The Americans
“Dead Hand”
Created By Joseph Weisberg
Where: FX
When: Wednesdays @ 10pm EST

Where We Left Off:

Season 5 was a slow burn, even by The Americans standards, but it was one with serious implications. Phillip is burned out by the lifestyle (the body count, particularly of innocent people trapped in a war they don’t know they’re a part of, grows by the day and weighs heavily on Phillip) and appears to be getting more and more comfortable with the American lifestyle. Paige, despite heavy fatherly objections, is training with Elizabeth (with help from Claudia) to be part of the next generation of naturalized spies. Despite that friction, the marriage of Phillip and Elizabeth is finally “real,” and their bond grows stronger when Elizabeth gives Phillip her blessing to get out of the game. Renee is moving in with Stan, but he may be as subtly suspicious of her eagerness to do so as we are. Oleg Burov is back in Moscow, doing nothing of note compared to the work he had been doing in Washington. Martha appears to be adopting a child in her new home in Russia. Everything has an eerie feel, knowing we are just one season away from the end of this superb drama.

What Went Down:

We have now jumped ahead three years, to 1987. Phillip has been out for some time now, focusing on the growing travel agency business and keeping his nose clean of all the messy business that had been tearing him apart all those years. Elizabeth has a top secret meeting with a general from Strategic Rocket Forces in Mexico City, where she learns of a defense system known as Dead Hand, meant as a retaliatory striking operation in case of nuclear attack on Russia. The General wants Elizabeth to follow an emissary aligned with Gorbachev around the nuclear summit in DC, as the KGB is worried Gorbachev will offer up their defense system as a bargaining chip to President Reagan, in exchange for the dismantling of the Star Wars system. The KGB, if needed, will take Gorbachev out of the equation entirely, and Elizabeth will be on the hook. She is told she can tell no one of this, including Phillip, and is given a cyanide capsule to ensure her silence. Elizabeth has had to deal with some very tough decisions (and consequences) many times before, but this is a whole new level for her. And as if that weren’t enough to deal with, she is knee-deep in the training of Paige, who is beginning to accompany her on missions and see how the espionage world really works. Unfortunately, a minor mistake on Paige’s part leads to Elizabeth handing out some lethal force to an American naval officer, but this is unbeknownst to Paige. Elizabeth assured her she did nothing wrong and everything is fine, but we know the real truth. In Moscow, Arkady Ivanovich visits Oleg Burov, retired from spy work, and tells him of the plan to undermine Gorbachev at the summit. He puts Burov up on the knowledge of Elizabeth’s meeting in Mexico, and notes that her husband is “different,” and can be used. Just like that, Burov is roped back into his old life, travels to Washington and signals Phillip for a meeting. When they meet (for the first time on screen), Burov instructs him to spy on, and possibly stop, his wife’s unapproved mission.

Holy. Shit.

Where We Go From Here:

That was one hell of a premiere, and it sets the stage amazingly well for the spy vs spy, husband vs wife dynamic we have feared since the first season of this incredible show. Some family bonds are strengthening, some are weakening, and others are being outright ripped to shreds under the surface. Will we see more of Burov and Phillip working together, or will that one scene be all we get from those two as they stay on their own paths to stop Elizabeth? Will Paige get to see the real, gritty truth behind spy work and the complex, life-threatening web she’s now entangled in? I don’t know if their marriage can be saved, at this point. The main question will become this: Can Elizabeth, finally, put love and family over country?

What did you think of this week’s episode?
If Paige gets a real glimpse of this life, will she choose to stay or cut and run?
Should Oleg have stayed in Moscow with his new family?

Check back next time for another Episode Breakdown…
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