Wednesday, April 25, 2018

REVIEW: 'The Americans' - Philip Defies Orders While Hurting the People He Loves in 'The Great Patriotic War'

FX's The Americans - Episode 6.05 "The Great Patriotic War"

As the summit fast approaches, Elizabeth enlists Philip's help for a mission that could yield game-changing intel.

"The Great Patriotic War" is an ugly and deeply uncomfortable episode of television. It pays off so many storylines that have been established across the seasons. It's the show really focusing on the stories that have always been important while also pushing several of its characters past the point of no return. This season started with the idea that Philip has retired from spy work while Paige was joining the family business. Elizabeth was exhausted and tired because the Centre kept asking her to do more and more daunting missions by herself. All of those qualities still exist in the main story. And yet, they are so complicated now because Philip is forced to prove to the world just how strong he really is even when it hurts the people he loves the most. This hour features Philip and Elizabeth having sex for the first time in awhile. There has been a great deal of distance between them this season because they have been in such separate lives for so long. They both have the desire to make this relationship work. Family means so much to both of them. However, the meaning of family is different for them. To Philip, it's the most important thing in the entire world. He feels the duty to protect his wife and children even when he is the one making the reckless mistakes. To Elizabeth, it's a part of her legacy. She is doing everything in her power to ensure that Paige follows in her footsteps and is able to be an effective agent for the Soviet Union just like her parents have been. That has forced such a division between the couple. They are on opposing sides of the conflict that will determine the fate of their country. Philip has always been willing to see the nuances in any given situation while Elizabeth was blindly devoted to her cause. They understand the other and respect the feelings that they have. But now, it has informed such toxicity in their bond. Philip keeps hearing about the things that the Soviets are doing and is horrified by the lengths his family is willing to go for a country that no one truly understands what it's like anymore. That fuels his big decisions throughout this gripping hour.

It's tied back to Kimmy as well. She was introduced way back in the third season as a way for Philip to get information about what her father was doing at the State Department. It was a deeply confusing and creepy dynamic between the two of them. It was such a delicate walk the show did to show how intimacy formed between the two of them despite the inappropriate age difference. Philip didn't want to handle her as a source like he has done with so many other people. He essentially saw her as a stand-in for Paige. At the time, the Centre was first floating the idea of Paige becoming a second generation illegal. The family was dealing with Paige discovering the truth about her parents and threatening their entire existence. Kimmy also presented as further evidence for how far the Centre was willing to go in order to emerge victorious in this conflict. They had no problem with Philip seducing an underage girl for intelligence. Philip was the only one who had a personal conflict with that. And then, the discovery that Kimmy's father actually worked for the CIA meant she would have a recurring presence in Philip's life. She has been a recurring player on the show ever since her debate. Yes, her appearances have grown more sporadic. The time jump means she is in such a different place in her life right - just like Paige is. And yet, it's also abundantly clear that Philip is trying to do what's best for both of them to ensure that they don't get further abused by this vicious system that just demands so much personal sacrifice and heartbreak. Everything comes to a head with Kimmy here in a way that is only bound to further add fuel to the fire in the conflict between Elizabeth and Philip in the final season.

Elizabeth needs to know why the Soviet negotiator for the summit is meeting with CIA agents. She needs to know if the negotiations have become compromised. It's essential to her covert mission. She needs to understand the current stake of affairs in the Soviet Union and whether or not Gorbachev is willing to throw away their values for a greater sense of diplomacy. She comes up with the plan of getting Kimmy to go to Bulgaria while on her vacation in Greece. Once there, she'll be arrested for drug possession and held in jail until her father tells Elizabeth everything she needs to know about the negotiations. It's a huge mission for Philip. This is the only operation he has still been running in his three years of retirement. Elizabeth sees it as the one last thing he would need to do in this job. He could finally be free from all of this pain and secrecy. He could finally live out his life running the travel agency. She sees him agonizing over the numbers and believes she's giving him the proper time to deal with all of that. Instead, it's such a demoralizing request because Philip still views Kimmy as the innocent girl being corrupted by the world. He doesn't want to put someone he's known since she was a teenager through this. And yet, there's a brief moment where it seems like he's willing to go along with the plan. He has sex with Kimmy in order to ensure he can visit her in Greece. It's been the action he's been avoiding ever since he got this assignment. It's the one thing he didn't want to do with Kimmy. And now, it's so traumatizing and destructive. It's the show putting its moral compass into such a compromising position. It's through this act that Philip realizes he can't hurt this young woman any longer.

In doing so, Philip shows where his true allegiance now lies. At the conclusion of this gripping hour, Philip calls Kimmy to tell her that he no longer wants any relationship with her. He is so proud of the woman she has become. He has seen her grow up right before his eyes. He feels this connection with her. But it's all based on a lie. It's a relationship formed out of the necessity of getting this information from her father. Kimmy's time at college has affected the amount of time Philip could spend with her to keep getting new recordings from the tapes. Here, he has the potential of ending all of this. It's just the world asking him to surrender his morals for a cause that he no longer believes in. He sees the nuance of the situation. He understands that the Soviet Union is no longer the same as it was twenty years ago when he first joined this profession. He was trained to be cold and distant during sex so that he could complete these missions. But now, he is filled with this immense sense of dread. He calls to ensure that Kimmy doesn't leave Greece during her vacation. It's an act of protection. He is trying to save her from this incredibly traumatic experience that Elizabeth has planned. Elizabeth can justify it by saying Kimmy wouldn't spend more than a day in jail. It wouldn't be a traumatic experience for her. And yet, the audience knows just how personal and defining trauma can be. That's not to say Philip is innocent in all of this. He does break up with Kimmy after having sex with her. She'll forever see it as a relationship where he dumped her as soon as he got what he always wanted from her. That will forever shape her sexual relationships moving forward. But Philip also sees that as the noble way to continue doing this job.

