We’re now about halfway through The Americans and already the show is beginning to commit to the catastrophic implications reinforced by the show’s previous four episodes. Aside from a couple deviances involving Oleg and Stan, “The Great Patriotic War” is primarily centered on Elizabeth, Philip, and Paige. While the three seem very divided by their personal lives, their espionage works eventually and sees their paths converge—often in disturbing and unexpected ways. Paige, confronting a lewd bar patron, puts Elizabeth’s “self-defense” to the test, earning the disapproval of her mother and, even more so, father. Meanwhile, Elizabeth manages to coerce Philip into persuading Kimmy, the sensitive and more impressionable of his contacts, into a potentially traumatizing event.
Perhaps in the show’s most intimate moment, we see Philip—the cool-headed and approachable parent—show Paige exactly what her “sparring” lessons are meant to entail in what Philip describes as “the real world”. Infuriated by Paige’s enthusiasm and naive devotion to her work, Philip demonstrates numerous ways in which he could, easily, murder his daughter in the episode’s most spare and intense moment. The scene also proves a rich counterpoint to Paige’s earlier sparring session with Elizabeth. Where Elizabeth uses the lessons to create a maternal synergy with her daughter, Philip uses it to purposely distort and alienate Paige’s fatherly image of him.
Philip, slowly necessitating himself in the spy work, again becomes involved with the much younger, platinum-permed Kimmy at Elizabeth’s behest. The plan is to convince Kimmy, while vacationing in Greece, to travel across the Iron Curtain (to a communist-controlled Bulgaria) in an elaborate plan that involves her being arrested by Soviet spies, forcing her father, working for the U.S. government, to be wrested for potentially useful information. As we’ve seen in the previous episode, Philip doesn’t have Elizabeth’s hard-bitten emotional distance to his work.
Philip’s agonizing efforts here to convince Kimmy to meet him in Greece—where he’ll eventually convince her to travel across the border—are some of the series’ most disturbing. Using Kimmy’s callow affection for him to his advantage, Philip manages to convince her to meet him in Greece only after the two have sex for the first time. Of course, this moment of duplicity wouldn’t have been nearly as effective if their relationship hadn’t been so strongly developed in the previous seasons.
In another development, Elizabeth manages to track down the Soviet informants Stan Beeman has been hiding. In a grisly murder worthy of a B-movie slasher flick, a blade-wielding Elizabeth massacres the Soviet couple while their 7-year-old daughter is barely a room away. The scene itself would mostly seem like just business for Elizabeth if the moment wasn’t preceded by the indelibly sad moment of the lonely victim enjoying a hockey game with the less-than-enthused Stan Beeman, watching the game as a sort of professional courtesy for his Soviet informant.
Unlike the previous episodes, which simmered with Elizabeth and Philip’s suppressed contempt for one another, “The Great Patriotic War” is an episode bursting with explosive revelations for the two of them. Between Philip and his devotion for Elizabeth, we see their gradual loyalty become an all-out betrayal by the episode’s end, with Philip making one fateful phone call to Kimmy. Furthermore, The Americans’ sixth season seems to be taking its build-ups and implications to a place of full-blooded confrontation, waged as a series of devastating judgement calls and moral quandaries made out of selfish impulse. It’s a show that, while enveloping the characters in violence and geopolitical struggles, slowly reveals itself as a far more intriguing delineation of a classic family drama; personal lives too wrapped up in their own problems and suffering to recognize the destructive trail everyone is going down.