IV” Review: “Life Moves Really Fast”

26 Nov

New Girl’s Thanksgiving episodes are always chaotic – dead people, Parent Trap plans and fish with psychotropic properties – and by bringing the whole group together it showcases the best of New Girl. Jess disrupted what was the loft Thanksgiving tradition back in season one and with each passing year this holiday gets even messier for everyone involved, but this is a sitcom so life lessons are imbued and it all ends well. “Thanksgiving IV” follows this route, even if Schmidt has decided to call it by another name this year and so ‘Bangsgiving’ is born.

New Girl 4.09 ThanksgivingThis is Schmidt’s second attempt this year to get everyone laid at one event; the wedding was a total bust on this front, but now Schmidt is super serious about the whole “Winter is coming” business. A Secret Santa of sorts is part of Schmidt’s Thanksgiving plan with everyone bringing a date for someone in the house by picking names out of Schmidt’s pilgrim hat. Throwing in a bunch of new and recurring characters could be a bust to the usual New Girl Thanksgiving formula (usually there are only one or two additions) and yet it works as it brings into focus some of the wider stories they have been telling this season.

Take Nick who after picking himself brings his old friend Tran to the party, much to Schmidt’s anger that he isn’t taking ‘Bangsgiving’ seriously. Instead this is what has been building over the past few episodes from the introduction of the term ‘uh-ohs‘ to his confession last week that he doesn’t know how to love. Before they have been dancing around the whole Nick and Jess of it all and it takes someone like Cece to address this head on. Schmidt wonders why Nick didn’t just bring one of the terrible women he has been sleeping with recently and the answer is more than obvious to Cece as she points out this pattern is all about him not wanting to get hurt again.

Jess is also holding back and in part this is because she isn’t technically allowed to have a relationship with Ryan. In a rooftop conversation echoing previous Nick and Jess life advice chats Nick tells Jess that she is probably scared of what Ryan actually represents as this is a guy who wants more than something casual. There is an intimacy to these conversations and tension that goes beyond the romantic; ultimately I think Nick and Jess are perfect for each other but they both stand in their own way and there’s a lot to work through before they even dare to commit to anything together again. This conversation is a prime example of New Girl’s ‘stupid shit/real shit’ balance as the chat turns to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off with Jess reading the film in a completely different way as she takes Principal Rooney’s side (he’s ‘her people’) – I would like to see the Ferris chat from You’re the Worst intercut with this one please – and then Nick quotes the film to emphasize his point. Life really does move fast.

Throwing caution and pie to the wind (all I can picture is Natalie Portman eating multiple donuts in No Strings Attached when Jess talks about all the pie she ate on the drive over) Jess goes to Ryan’s house to apologize for her “bang one out of our system” approach. Ryan at this point still seems too good to be true – he’s super dreamy and is pretty much the ideal guy for Jess – and there is only a certain shelf life to the guest star romances on any sitcom so it is likely that the ‘no dating’ rule will be their undoing, but for now I am enjoying this new relationship. Going slow doesn’t take and they do end up sleeping together. In fact everyone ends up hooking up except Schmidt and Cece, which is definitely notable considering this whole ‘Bangsgiving’ party was his idea.

As soon as Cece and Schmidt pick each other, Cece is certain that Schmidt won’t even bother bringing a date for her and his flimsy sounding story about why Geoff is late convinces Cece she is right. Schmidt doesn’t argue his case too hard so this really does seem to be the case, until handsome Geoff shows up with an excellent apology and he appears to have come from the same perfect dude land as Ryan. Cece has already mentioned how pleased she was by her lack of date, but when presented with this guy it briefly looks like she might leave with him, instead she pretends she doesn’t speak English and ends up playing board games with Schmidt. This is taking things slow and I really like how they are treating the Cece/Schmidt relationship. It goes way beyond the physical attraction that made them hookup in the first place and it is significant that Schmidt is also on her ‘never’ list. Just remember what happened when he slept with Nadia after his breakup from Cece; bad penis karma.

Moments that are ridiculous weave in with the touching and prior to the conversation about Nick’s dating anxiety he is attempting to make Schmidt jealous by flirting terribly with Cece. Nick realizes that this whole setup is ‘insulting to everyone involved’ and even though the rules are blurry when it comes to someone Nick can barely remember dating; he would never hit on Cece. So many dating rules, but some are more defined than others.

Winston and Coach both find issues with their dates pertaining to their jobs; Pearl (oh hey Shauna Malwae-Tweep!) is a lunch lady and Pepper is from the Police Academy. Winston had a bad experience with a lunch lady once (which is better than what I figured was a snobbish reaction to her job) and Coach can’t deal with the fact that Pepper is probably stronger than him. Both get over these issues and themselves realizing Pearl and Pepper are really great and I hope this isn’t the last we see of either. Coach does also deliver a terrible/hilarious impression of Ryan that sounds even wonkier than Dick Van Dyke’s Mary Poppins accent, while Winston reveals some all too personal things about himself at the start of the episode (he just wants to be slapped around).

New Girl continues its streak of fun episodes balancing the absurd with the sweet and season 4 is doing a good job of course correcting the not so stellar previous year.

New Girl Style Watch

New Girl 4.09Sometimes an LBD is all you need to make a killer outfit and Cece’s Cynthia Vincent is a classic take on this look. If you want to go for something more reminiscent of the ’90s with a Victorian twist then the Candice Gwin velvet dress Jess is wearing is available here.

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