Emmy nominations 2016: Dramas

The 2016 Emmy nominations were announced at 1:30am local time yesterday, and I decided that I’d sleep through it. I’m perfectly happy with that decision. I don’t really have much to say about the Emmy nominations that haven’t already been said, but as usual there are some things that are great, and some not so great. You can find the full list of nominations here (okay, it’s not the full list, it excludes the Creative Arts categories, which I’ll peruse later).

Continue reading

Emmy Predictions 2015: Drama

In a stroke of luck, I have found myself incredibly busy this week, and thankfully the Emmys are here for me in my time of need. I don’t have time to review anything today, so I’m going to do predictions for Drama Series today, and then the Comedy and Miniseries/Movie categories will have to wait until the weekend. You can find a full list of nominees over on Variety. I’m not 100% up to date on all of these shows: I’ve stopped watching Downton, House of Cards and Homeland, I didn’t finish the first season of HTGAWM, and I’m in the process of watching the first season of Empire. Australian broadcast dates are difficult. Onto the predictions!

Continue reading

The Americans, Season 3 Episode 13: “March 8, 1983”

I can’t keep doing this. Buying back my life. – Nina

I try not to read reviews before I write my own, but I needed a bit of time to absorb everything that happened in “March 8, 1983”. A lot happens, but at the same time, not much happens at all. Erik Adams pointed out in his review that the show focuses on how Phillip, Elizabeth, Stan and Paige all need to grow up, which is just what Gabriel told Phillip. One of the best things that The Americans did this season was focus on Phillip’s emotional state, as all the lies he told to people he cared about – Paige, Martha and Kimmy – took their toll. Yousaf asks him if it was worth it, and Phillip starts to give the speech he gives to most people, but then he just admits the truth: “I feel shit all the time”. It doesn’t matter when it started – when he found out he had to recruit Paige, when he stuffed Annaliese into a suitcase, or when he took his wig off for Martha. The cumulative effects of the various missions are taking their emotional toll on everyone, except perhaps Elizabeth, who sees her mother for the very last time.

Continue reading

The Americans, Season 3 Episode 12: “I Am Abassin Zadran”

The third season finale of The Americans airs in Australia next week and I have no idea where it’s going. Based on Elizabeth and Paige’s final conversation this week, they could end up in Russia visiting Elizabeth’s mother, but is that likely to happen? I tried to use a dominos analogy to explain the setup for the finale, but it’s been more like three dimensional chess, which I’ve never played. The Jennings have multiple missions going on: Martha, Northrup, Elizabeth’s hotel trysts that paid off this week, as well as having to deal with the fact that their daughter finally knows their true identities. She’s not mad at them for who they are – at least she doesn’t seem to be – she’s still getting over the fact that they’ve lied to her for her whole life. And when Gabriel meets Claudia at a diner, the audience learns that the Soviets nearly shut down Directorate S after the end of last season, but for some reason they wanted to move forward with Paige. It’s ridiculous.

Continue reading

The Americans, Season 3 Episode 11: “One Day in the Life of Anton Baklanov”

At least we know the vending machine is broken.

Okay, I had choir this evening and it’s nearly 10 pm, so this isn’t going to be the best or even longest review. “One Day in the Life” was a good episode of The Americans, it’s just that “Stingers” was one of the best episodes of television I’ve seen all year, and “One Day in the Life” was always going to be a step down. This week Phillip and Elizabeth still have to keep going with their various missions while their daughter knows their real identities. Paige doesn’t know exactly what they’re up to, which is probably a good thing, since she’d probably be even angrier at them if she did.

Continue reading

The Americans, Season 3 Episode 10: “Stingers”

Paige Jennings knows that her parents are Soviet Spies. After they get back from a mission, she confronts them in the kitchen and demands to know the truth. Paige is one of the most well-written teenage characters on television – now that Mad Men has finished, she has taken the mantle from Sally Draper – and I like that the show respects her intelligence enough for her to figure out that her life isn’t normal. We’ll get to that later though. Before I get to the best scene of the episode, I’m going to touch on the other things that are going on with Stan, Nina, Oleg and the Centre. Kimmy was also back this week. I like that there is so much going on with this show that we can’t follow every storyline every week (because there are fewer characters it works better than it did on Game of Thrones this season), but we touch in on all of them when we need to.

