The Americans 4.12: “A Roy Rogers in Franconia” Review

Dangerous Routes

A Television Review by Akash Singh


There was a Roy Rogers in Franconia, Virginia where a woman met a man and formed a connection. The story itself is almost uninspiring in its lack of originality, in its sense of confounding normality within the context of a story that is anything but. But the woman in question was a janitor for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the man worked for the KGB. An untold time later, she was found trying to tamper with a machine known as the beloved Mail Robot by a pair of FBI agents who had finally uncovered a piece of evidence that had been lying quietly in wait, simmering in their hallways while waiting to burst. And the KGB for now has no idea. The Americans has, as I tend to note with every passing episode, a nearly unparalleled gift for making the mundane riveting, for building up tension in circumstances that seem utterly normal, devoid of the obviousness certain espionage sequences are used to. Instead there’s a revelation that puts the Jennings’s in more danger than ever before and it all arrives from a fairly unlikely source. Oleg, first having seemingly stumbled upon the scene just to annoy the hell out of Nina, has been breaking down slowly. The man who was more enamored with life in America than his peers is shown quite clearly as standing before Lenin’s portrait, facing the opposite direction while he contemplated the news he had just received. Oleg, for all of his faults, is one of the handful of characters in this narrative who has the capacity to look beyond his nationalistic blinders and see the reality lying in front. The reality is, as he pointedly notes to Stan in what he assures him will be their last conversation together, that the Soviets have the better scientists but not the money. The combination, he assures his nascent acquaintance, is a dangerous one.

Oleg’s scattered clues in that one conversation lead Stan towards William, whose finding leads to the most significant chink in the Jennings’s existence but it arrives from an understanding of the vitality of what Oleg’s warnings meant. They meant a dangerous, terrifying weapon that was created for masters who didn’t have the capability of handling them. Having lost his younger brother Yevgeny in the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the idea that he could let slip past him the critical piece of information that Tatiana gave him was unthinkable. He had to do something so he went to the one individual he knew could get something done. Whether or not Tatiana gave him that clue on purpose or not, her words were indeed chilling. She notes that she was being made the chief Rezident of the Rezidentura in Nairobi, a position of extreme privilege, especially considering that she was a woman. The Center was happy with her, she notes, and she would be content as long as she didn’t kill half of the people on the Eastern seaboard. The quiet way Tatiana makes that measurement is as chilling as it is alarming and Oleg’s reaction to that mirrors quite nicely with the horror that continues to cross William’s face as he has second and third thoughts about the actions he was taking. The one last task never goes well, but regardless of what William’s fate is, he raises a valid point. One day, if that vial was released and a massacre was born of it, how could he forgive himself? How could he bring himself to look himself in the eye, knowing that he was responsible for a significant segment of it? Once again Gabriel assures him that he would be hailed as a hero, but it’s the promise of a family that spurs William into action, to complete one last mission. It’s no longer a sense of trust in his country that spurs him forward, but a sense of trust in the sense that he is truly owed something for all the years of loneliness and terror. There was something comforting in the hope that there would be someone holding his hand when he was in Moscow and there’s almost a sense of cathartic tragedy in knowing that that was not going to happen.

The matter of trust is central to The Americans, even more so than in your traditional espionage fare. Paige, reeling from her mother stabbing someone right before her eyes, asks her parents to trust her. She’s not an idiot by any means, questioning right off the bat if it was necessary for Elizabeth to kill her would be assailtant. Elizabeth assures her that it was, which naturally is a segway to her next question: has she killed before? “To protect myself, yeah,” she answers honestly, even if in some of the instances the word “protect” had much more complex meanings and circumstances around it. She couldn’t even admit to knowing how many times she had killed, even though the most ostensibly intelligent answer would be something like “three” as that would keep Paige’s questioning to a limit. The most illuminating conversation, however, happened afterwards when Elizabeth tells her about growing up in Smolensk, a city that lies on the edge of the modern-day border between the Russian Federation and Belarus. It was obliterated in World War II, which came to an end when Elizabeth was two years old. She remembers growing up in the rubble of what remained of the city, looking about at all of the strong people who lived their lives, determined to rebuild their home to what it was before. Elizabeth wanted to be like those survivors and the danger didn’t matter. The most ostensible danger, however, arises from the budding relationship between Paige and Matthew, confusing the former’s feelings about whom she was and was not supposed to develop a relationship with. That required an emotional connection of honesty from her parents and in frustration Paige questions if they trusted her or not. They trust her with an answer, but it may not lead down the path to the emotional understanding Paige so ardently desires.

Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:

+Henry pauses for the first seeming time

+The call to Martha’s folks

+“It’s not logical… it’s emotional.”

+Matthew’s honesty about his band: “We weren’t very good.”

+“He hasn’t been home in two days.”




Episode Title: A Roy Rogers in Franconia

Written by: Joel Fields & Joe Weisberg

Directed by: Chris Long

Image Courtesy: Spoiler TV


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