The final season of FX’s The Americans is here… and we’re already worried about who’ll be left standing when the series ends.
When Wednesday’s Season 6 premiere opens — with a killer montage set to the Crowded House classic “Don’t Dream It’s Over” — we’ve jumped forward three years to the fall of 1987, and Philip and Elizabeth are now living separate lives. While he’s Wolf of Wall Street-ing it up at the travel agency full-time with a new yuppie haircut and a car phone (!), Elizabeth is stuck doing all the spy work, rapidly switching out wigs and running herself ragged. He looks happy and refreshed, and she… doesn’t. Forget the passion of previous seasons; she can barely look at him.
While Philip is attending Henry’s hockey games — hey, the kid is pretty good! — and country line-dancing with co-workers, Elizabeth is juggling a number of missions, including playing caretaker to a terminally ill artist played by Younger‘s Miriam Shor. (The artist’s husband, played by Gilmore Girls alum Scott Cohen, is Elizabeth’s target.) Even Claudia, back in handler mode, can see Elizabeth is worn out. But she still sends her to Mexico to meet a Soviet rocket scientist, who warns her that what he’s about to tell her can’t be repeated to anyone… not even her husband.
The Soviets are developing a system they call “Dead Hand,” he says, that will automatically fire back at the U.S. if Russian leadership is wiped out by an American strike. They need additional technology to complete it, but a Russian on the inside is headed to D.C. to try and trade information about Dead Hand for information about the U.S.’s missile defense system. “That can’t happen,” the guy tells Elizabeth. He orders her to track this guy and report back if he looks likely to leak — and since she “can’t be arrested,” he gives her a necklace with a cyanide pill tucked inside, in case things go bad. (To quote a movie Henry’s probably seen a hundred times: Whoa, this is heavy.)
Philip isn’t completely out of the spy game, though. He gets a signal and reluctantly throws on a wig and mustache to meet… Oleg! Our old Russian pal has arrived from Moscow, where he has a new wife and baby boy, with orders to get Philip to spy on Elizabeth (!!). Back in the USSR, there’s a power struggle between Gorbachev’s progressive faction and old-school KGB hardliners who don’t want to see progress. Oleg already knows about Elizabeth’s meeting with the rocket scientist, and is worried she’s being used by the hardliners… “or she’s one of them.” He wants Philip to report back to him what Elizabeth is doing, “and, if you have to, stop her.”
When Elizabeth returns home from another hard night at work — more on that in a minute — she scoffs at upcoming summit talks between the U.S. and Russia; she doesn’t trust America to keep their word and disarm. Philip is worried about her: “It is finally getting to you, after all these years.” He wants her to quit like he did, and wants to talk about something else, but she’s too tired to talk. He tries anyway, and she snaps at him: “If you knew how tired I am, you wouldn’t still be talking.” It’s an ugly standoff, and he finally relents, allowing her to go upstairs alone… and take another long look at that cyanide pill.
TURN THE PAIGE | Elizabeth does have a new partner in the spy game: her daughter Paige, who’s in college now and radicalized enough to rail against Reagan’s Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork at the dinner table. While Elizabeth and another spy track the ailing artist’s husband, Paige stakes out the location in a parked car. She keeps her cool when a flirty Navy security officer comes over to question her, but he keeps her fake ID to guarantee she’ll go out with him that weekend. (Um, rude?) Elizabeth assures Paige she did everything right — before hunting down the Navy man and stabbing him in the neck on a quiet street to retrieve Paige’s ID.
Elsewhere in “Dead Hand”:
* Stan is still with Renee, and she’s still hella inquisitive, gossiping with Dennis’ new wife about how secretive their FBI men are. Are we still thinking she could be a Soviet spy, too?
* The Russian movie Elizabeth and Claudia were watching with Paige: Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears, which won the 1980 Oscar for best foreign film. (Thanks to my TVLine colleague Vlada Gelman’s mom for ID-ing that one.)
* So Elizabeth felt comfortable enough during her meeting in Mexico to speak Russian? I guess the strict “English only” rule only applies on American soil?
* Great soundtrack tonight. Besides the Crowded House opener, we heard Peter Gabriel’s “We Do What We’re Told (Milgram’s 37)” during that Mexico meeting, Talking Heads’ “Listening Wind” while Elizabeth was spying, Mel McDaniel’s “Louisiana Saturday Night” while Philip was line-dancing and (of course) Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman” during the final spy mission with Elizabeth and Paige.
* Wouldn’t a Navy security officer being stabbed to death on a city street raise a few alarm bells within the government? Maybe just let him keep the ID, since it’s fake anyway? Is Elizabeth’s judgment failing her under all this stress?
* Feels like this final season is barreling toward a grand Philip vs. Elizabeth showdown — and as much as I love them both, I can’t wait to see how it all plays out.
Now it’s your turn: Grade The Americans’ season premiere in our poll below, then hit the comments with your post-premiere thoughts.