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Tag Archives: “Tchaikovsky”

The Americans 6.02 “Tchaikovsky” Review: The Dark Parts

5 Apr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fake Teeth

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

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

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