The Americans Dead Hand Review
FX‘s The Americans: Season 6, Episode 1: Dead Hand is a partial time-jump episode and focuses on the on-going struggle between the spy life and the regular life of the Jennings. It has been a long, narrative road in getting to this point in The Americans but a fruitful one. In Dead Hand, the viewer has never seen retired Soviet KGB Officer Mischa / Philip Jennings (Matthew Rhys) so happy and carefree and Soviet KGB Officer Nadezhda / Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) so rundown.
Both of these points are exemplified in specific scenes in Dead Hand: Philip Jennings dancing at a Texas-themed bar, faced filled with joy as he cuts loose with his employees and Elizabeth Jennings washing her naked body after having sex with a sleeping sloth, reflecting on what just happened in the hotel room and why.
Both are extended scenes in Dead Hand and both drive home how separate Elizabeth and Philip’s lives have become. Through his retirement, Philip is able to concentrate more thoroughly on the Jennings’ travel agent business, and its thriving because of it. The travel agent scenes are wallpaper scenes during the Dead Hand as Elizabeth’s storyline was front, center, and the most substantive of the two storylines.
As Elizabeth looks at and through the glass of the hotel room wall, she is looking at her own situation but also the future. Paige’s future. This is what Paige had to look forward to – giving her body over to the state, for kompromat, and sexual spy trade-craft.
There is a subdued emotional battle going on behind Elizabeth’s eyes as she gazes at herself in the glass. Paige made a conscience choice to spy, on a small scale, for Russia and Russian interests. Russia would eventually ask more of Paige and Paige will have to make more choices. Elizabeth sees Paige’s future and it makes Elizabeth sad. How could it not? How many men had Elizabeth slept with for the state and not herself? Fifty? One hundred?
In addition to this emotional turmoil, with Philip out of the spy game, it seems that Elizabeth’s work load has increased with all of the mental grind inherent to it. Concurrently, Elizabeth no longer has Philip in the field to rely on, and to some extent, at home as well. In Season 5 of The Americans, Elizabeth spoke to Tuan Eckert (Ivan Mok) about the necessity of getting through the spy game with a partner. That Eckert, or any deep cover spy for that matter, needed someone else in the game that was there for them. In more than one respect, Elizabeth no longer has that person in her life.
In Season 5 of The Americans, a righteous man, F.B.I. Special Agent Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich), made a conscious decision not use (or let be used) former Soviet Science and Technology Officer Oleg Igorevich Burov (Costa Ronin) for Unites States espionage. In Dead Hand, Burov is manipulated by a righteous actor, his old boss – former KGB Soviet Embassy Rezident Arkady Ivanovich Zotov (Lev Gorn), and then in turn tries to manipulate Philip Jennings. The selfless motivation and mutual danger of what Burov says, the viewer can see, works on Philip (though he doesn’t give this away at the clandestine meeting). Philip’s written psychological profile (think Skyfall) must be extensive and thorough, even if that file doesn’t house a picture or physical description of Philip. Did Burov, or Zotov, have access to that file? If not, their ability to read someone on-the-fly is astute and effective.
Because of what Oleg Burov said to Philip Jennings in Dead Hand, the groundwork for spy-versus-spy combat, who live in the same household, share a love and mutual respect for one another, was laid at a granular level. Will that seed blossom? Will that grand showdown come to fruition physically and mentally (Elizabeth and Philip’s competing ideologies colliding – shattering everything around them), after a master-class game of cat and mouse? We will have to wait and see.
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