Oh Comrades, it feels like it has been forever since we spent time with the Jennings. It is good to be back with the best 80’s family since the Seavers (and to be honest, I think they may have been KGB as well.).
Glanders isn’t exactly the most exciting way to start off a season, but hey, they had a lot of stuff to wrap up from last seasons finale… and they still keep a lot of it hanging (like Gene). The Americans has a way of forcing of the edge of a cliff, only to have you land on another ledge, but this time with a broken leg. There is no way back, but moving ahead isn’t going to be to easy either.
The episode opens up with Phillip deciding to tell Martha that he has killed Gene. She seems to be taking all of this well. Okay, she doesn’t take it that well, but considering… Martha’s performance is filled with the nuance we would expect from someone who is having their reality and loyalty split asunder.
After dealing with Martha, Phillip gets back to work. He and Elizabeth have to get a biological weapon sample from an informant. Phillip calls off the first attempt because a bad feeling. Elizabeth calls off the 2nd attempt because she sees a suspicious car.
Phillip convinces Martha to get him a copy of the FBI surveillance schedule so they can figure out when to safely make the drop. They pick a day, and get the virus. This episode has been pouring the paranoia on thick, and even though the FBI surveillance schedule said there was no surveillance during the first attempt, or the night that they actually made the drop, we still see the same character loitering about all three nights. Is he a red herring? Is he a ploy to build the tension and paranoia? Or could it be that the CIA or NSA has surveillance on this contact as well? I guess future episodes will tell.
The paranoia vibe permeates the rest of the episode as well as there is always someone spying on someone. From Phillip watching Martha sleep to Stan’s new girlfriend watching Phillip and Stan’s wife eating, to Stan watching Martha. Paige hides outside her classroom door while the other students say the Pledge of Allegiance which shows such levels of both confusion and paranoia on her level that the simple scene was stunning. When Paige goes to talk to Pastor Tim, the scene begins by peeking through the window building the idea that someone is watching. Then there are the scenes with Nina and the scientist that have a pervasive feeling that eyes and ears are everywhere. In a modern world of NSA spying, computer tracking, and internet connected voice and image recorders with GPS positioning in our pockets, the subtle paranoia of the 1980’s spy game becomes all too haunting.
Phillip has been secretly (like anything people do in The Americans isn’t “secretly”) attending these EST while he is attempting to deal with a memory from his youth where he kills another young man who has been bullying him. The scenes look like they were shot on old super 8mm film, and have a very neat look to them. In the beginning of the episode, when the memory is keeping Phillip awake, Elizabeth asks him if everything is ok, and he doesn’t tell her about the memory. Later, he confides in Martha about the story which makes me wonder if he told her to gain her trust, or because she has gained his…
The EST meetings stress the importance of “gut feelings” and we see Phillip acting on his gut feelings numerous times in the show. Phillip seems more and more to be a man unhappy with what he is doing. Could this season show Paige turning Phillip against Mother Russia… and possibly against Elizabeth?
The episode concludes with Stan confronting Phillip about having dinner with Stan’s wife after an EST meeting. Stan is a bit aggressive with Phillip all while Phillip has a chemical weapon in a vial in his jacket pocket… This scene really shows the danger that everyone is in because of the choices they make, and the secrets they keep, although one would wonder why Phillip didn’t give his jacket to Elizabeth and ask her to “hang this up for me” when Stan asked to speak to Phillip privately… But that wouldn’t have been as dramatic.
As I said in the beginning of this article, Glanders isn’t a high paced action episode of The Americans. It is more of the slow burn that keeps fans of The Americans tuning in every week. There are a lot of sub plots to keep track of, and all of them are embers waiting to ignite the powder keg. Season 4 of The Americans is sure to cause a bit of anxiety over the next few months…
If you missed Glanders, the season 4 premiere of The Americans, get it on iTunes and get caught up!