13th Mar2014

The Americans 2×03 – “The Walk-In” Review

by Nathan Smith

Stars: Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Annet Mahendru, Holly Taylor | Created by Joseph Weisberg


We’re now sixteen episodes into The Americans and the one thing that we’ve never been privy to is Philip and Elizabeth’s life before we met them proper. We’ve had bits and pieces like Elizabeth’s horrifying rape or Philip’s past life with the agent but its been intermittent and overall, that’s never been the focus of the show, and it’s sad because there’s so much gold to mine there. And the writers have decided that now’s the perfect time to start that ball rolling. There’s insight into the past of Elizabeth and Philip when they make that milestone decision to start their family or little moments between Elizabeth and Leanne talk about their children while spying on a target.

The season seems to be more or less about family and how we deal with them, or even so much as struggle to coexist with them while keeping all of our dark secrets. I like this concept because anybody can relate to it. We lie to our children, sometimes maliciously and sometimes not so much. And we enter this world dealing with two people who lie to save their skins. They created this family and then have to keep their secrets. And the brilliant thing is, they’ve started to deal with the fact that lies are easily dismantled and that the ones closest to you are the ones most likely to see through your shit.

That element is the most intriguing to me, that Paige is starting to figure things out, and even though it’s easily covered over by pretending that the aunt has a faulty memory, but there’s a second there where no one could be sure what’s about to happen. It didn’t even dawn on me until Paige walked into the house that this aunt isn’t really there. Philip and Elizabeth aren’t even really who they say they are. And most terrifyingly is the scene where the father confronts the daughter and chews her out for lying to him (which is pretty damned funny in its own right, Philip calling his daughter a liar). That scene just vibrates with tension. You can practically see Rhys’ teeth raring up to chew into his daughter. Every word he utters is just a stab of ice. And it leads me to a place where fear truly strikes as to what will come down the road for this family, even Henry is sad at the episode’s end.

I love the two sides of Keri Russell we get in this episode. First, at the dry dock when she and Philip are scoping out the propellers for the project they’re working on. That scene with the warehouse employee and just how by doing nothing she can be the most goddamn intimidating person ever, even without the crowbar, it would be easy to be scared as hell of her. By saying nothing, she says it all. My only complaint here is that, there really isn’t much to understand as to why the two of them, and the people giving them orders are so intent on retrieving these plans, or why they’re so important that people can be killed for them. Which leads to the second of the Russell powerhouse where she gives a tender side to Jared, the son of the slain couple. It’s nice to see her being tender to someone she’s never met and yet knows every single thing about.

Beeman’s plot about the walk-in was a quick and easy little plot, a Vietnam vendetta against the big money folks, albeit with a nice little moment where we see the wheels clicking for him when he discovers exactly how the target plans to go about his business. It’s more about the motives of the other people around him: his relationship with Nina, whom he’s falling for even as he’s blissfully unaware that he’s in a completely mechanical relationship. It’s a very interesting question to raise here: Why did Nina give over Damerant, knowing full well that Beeman was going to hunt him down and kill him. That motive is a little blurred especiallt if the walk-in was meant to truly lead to something. But there was a nice quiet moment with Nina getting closer to Oleg over hockey tickets, but that they’ll still keep Oleg as repulsive as possible.

‘The Walk-In’ is the episode where everything this season started to click to me. Everything else beforehand has just been this nice, gliding build-up and now this week things got very real, very quickly. And we’re lucky because this week was a very well written, well acted episode of television that just kept things moving at a gorgeous pace and left me feeling deeply unsettled at how things will go from here.


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