The Americans Becomes a Tragedy in Season 6

From TIME - March 28, 2018

On Wednesday, the bickering married spies of FXs The Americans return to TVand find a different world.

That applies to the action of the shows sixth and final season, which has jumped ahead three years to 1987, a year marked by arms control talks between the Soviet Union and the United Statestalks that Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell), a true believer in the Russian cause decades into her assignment, hopes to disrupt. And, as has increasingly become the case with this perhaps-accidentally-prescient show, the show relaunches amidst yet-further-ratcheted-up suspicion among stateside viewers of the power and the potential malign intent of our neighbors across the Bering Sea.

By now, her husband Philip (Matthew Rhys) has quit the game, having been pushed to his limit by cases that carried with them both an escalating body count and a futile sense of trying to outrun the facts of Russias slow fade. What was once a cover storythat Philip and Elizabeth were but travel agentshas become for him fact. Hes just a travel agent now, or as near that as he can be. The spys ingrained sensitivity to atmospheric changes kicks in: Philip, never as committed to the cause as his fire-eyed wife, is newly inspired by Gorbachevs promises of a more open Russia, and begins taking steps back into the game. The thrill of The Americans kicks in at the end of the season premiere, as Philip questions a bereft and exhausted Elizabeth. Is this the emotional support of a spouse, an attempt to derail a competing spook, or something in the middle?

Philips hope of a post-perestroika homelanda Russia that might just have a Pizza Hut in the heart of Moscowflips the shows longtime equation. Now Philip is the true believer, while Elizabeth, having flipped daughter Paige (Holly Taylor) to work with her, is forced to carry out missions whose efficacy and whose very point she has cause to question. Elizabeth and Paige, sitting with a handler (Margo Martindale), watch old Russian films, make peasant dishes flavored with the desire for home and listen to Tchaikovsky. The women cant know quite how quickly the dream of a global red empire is falling away from themfor now. But Elizabeth, at least, seems to know on some level she cant admit that this nostalgia is, as usual, a last resort for those outrunning history.


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