The Americans Review: Season Five, Episode 7

THE AMERICANS — “Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow” Episode 403 (Airs, Wednesday, March 30, 10:00 pm/ep) — Pictured: (l-r) Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings, Matthew Rhys as Philip Jennings. CR: Craig Blankenhorn/FX

You were right about Paige. She should be kept out of all this. – Gabriel

It might not have started quite as hot, but The Americans has been terrific this season. One slow episode, but as the story has unfolded, it’s gotten better and better. Last night, we said goodbye to Frank Langella, although it’s possible we could see him again in some capacity. It was a move that needed to happen, simply because it fit the character. This is a man that had seen so much, done so much, and sacrificed every individual desire for a larger purpose. He believed in Marxism, and even though it took an unimaginable toll on his life, he was dedicated to the cause.

Philip is dealing with wavering faith, in much the same way most Christians eventually have an internal struggle and question the depth of their own theology. It’s part of the growth process, and is said to increase devotion to God. One has to wonder how often a Russian-born communist challenges his or her political theory. The indoctrination is so complete, so ingrained from moment one, that it’s doubtful. It was never a choice. Capitalism is presented as evil, and there’s no push back against it. Russian children didn’t read books that attempted to balance the portrayal.

It’s why Gabriel ended up doing “terrible things” and attempting to hold himself together as he tried to explain just how bad those times were for him and those he knew before and after the war. Philip’s mother lied to him about what his father did for a living in order to protect the child from the truth. It wasn’t a good life, and there’s at least a small sense in Gabriel’s final sentence to the man he watched evolve into a damn fine spy that he regretted much of his past.

That’s not to say he rejects what he was taught, but perhaps some of the tactics he was forced to employ, including taking the innocent spirit of children like Paige. We just saw her break up with a boy she really likes because her life isn’t fair to him, and she can never be normal again. Langella has never been better than he was in the opening scene of last night’s episode, where his grin was both subtle and obvious as he talked of the bravery and heroism of Philip and Elizabeth, but also how proud he was of their bright, fearless daughter. Without any direct allusion, my immediate thought was how this kitchen table conversation reflected the existence Gabriel never had.

The closest thing he had to family wasn’t even his own. He lived a lonely life, often in solitude, and his face is aged in more ways than biology. It’s been a hard road, and he’s tired. He’s had enough, and he’s ready to go home, presumably to live out the remainder of his days in peace.

Despite my feelings on his activities in the United States, I hope he finds that serenity. What he was raised to do, trained to be was often monstrous, but I never found Gabriel to be a bad man. Similarly, I don’t find Philip to be a bad man, for much the same reason. However, especially in Philip’s case, he’s aware he might be on the wrong side. It’s the struggle he’s dealt with for three seasons. His mind and heart aren’t working as one, and instead are battling one another for control of his soul.

It’s clear the solo job Elizabeth is working is much bigger than it may have originally appeared. The writers haven’t given away exactly how grand its scale is, but considering the file was an American Psychiatric Association document with names and addresses of important Russian figures involved in the Committee on Human Rights, it’s a big deal. It’s also likely to be a dangerous deal, which would make sense based on Elizabeth saying she would take on some of the riskier jobs to help her husband as he works through the recesses of his own brain.

I’m still not invested in Stan and Dennis attempting to turn a source, but at least it’s now apparent why we’ve been watching these scenes. It’s the way the show has found to keep Beeman’s job after he tried to curb the blackmail heat on Oleg Burov in Moscow. Plus, it gives Brandon J. Dirden something to do outside of being an exceptional wing man. That said, the unintentional good cop-bad cop routine scenario worked well, with Aderholt handing the woman a pillow while Stan hit her in the face with a brick. Both have good reasoning for their strategy, but the confusion leads her to power walk away from them with apprehension.

Oleg is behaving brashly as of late, with the destruction of the tape and note last week, and now researching his past, which matches Philip’s quest for answers he can deal with and accept. That’s about all I have to say about Burov, who was very much a drifter in the background of a much more emotional story. We’ll see more from him in the coming weeks, but last night, he was virtually an afterthought.

Elizabeth (or maybe we should call her Brenda) wasn’t happy to see ole’ Ben at the jazz club with the blonde from the taxi was she? Philip recognizes she likes the guy, though she says feelings aren’t acceptable. He’s attempting to solve world hunger, which in the process would save many of her people, so the fact she can laugh and enjoy sleeping with him doesn’t require much of a mental leap. But, he’s a guy with options, and with Brenda cutting in and out of Topeka, it’s hard to blame him. Did they ever even have the “exclusive” conversation?

Deirdre is quite a piece of work. She basically wants to fuck, not talk about feelings or anything else. Notice I didn’t call it making love or having sex. No, this chick wants to fuck. That’s what it’s called when it’s with her. There’s nothing more to it. To call her distant and cold would be an understatement, even though she could have orgasmed when Philip told her he was pushing Lotus 1-2-3 on his company. She didn’t say it, but she strikes me as that kind of woman.

One final thought on Gabriel. Though he and Philip have had their share of disagreements and confrontations, it was still a father-son relationship with no abuse. Philip may see himself in Gabriel, or more accurately see what he doesn’t want to be. He respects the man and loves him, but he doesn’t want to be the elderly gentlemen beaten into the ground trying to defend a flawed ideology that leads to things like the murder in Oklahoma City.

If he doesn’t fully buy in to the scheme anymore, he has to see Gabriel as a cautionary tale. He loves his wife, he likes racquetball (probably), and he cares for his children. He wants them to be happy. His every emotion this season indicates an individual who no longer believes he can achieve contentment through communism, Russia, or certainly his work.

What would be amazing is if Philip Jennings ended up being Stan and Dennis’ source. It would require that operation stretching longer than expected, but it’s conceivable based on his mentality. I’m not predicting it, but I’m putting it out there as a hypothetical. We’ve always wondered if the Jennings family would be discovered, or would escape unscathed. That was the end game for The Americans, even though we know how history concluded the Cold War. What a twist if Philip provided the intel that finally broke everything wide open. It would further explain why we’ve seen Beeman and Aderholt attempt to land sources, at least to this point unsuccessfully.

It’s fun to think about at least. Another fantastic job from Matthew Rhys directing as well, and intricate writing from Hilary Bettis. I’ll miss Frank Langella.

I’m @JMartOutkick. Do you wanna have sex? 

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