Season 4, Episode 3 – “Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow”
Directed by Kevin Dowling
Written by Stephen Schiff
Starring: Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Lev Gorn, Annet Mahendru, Susan Misner, Costa Ronin, Keidrich Sellati, Holly Taylor, Richard Thomas, Dylan Baker, Alison Wright, Noah Emmerich, and Frank Langella
Air date: Wednesday, March 30, 2015, 10pm
The benefit of a show like The Americans is that, by design, we already know the ending: the Cold War ends and the Russians lose. At some point, it’s likely that Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) will be discovered, but the journey that leads us to this final place is to be determined. And while the show has never been in a place where it hesitates to inch the viewers closer towards this end, tomorrow is still out there for the Jennings.
However, by the end of “Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow,” that tomorrow is less promised than before – as we’re given a cliffhanger that’s largely unlike what we’re accustomed to seeing on the show.
What comes before all that is equally as compelling, as Philip and Elizabeth turn over their options on how to solve the problem that is Pastor Tim’s tomorrow – or lack thereof. The options on the table create a paradox with the two struggling on how to handle Pastor Tim without Paige (Holly Taylor) figuring out their personal involvement in whatever tragedy that ends up befalling him. As a last ditch effort, Philip has Paige try to work Pastor Tim in way that’s very similar to how he works his assets. It’s the latest in a string of tough decisions for Philip, who’s already been in a place where he’s feeling the pressure more than ever.
But that pressure is nothing once the glanders vial (which has been a nice little metaphor for how the larger secrets and lies that the Jennings have sowed are starting to spill out, with little room to contain them without causing serious collateral damage) infects Gabriel. And this is where the meticulous planning that usually benefits the Philip and Elizabeth goes very much awry, very quickly – plans are in motion that cannot be stopped and the Jennings are trapped in a place where they’re not sure of what their tomorrow looks like, if they even have one at all.
There’s a way in which this week’s episode lulls both the Jennings and the viewers into the idea that despite the mounting pressure all around the Jennings family, that things are (somewhat) business as usual: Elizabeth goes about working a new asset, meetings with Gabriel still take place, Philip is over at Martha’s, etc. But it’s also in the way the show presents the Jennings family engaging in very American activities – Mary Kay. Trips to Epcot in Orlando. Video games. Korean food. Wine. At the end of the cold open, it’s stated that “We all are Americans now.”
The beauty of a tomorrow is the promise of something new. A chance to start again. But how quickly the promise of tomorrow can fade and shatter, giving way to something much more sinister and truthful: the fact we’re not really promised tomorrow at all.
– I like that it’s the weapon of tomorrow that ruins the Jennings plans. Something very apt about that.
– Someone else missing out on the promise of tomorrow is Nina (Annet Mahendru), who’s already back in the gulag after last week’s events.
– Bonus points for 1) Having Dylan Baker pull his best Usain Bolt impression after he learns about what happened to Gabriel and 2) for Philip spitting on him, thus forcing him to comply.
– Meanwhile, Martha (Alison Wright) isn’t going to fare very well with Stan (Noah Emmerich) on her trail. This too has been a long time coming, as Stan’s consciousness has been telling him for a while that there’s more to Martha than what he sees. She’s like a Transformer in that way, I suppose.
– Same, looks like the Jennings aren’t going to Disney World after all.
– Special kudos to Holly Taylor for her great scene alongside Pastor Tim. It’s a definite highlight in a series that’s already given her so many.
– Hey, look! It’s character-actress Margo Martindale!