“The Walk In” continues the streak that The Americans has been on, which involves multiple plotlines running concurrently, doing a great job with nearly all of them, and delivering a fine hour of television overall. I consider that an impressive feat. It even attempts to flirt with disaster by expanding on the “daughter gets into her parent’s business” trope, which has caused complaints in shows like Homeland and 24, but somehow gets through it okay. The Americans may still be sitting just outside the realm of my absolute favorite shows currently airing on TV, but it is consistently very good, if not great, which is definitely commendable, given the balancing act that it manages to keep a hold of, with a little Peter Gabriel brought in for the assist this week.
This episode begins with a flashback to 1966, where a younger Elizabeth discusses the idea of having children with Leanne (one of the other “Americans”, who was murdered in the season opener). We will see more of these flashbacks throughout the episode, but the basic idea is that Elizabeth has evolved quite a bit since her early days, as she grew to accept the task of being a mother and now, in her current day setting, wants no one to take that away from her. Elizabeth also learns of a note that Leanne left for her son, in case anything was to happen to her and Emmet, but we will get to that later.
The early portion of this episode revolves around Philip and Elizabeth infiltrating a plant in search of some machinery. We get the usual kind of scenario here; as we watch the duo retrieve their fake IDs and don some wigs. Eventually Elizabeth is able to find what she is looking for (it has to do with propellers, I guess), but it comes after some tremendous threatening to a poor maintenance worker, with three sons. Keri Russell has been great on this show, but she really impressed me here in the way she was able to terrify this poor guy, simply by staring at him intensely, while also brandishing a crowbar. In an episode that also features Stan stopping an assassin by way of a being faster with his gun, Elizabeth still had the more intense scene, which featured no actual violence.
Following this assignment at the plant, Philip and Elizabeth split up. The woman sure are sneaking around more than the men this episode, as Elizabeth goes on to find the note Leanne spoke of, while her daughter, Paige, has decided to play hooky for a day, in an attempt to confirm the whereabouts of aunt Helen, who lives all the way out in Pennsylvania. Paige’s parental paranoia has obviously been a big part of this new season so far and this is her biggest venture yet. The result is a mix of understandable confusion and cleverness. Upon arrival, Paige enters a home and finds an old woman who is seemingly confused. Later on, that same woman calls Philip to alert him of what had happened. Clearly these Soviets have their bases covered, because a teenage girl was not able to easily discover the truth of her situation.
I have no real issue with these stories involving Paige. Truth be told, I also had no real issue with Dana Brody on Homeland either, but that does not really matter at this point. I could imagine people seeing Paige as a big problem, were The Americans a more popular show, but at the same time, she has not done anything I could see as “annoying” compared to the mountain lion jeopardy placed on Kim Bauer in season 2 of 24. The Americans has been smart in how it treats this plotline and how much time it has chosen to devote to it, which makes me confident it will continue to play out in a smarter, or at least less traditional manner, which would involve a lot of arguing and unneeded jeopardy.
Getting back to Elizabeth, she is able to find the letter to give to Leanne’s son Jared, but does not go through with delivering it to him. She arranges a meeting, which involves another disguise and some trickery, but given what she learns about him, the situation he has been placed in, and her own perspective on the matter, Elizabeth choose not to flip innocent Jared’s life on its head. She burns the letter instead, which is one of the many sequences we watch in music montage form, as “Here Comes the Flood” scores the final minutes of the episode.
Speaking of a coming flood, I am very curious about this Oleg character. He continues to hit on Nina, this week offering her tickets to a sporting event, but not after some mild questioning in regards to the reports she is writing. This has to be going somewhere and it likely is not good, especially given the complexity added by Agent Stan’s admission that he loves Nina. Besides being incredibly attractive, Annet Mahendru has been doing a fine job of adding a layer of ambiguity to Nina’s reactions to Stan and what is really going on in her mind, even when she is not with him.
Finally, Stan did get into some action of his own this week, as he was able to stop a Vietnam vet from shooting some World Bank leaders. The reasoning involved conspiracy theories and Regan’s name was thrown around. Honestly, this whole section was a bit muddled and not quite as interesting as everything else happening in this episode, but hey, at least Stan got to save the day…before continuing his affair with a Soviet pseudo double agent.
Still, Stan did have a role to play, along with everyone else in this episode and it did the job. Once again relying on character relationships and some introspective work on Elizabeth’s end, The Americans continues to excel at only relying on major actions when it needs to. It is a slower-paced series that does not even resort to its period setting as a way to spice things up when it does not have to. This early on in the season, things are clearly building up, but I am quite pleased with the way things have been going so far and do not expect to be less than satisfied with the weeks to come.
Other Things Behind The Red Curtain:
- No Martha this week (aww), but we do get a brief appearance by Stan’s wife Sandy, who is in the opening credits. Surely we will see more of her soon.
- Elizabeth treats her gunshot wound and Philip watches. Somehow this was all very sexy.
- Henry got a star wheel out of the back of one of his comics. This kid just keeps getting cooler.
- Oleg’s capitalist word of the week: “Scalp”
- “Good luck with that.” – Philip deadpans, while humoring Paige’s well thought out debate club story, before giving her a stern lecture about lying.
- “Revolver” is definitely a great Beetles album, though I sometimes lean on liking “Rubber Soul” a bit more…