Juxtaposition plays a key role in any competent television series and The Americans is no different. Sometimes it comes in the form of a splashy action sequence, set to the music of the time, much like the ‘Tainted Love’ scene from a few weeks ago. This week we get a few key sequences that play up the contrast. One involves Martha on a date with Aderholt, while Stan searches her apartment. Those scenes are crosscut with each other, while the ending of tonight’s episode has two scenes paired up, with highly differing results.
Everything starts out a lot lighter though. Okay, so things are pretty dire for the Jennings, but in comparison to where things end, some droll humor from Dylan Baker and a lovesick Oleg are easier to digest. We are still stuck spending time with the Jennings, William and Gabriel sitting in 36-hour quarantine. It leads to some heavy talk between Philip and Elizabeth on how to deal with the Pastor Tim and Alice situation. Elsewhere we get to see Stan mentally consider that all might not be what it seems, even while giving some friendly advice to Henry.
But why not talk about Martha? Aside from being my current favorite name associated with the DC cinematic universe, this show is doing a lot to keep Alison Wright involved. It must surely payoff in some way, as we are not only seeing her deliver some key scenes that shed light on her character, but also investing her deeper into the plot. I have no idea if Agent Aderholt is actually into Martha or just serving the greater good, but it allows these two to interact and have Stan on the verge of learning some crucial information.
Of course, we are also rooting against Stan, because we don’t want the Jennings to be exposed in that way. Or do we? With all the talk of Philip and Elizabeth going on the run lately, there could be some serious shakeups in the episodes to come. While one member of the cast was lost to us this week, this show is growing quite the ensemble, but The Americans is not one for leaving too many loose ends.
Oleg does not care about this though. We find him grieving over the death of his brother and dealing with the Nina situation at the same time. We haven’t gotten a ton from Oleg since season 2, but I will be curious on what the show intends to do with him at this point. Having been in love with a character he will never see again, I want to know the show’s intentions for a character whose deepest connection is now to Stan.
Alright, so let’s get to Nina. Just in the past couple weeks I have acknowledged the tricky place The Americans put itself in by relying on a character literally on the other side of the world. It did so well enough, as Annet Mahendru’s work was fine and the creation of a subplot involving her and a previous plot-related character, Anton, was effective. It appears that time finally ran out for Nina though, as she was coldly dispatched. While her demeanor has been fairly optimistic, complete with romanticized dreams and a smile in regards to her own actions, the hammer and sickle came down hard in her sentencing.
Nina is essentially dragged out of bed and told her appeal has been denied. Hearing she will be put to death shortly may have indicated another week of us watching her be possibly rescued just in time, but no, Nina is immediately shot in the back of the head. For all the optimism that was found in the Jennings side of this story and the fact that we are essentially rooting for these Russian spies, ‘Chloramphenicol’ provided a cold reminder of how dire things are for the lives of spies.
But why not end things on a happier note? It was a tough time for the glanders crew, dealing with medicine and what not, but Gabriel woke up and Elizabeth broke her fever (which also featured a fever dream/flashback). Everyone seemingly got better and the Jennings could go home to their children and provide some warm family time. They may not be going to EPCOT anytime soon, but we did get to see family bowling night as a replacement. Even better, although unbeknownst to Paige, Pastor Tim may yet to live a longer life, as Elizabeth has come around to not wanting him to be taken out.
We still have a whole rest of this season to go, but the contrast of happier family moments with the cold realities of the lives of spies will not stop being a key source of intrigue. This week may have taken care of a plotline that avoided cliché storytelling, but setting up happiness elsewhere could lead to some desperate actions later down the line as well. At the very least though, Stan is looking less and less like a sad sack.
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