Q.V. Hough

Recap: The Americans ‘Baggage’


Last night, FX’s The Americans gave us a little bit of Scandal and a heavy dose of parenting advice. The lesson: don’t let your own psychological baggage result in your daughter becoming literal baggage. While the innocent offspring of Philip and Elizabeth has now graduated to reading the newspaper (!), she hasn’t quite grown up enough to comprehend how Mom and Dad could break the limbs of a dead corpse and shove them into a suitcase to protect the Motherland.

The season three premiere of The Americans, “EST Men,” examined the live-or-die scenarios of espionage that require quick thinking, and “Baggage” slowed up the pace as Phil and Liz anticipated what might become of young Paige. Female empowerment was a central theme once again with Zinaida Preobrazhenskaya defecting from Russia (more literal baggage) and the locked-up Nina still capable of psychologically dismantling admiring men. And then there’s Elizabeth’s mother, who can shake things up with just the sound of her voice.

Visually, the direction of Daniel Sackheim offered both literal darkness (Nina in Moscow’s Lefortovo Prison) and conceptual darkness (the family Jennings popping and locking a dead agent). How about that sound design, by the way?

“Baggage” turned out to be quite the episode, but I was concerned early on when Philip blurted out “as long as you let me do what I do.” No…NO. Not the “I’m very good at what I do” cliché! Don’t go down that road, The Americans. You’re better than that.

Here’s a scene that worked: with a gun to his head and an angry Russian prepared to pull the trigger, a surprisingly confident Stan walked away to his car, and I could almost hear the pee dribbling down his leg. It certainly wasn’t his first brush with danger, but he managed to essentially “guilt-trip” his wife (who wasn’t having it).

With such a focus on powerful women, I’m still not sure how The Americans will handle the case of Stan Beeman. Mentally weak or the smartest guy in the room?

-Q.V. Hough


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