The time has come, and the stakes are higher than ever.
Season 6 of FX’s critically acclaimed drama The Americans aired on Wednesday to much anticipation. The show has been a sleeper hit (no pun intended) since it premiered in 2012 and has garnered a lot of dedicated fans. This season will be the final season, and it will be a show that I will miss very much.
The season opener, menacingly titled “Dead Hand” started with a time jump, the biggest ones that the creative team behind The Americans has attempted, a three-year jump to 1987. This established a few things; if you remember Phillip got “out of the game” at the finale last year so Elizabeth has been flying solo for a very long time now, Paige is now a burgeoning college libertarian and second generation spy in training with a friendship with Claudia, and globally the Cold War between the United States and the USSR is losing steam as the soviets reckon with changing political dynamics. Yes –– a lot has happened in three years.
“Dead Hand” opened with a six-minute montage with no dialogue with “Don’t Dream its Over” by Crowded House, illustrating why this is one of the best produced shows in the business. We didn’t need dialogue to feel the weight of the world on Elizabeth’s shoulders as she has taken on the ever-mounting pressure of doing espionage work without her trusted confidante and literal partner in crime, Phillip. Now Phillip on the other hand is thriving in 1987. He is living the nondescript life of a travel agent and nothing more. He smiled more in the first few minutes than he has in five seasons. He can go watch Henry, now a hockey star at his private high school, he can go line-dancing with his co-workers, and he cannot talk to Elizabeth about her covert missions as a civilian. That distance, though different from other marital tensions in the past, is a seemingly insurmountable length now.
This episode did a brilliant job of keeping the exposition down to the minimal, though due to the time jump it could not be avoided. We were able to find our footing again with all the familiar faces. The Jennings, a happily re-married Stan Beeman, daddy Aderholt, and even bearded, world wear daddy Oleg. As the episode settled in we learned more about the global moves that will direct the actions of the Jennings, Stan, and even Oleg as he heads back to the states on the pro-Gorbachev side.
“Dead Hand” provided some brilliant acting and emoting from Keri Russell as Elizabeth, I mean her exhaustion is palpable through the screen. Even when she has more daring, action shots they feel more ruthless, more risky. Her emotionless stabbing of the security guard that flirted with a Paige during her first stakeout was powerful, and showed how high the stakes are this season. She is juggling many assignments (5 wigs worth!!) and it is weighing on her heavily. And even though Phillip is noticeably lighter, old habits die-hard and he is drawn back into the ever thickening web.
This season premiere was a showcase in everything that The Americans excels at, the music was perfect, the costume/wig design hit the mark on every mission, and the time jump allowed for a new sense of tension that season 5 lacked, most likely they were just placating until the final season. Whatever the case I am ready for the next nine episodes of this wonderful show.