A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Everyone on The Americans is asking someone to trust them, even as veils are being lifted off of their façades at those very moments. To be sure, there are quite a few veils to be lifted considering that the main protagonists of the show are spies, but the sheer quantity can become overwhelming. If The Americans is suffering from something in its otherwise stellar third season, it’s the sheer volume of storylines that it is trying to juggle. While the apartheid storyline has reached a decent enough conclusion while still leaving open story possibilities, other storylines have yet to follow suit. I Am Abassin Zadran, much in the vein of last week, is very much an episode that is about pushing the narrative forward enough to set the stage for what is sure to be a firecracker of a finale. It is an episode that imbues some great scenes within its framework but leaves a bit to be desired. A few slow movements can be forgiven, however, if one only sees the final veil lifted at the end of the hour. The dichotomy between trust and falsehood has been at the heart of this series and when they converge in such a quiet moment, it’s powerful as hell.
Before we get there, however, there’s plenty left to unpack. The CIA/Afghanistan plot that had the well-done but extremely uncomfortable storyline with Kimmy reaches a new zenith as we discover Elizabeth and Phillips’s plan in tearing the mujahideen group the CIA brought with them apart. It’s possibly the simplest plan they’ve ever devised and it’s quite brilliant. Posing as CIA officers, they gain an audience with one of the mujahadeen, who gives the episode its title. Abassin Zadran is his name and he’s been brought to the United States to testify in order to gain military support for his fight against the Soviets. He seems initially to be a quiet, reserved man who wonders loudly why there are always so many wars in Afghanistan and none in America. “Afghanistan has nothing,” he mourns in the back of the car, “nothing of our own.” There’s a chilling foreboding to his words as the battleground in Afghanistan is still raging on as I type these words. The true genius in the Jennings’s plan is to twist that knife of melancholia, noting how the two men in his accompaniment were from the same tribe and he, after all, didn’t know they very well. Likewise he was kept away from important information like how the Soviets had taken some of the other men’s family hostage. He would be loyal to his family over Afghanistan, right? Abassin sees logic in their statements, proceeding to slit their throats in a ghastly, bloody sequence.
Phillip and Elizabeth have often been confronted with awful truths that would seemingly compromise their mission in the Graveyard of Empires. They listened without expression as Abassin had detailed the crimes and misdeeds of Soviet soldiers, remaining perfectly calm as he talked about gutting hundreds of communists if he had to. But while they candle extremists fighting Moscow in Central Asia, their dealings with Paige are becoming problematic. Getting her back from Pastor Tim’s house just in case she opened her mouth is one thing, but constant monitoring of her activities is something that is simply beyond the purview of two KGB spies who are already dealing with missions into the FBI and the CIA (outside of everything else). It’s a problem that has also caught the attention of Gabriel, who arguably had been the most gung-ho about this entire endeavor. Meeting in the diner where Stan and Zinaida had met previously (which is apparently a Greek diner), Gabriel voices his concern about how difficult it was becoming to control Paige, especially after one considered the fiasco with Jared murdering his parents. Claudia, in a welcome return, notes that that murder shook the Centre, but they’re proceeding with Operation Paige anyway because they have faith that Gabriel can successfully take the mission forward.
Paige, meanwhile, has more trouble believing not just everything her parents are saying at that moment, but have said at all over time. She brings out albums, asking how many of her actual memories are in existence and how many are fake. Phillip, wisely realizing that this situation has gotten way out of control, bring an old family album with memories of their family, like the time when they went camping and Henry had been afraid of being eaten by a bear. Paige hadn’t told anyone because of Henry’s promise not to, a bit of secrecy hidden from their own spy parents. It’s a quiet scene but a necessary one if any semblance of trust between Paige and her parents is going to be maintained. The potential trip to Russia with Elizabeth to visit her maternal grandmother could be the seal to that trust. The other veil he dropped was with Martha, the one referenced earlier in the review. Martha’s entire world has been torn completely asunder this season and she has been coping with it as well as can be humanly expected. She calls her parents in a heartbreaking sequence, a complex myriad of emotions waving throughout her voice, embodied in a perfect performance from Alison Wright. When Clark comes home, he finds that broken-down Martha having packed. Stan had come around the house earlier and that visit had terrified her. Hans picking her up and dropping her off to a secret meeting with Clark did nothing to assuage her fears. Clark asks her to wait as he quietly begins to take off his disguise. Clark dies in front of Martha’s horrified face as Phillip comes to life. Do you trust me now?
Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“Lights out at ten!”
+The camera zooming out with Henry
+“How long does a church lecture go?”; “You’re asking me?”
+“We need to be able to trust you.”
+“You just seem a little distracted to me, Martha.”
+“You could always come to me.”
+“Trust me, it’s helpful.”
+“Did you plant the bug?”
+The way Elizabeth stares at Maurice. That guy has no idea what’s coming to him.
+Stan making the connections to the illegals
+“This wasn’t the arrangement.”
+Elizabeth and Phillip blocking Paige and Elizabeth
+“It’s just… it’s hard sometimes.”
+Similar camera shot between Henry and Martha
+“How does one choose?”
+“The paradox of being American.”
+“I can’t help wondering if Phillip is right.”
+“It’s a free country. Haven’t you heard?”
+“I’m just not certain that’s it’s not the right thing.”
+The King of Comedy
+“This is how people talk when they’re looking for something different.”
+“Paige, I’m going to see my mother, before she dies, in Russia.”
+“Turn my room into a swing room.”
Title: I Am Abassin Zadran
Written By: Peter Ackerman & Stuart Zicherman
Directed By: Christopher Misiano
Image Courtesy: Spoiler TV