“The Walk In” was an episode of The Americans steeped in the past. Past actions, past decisions, and past mistakes defined everything that took place in this hour. The story surrounding the Jennings family still remains a lot more interesting than what’s happening with Stan — the two elements of the show (the spy story and the family drama) sometimes have difficulty coming together. However, the dark portends at every turn did create a unifying factor. Hit the jump for why “Ronald Reagan doesn’t care!”
The reverberations from the premiere’s bloody massacre of Leanne, Emmett, and their daughter continue to be felt deeply by Philip and Elizabeth. Last season, it was difficult to get a read on Elizabeth, who often seemed cold and detached from her family, particularly Philip. Lest we forget about that this season, a flashback transported us to 1966, where Elizabeth tells Leanne she’s never wanted children (though later makes an awkward attempt to let Philip know she’s ready to, literally, take one for the team).
Obviously, things have changed. With the threat against their family, including Paige and Henry, now overt, Elizabeth is more attentive and protective than ever (and her relationship with Philip continues to deepen on all levels). “The Walk In” played with this a little bit by having Derek, the man she threatens just enough to get him to understand that she needs to see those blades, appeal to her mercy using his children. After she spares him (taking a photo of his youngest child as another threat — talk, and I’ll remember to repay the favor), she echoes words he used to Philip. “Leave now so you can be home for dinner,” she says.
Though she justified letting Derek go because “it would be better than having him disappear,” it seemed like a big moment for the often cold and typically zero-hesitation personality of hers when it comes to the necessity for violence. Maybe she really did think it was better than having him disappear, but it also seemed clear that her family was on her mind.
However, in the flashback, Leanne asked her to deliver a letter to their son if anything happened to them. Elizabeth agreed, but it seemed clear even then that she didn’t understand the need or desire. It’s really surprising, given what we’ve seen of Elizabeth and Philip’s training, that Leanne and Emmett would ever conceive of something like that in the first place. But, it gave Elizabeth the opportunity to show us in the present time that she’s still only willing to go so far. She checked in on Jared, comforted him the best she could, but decided ultimately there was nothing more to do. The potential damage to the mission that revealing the information in the letter could cause was obviously not worth it. It lines up with everything we know about her, and keeps what happened with Derek from looking like too hefty of a personality change. Things are different, and the Jennings are fighting with the confusion of family versus work, but the motherland still trumps when it comes to someone else’s family, at least.
As for their own family, Paige was hard at work tracking down Great Aunt Helen, and unsurprisingly, she found her. I mentioned in the past that it seemed doubtful Elizabeth and Philip would be so lazy as to not have a real person on the end of that phone line, and sure enough, it seems the Center provides long-lost family members when necessary. Painting Helen as a woman with memory problems was enough to confuse Paige, but not put her off the scent entirely. Her connection with Kelli also has something foreboding attached to it. The series has often foreshadowed something dark for Paige — recall last year when she and Henry got a ride from that guy who was unstable — so anywhere she goes and anyone she meets at this point seems like a bad idea.
Orbiting off on his own was Stan, who put together the information about the sniper in a way (and on a timeline) that seemed rushed. It was made clear though why Arkady gave him the information through Nina — he wanted to establish a further bond between them, which happened: Stan declared his love. Nina, reflecting the Jennings’ struggles, is confused by her love and her work. Her true loyalties have not yet been tested, but what is with overly inquisitive Oleg? Is Arkady using him to spy on Nina and be sure that she is not acting as a double agent? (or triple agent at this point?)
How this will connect back in with the Jennings is unclear, but in the meantime, it does stick to the show’s theme of duality, and exploring what that means and how the characters deal with it (like Stan juggling his time between poor Sandra and Nina). And what about Martha? Eventually, the lies are going to start unraveling. And that’s when we will see just how far Elizabeth and Philip, and even Stan, are willing to go.
Episode Rating: B+
— The Americans has always excelled as a family drama, and Philip chastising Paige was such a well-written and expertly performed scene. It look like Paige picked up on his threatening demeanor at the end, too. It felt strange, and beyond what a normal dad would do in that situation.
— Poor Jared, he seems like such a good kid.
— The scene with Elizabeth crouched by the burning letter was so saturated with emotion. It was a nice moment earlier too when Leanne mentioned enjoying the Beatles, even referencing her thoughts on their best album, and Elizabeth looked confused or unconvinced. Leanne seemed to pretty quickly drink the Western Kool-Aid, though ultimately her dedication to the motherland could not be questioned.
— “Ronald Reagan doesn’t care!” And I don’t care about you, Bruce-the-Sniper. The show almost made a political statement about disgruntled vets and the downfall of the military to care for their own, but backed away from going too deep into it.
— I’m interested to see where things with Oleg go. I can’t seem to believe he’s set up as something so banal as a rival love interest for Nina. I do like the fact that he wanted to take her to a Capitols game — Russians know their hockey!
— “They’re killing everyone and they will never stop” – Elizabeth, 1966.