TV Review: FX’s The Americans 4×3, “Experimental Prototype City Of Tomorrow”

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Poor Henry Jennings. After weeks of tolerating comments about his smelly cologne and hanging out with Stan, the man who seems to pay the most attention to him, it finally seemed like things were going to turn around with a trip to EPCOT. Sadly, Henry will not be going to EPCOT, but the Jennings will still likely have to deal with a couple who know too much.

This week, ‘Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow’ builds up a seemingly sound plan to get the Jennings out of the area for a brief period of time, so the KGB can ‘take care’ of Pastor Tim and his wife. It may sound cold, but that is the option placed before our heroes. Poor timing takes over, however, as Gabriel is eventually found face down in his home, indicating that the glanders (episode 1’s bio-weapons) have been exposed. So much for keeping the kids happy.

The Americans very fortunately falls into the category of a drama series with children characters who are not annoying. Lesser shows (and even a few greats) have had to deal with the fallout of young actors who are either written to be far too irritating or outshined too much by their adult counterparts. Holly Taylor and Keidrich Sellati may not be up to the level of Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, but they have been interwoven in increasingly interesting ways.

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Even better is how well the show does at letting the older Jennings have screentime focused on their concern for their children. I may sound like a broken record when it comes to stating my enjoyment of this series for putting the family first, the spy stuff second, but it is true. It was great to have a quieter moment where Elizabeth and Philip argue about how they could possibly explain to their son why they had to move Russia. It may have been nice to get a flashy action sequence last week (okay, it was pretty awesome), but this show has been a completely functional machine when it comes to delivering layered conversations between two characters.

These kinds of moments are scattered throughout this episode. Whether it’s Elizabeth’s new disguise as Patty, who sells Mary Kay products with a new mark or Philip’s brief interaction about caring for family with one of his employees who is none the wiser to what is really going on. The Americans revels in being able to sell scenes that reflect what it is to be American, as we watch characters who both pretend to be and can’t help but relate based on their time spent in America. It’s great writing and Stephen Schiff acquits himself well with this week’s script.

Elsewhere, we get some more from Stan and Nina too. Stan is beginning to put the pieces together with Martha, which is exciting. For all the emotional turmoil he has been put through, Stan is good when working a case, given his dogged determination to find answers. Nina may also be in a state of turmoil, but she is fine facing a possibly extended prison sentence, as she is still proud of her actions and a glowing referral from Anton.

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We even get to check in with Sandy Beeman, who stops by and talks with Philip about what the drama with Stan and Elizabeth now knowing about EST. For all the talk of going to EPCOT, this episode really lets us check in with nearly everyone we know in DC. This includes Claudia, which allows Margo Martindale to once again flex her skills as a guest star on this show.

She has the debate with Gabriel concerning how to handle the matter of Pastor Tim. The Americans is not quite the show that will ever really dive into how the KGB really functions in terms of overall goals, but seeing these two, minus the Jennings, is interesting. You can see the real concern these two KGB handlers have for the Jennings. What I would assume are some of their best agents are being put to the test and figuring out how to handle a delicate situation requires the right touch.

This is what leads us to the whole EPCOT plan, which is suddenly overtaken by the glanders getting released. It starts with Gabriel possibly being effected and turns into Elizabeth and Philip chasing down William, spitting in his face and forcing him to help. It’s a wild turn of events, but ideally brings Dylan Baker closer into the lives of the Jennings. By the end of this episode we learn that Gabriel, William and the Jennings will have to spend 36 hours in isolation. I’m not sure if we will return to see that play out or not, but it’s going to provide an interesting amount of time to once again evaluate how to handle the Pastor Tim situation.

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For all the character shuffling and plot setup, this was still a fine episode of The Americans. It manages to twist expositional factors into conversations where we can take in little details about the characters we want to follow. There’s also the matter of Paige, who is slowly getting her taste of having a double life. All of this is going to play out a certain way, but it doesn’t stop allowing for excitement to come from these dramatic one-on-ones.

Other Things Behind The Red Curtain:

  • The Jennings describe themselves as ‘Peaceworkers’ to Pastor Tim. That was a nice try.
  • Gaad is fed up with people not following copier machine protocol this week!
  • The ‘Patty’ persona is a fun one, especially given how well she blends with the Korean family. I am curious to see where this infiltration goes, especially because it’s nice to see Elizabeth lighten up a bit.
  • No sign of Arkady or Oleg this week. They’ll be back.
  • “Have you patched things up with Stan yet?” – Hopefully Philip doesn’t force a mending of wounds, with Stan hot on some sort of trail.
  • Funny that the glanders are just the problem that won’t go away.
  • Poor, poor Henry. EPCOT really seemed like a perfect place for him to visit.

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Aaron is a movie fanatic. He is from Orange County, California, but earned a degree or two at UC Santa Barbara. He describes himself as a film reviewer, writer, podcaster, video game player, comic book reader, disc golfer, and a lefty. There are too many films, TV shows, books, etc. for him to list as favorites, but he can assure that the amount of film knowledge within his noggin is ridiculous, though he is always open to learning more. You can follow Aaron on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else he is up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com, and check out his podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.