It's an action that possibly ruins Philip's hopes of figuring out what Elizabeth is up to and if she can continue to be trusted by the Centre. Oleg is risking everything to get this confirmation from Philip. And now, Philip is jeopardizing all of that by saying that none of this is worth the immense amount of sacrifices he has had to make. He has had to concede the ability to have an opinion on his daughter's future. Paige has been trained by Elizabeth and Claudia. They are the ones informing her of the way she should see the world. It's her coming to see things as black and white as they do. It's clarity that has certainly been freeing to her. But it has also forced her to move too quickly in her training as well. She gets into a fight at a bar simply because one guy lays a hand on her. Sure, he was being a jerk to her before that point. Her actions are justified. But she is meant to feel bad for defending herself because Elizabeth sees it as not the only option she could have taken. That leads to a whole debate about what exactly Paige has been doing for Elizabeth. Philip is now suddenly worried that his daughter is being inflicted with this completely new trauma because she's experiencing a world that isn't as nuanced as the one she is actually living in. He wants her to accept that real life won't be as simple and protected as her sparring sessions with Elizabeth or her cultural lessons with Claudia. But it produces yet another eery and terrifying moment where Philip asks Paige to attack him and he fights back to prove to her just how untrained she still is in the field. It's an attempt to get her to learn her lesson that she's not as smart or capable as she thinks she is. It's such twisted parenting. It's all done in the hopes of saving her from this world. And yet, she only continues to bond with Elizabeth and Claudia in the end by discussing their sexual relationships with such earnestness and delight.

It's also such a grueling episode for Elizabeth because she is forced to kill Sofia and Gennadi. Her agents were able to follow Stan straight to their locations. It follows the pattern of Elizabeth having to kill people unexpectedly simply because the mission doesn't go completely as she planned. During her first attempt, she is interrupted by the FBI agent protecting Gennadi finally tracking him down before she can strike. That moment could have led to two dead bodies on those steps. But Elizabeth chose not to act. She just had to find another way in to kill Gennadi. She does so simply by breaking into the apartment through a window. It's such a simple action. And yet, she once again feels the need to retreat after it's clear that Sofia and her son are visiting. Her orders were only to kill Gennadi. She doesn't know anything about Sofia and the role she played in Stan's operation. But Sofia still winds up dead because she happens to stumble upon Elizabeth as she is killing Gennadi. It's such a horrifying sequence because of the dread that comes from Elizabeth needing to act now. She is continuing to serve her country proudly. But she is also faced with a choice regarding their son. She has to decide whether or not she should kill him too. Does she have the strength and cold heart to actually kill a child who is innocent in all of this? She is very fortunate that she has a choice because he's in the other room watching television instead of investigating what has just happened. That allows him to live. It just means he'll be forever traumatized by this night where he found his parents completely slaughtered. It's a night that will haunt Stan as well. He felt the need and pressure to protect this family. He failed in that mission. It sends him right back to Philip to voice some of his feelings. That, in turn, fuels Philip's final decision of defying Elizabeth's plan. Meanwhile, Elizabeth is just able to enjoy a laugh with her daughter about sex while just casually leaving out the part about her being assaulted by the man who trained her in this program.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Great Patriotic War" was written by Hilary Bettis and directed by Thomas Schlamme.
  • Oleg is in America without the support of any country. The American intelligence community is watching him. And now, it's clear that the Soviet intelligence is as well. Tatiana meets with him again. He is being confronted by these ghosts of his past that he thought he left behind when he returned home to work for his father. It also comes with confirmation that Tatiana was the one who told her government that Oleg was very likely the leak when it came to William being taken before handing over his research.
  • The season was already setting things up to end tragically for Oleg. He was leaving his family behind in order to do this one last mission in America while receiving no support at all. And now, Tatiana is arguing for her new boss at the Rezidentura to put the pressure on Oleg and his family to determine what he is truly doing in this country once more. He can't be trusted and must be eliminated if he poses a threat.
  • Stan tells Renee that even though she's too old to become an FBI agent she could still find a job in personnel at the bureau if she really wants to work there. The amount of time on this story suggests a big twist coming. It could still very well be her turning out to be a spy for some foreign government who was angling to be the new Martha inside the FBI and got in simply by making a ridiculous demand to start with.
  • Philip's warning to Kimmy about her upcoming vacation should send up a couple of huge red flags for her. He is telling her not to visit any Communist countries. That could send her straight towards her father to start an official investigation into this man who has had this relationship with Kimmy for years. But that would also mean Kimmy sharing this with him which may not be something she wants to do out of embarrassment for how she was manipulated.
  • An argument could be made for Elizabeth seducing Philip just in order to warm him up to her grand plan for Kimmy. It's a moment of intimacy that they haven't shared lately. She presents as a break from his agony with the travel agency's finances. But then, she has such a huge demand for him afterwards. It's just like her working a source. But it could also be her putting in the work to be intimate knowing that their marriage needs work right now despite the various plots they are currently juggling.