Continue reading

The Americans, Season 3 Episodes 8 and 9

I ended up recording “Divestment” last week, but I didn’t watch it until just before I was able to watch “Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?”, which might be one of the best episode titles in television history. It made for a better watching experience overall, but it did mean that I’d forgotten that they had that mission where they abducted the pro-Apartheid terrorists. It also makes it difficult me to separate these two episodes of television, which is why I’m reviewing them together. Phillip and Elizabeth’s marriage is the core relationship of the show, but that’s not where the trouble was this week, as Martha finally tells Clark that Gaad found the bug she planted in his office.

Continue reading

The Americans, Season 3 Episode 7: “Walter Taffet”

“Am I just going to come home one day and Paige is going to tell me she knows who we are?”

The most beautiful thing about The Americans is that Elizabeth and Phillip become closer every week. Yes, they fight, but when they talk it’s intimate. It’s about their fears and their pasts and of course their children. On the spy front, The Americans has also been very smart about the fact that they don’t have one mission per week, they actually have a lot of operations going on at the same time: there’s Elizabeth’s AA sponsor Lisa who works for a defence contractor; The Afghan group at the CIA that Phillip is infiltrating using Kimmy; the South African spy Elizabeth is training; and of course there’s Martha, or as she will be forever known, Poor Martha, who has finally realised that her husband may not be what he seems.

Continue reading

The Americans, Season 3 Episode 6: “Born Again”

I should have written this review this afternoon but instead I watched a few episodes of Nashville before I had choir practice. It’s that kind of day. “Born Again” is a good episode of The Americans, as Phillip takes the next step (kind of) in his relationship with Kimmy, Elizabeth is pushed into actually recruiting Paige rather than just saying she is, and Stan seems to move on with Tori until a friend’s death leads to a warm hug from Sandra. It’s not as good as last week’s episode, but we need some episodes like “Born Again” throughout the season, and I don’t doubt that the season finale will be great.

Continue reading

The Americans, Season 3 Episode 5: “Salang Pass”

When people’s lives intersect with our operations, it’s the operation that’s crucial… You have a conscience Phillip, there’s nothing wrong with that. But conscience can be dangerous – Gabriel

The Americans S3E5: Salang Pass

In the first two seasons of The Americans, there was a lot of focus on Elizabeth, and Kerri Russel attracted a lot of praise for her wonderful performance. Matthew Rhys is just as good as Russel, and he shows it this week, as Phillip has several missions going at once. Whatever he has going on with Kimberley, especially now that he discovers she’s the same age as his own daughter, is weighing on his mind. He’s decided to approve of Paige’s baptism request, which provokes further argument with Elizabeth, and Martha’s really insistent about adopting a child. Furthermore, we learn more about the training he was put through by the KGB, which informs his hesitation with both Kimberley and Paige.

Enough about Phillip for now, because I want to briefly discuss Elizabeth’s meeting with her AA friend, who also happens to work for the defence contractor Northrop. I spent last week and the start of this week wondering what her importance was, and now I know. Elizabeth moves Lisa and her children to a safe house, and Lisa tells Elizabeth that she applied for a transfer to a different location. In order to make sure this happens, Elizabeth finds another man at a similar level in Northrop and kills him by dropping his car on him while he’s working on it. These people are brutal. Despite having gone to church with Paige in order to try and recruit her, she’s not a particular fan of this baptism idea, which is the latest iteration of her argument with Phillip. Phillip has decided to support the baptism – I don’t know why, Phillip is a guarded person, but Elizabeth is a Communism zealot. The rise of the religious right as a political began in the United States in the 1980s as Reagan gained their support, and Paige’s faith is a concern to her mother, who was raised in a system that denounced religion because Communism is the true faith.

The most important thing we learn about Phillip this week is that in order to be approved for his mission, he went under extensive sex training, the way a prostitute would. We know that Elizabeth has been through this, and that she was also sexually assaulted, but the flashbacks to Phillip’s training were still shocking. He had to learn how to make the sex seem real, whether he was with a woman or a man, and even though we’ve seen our heroes sleep with several assets, as he asks Elizabeth whether he should sleep with Kimberley, we can put together that Paige is going to have to go through this kind of training as well. If I was Paige’s parent, I would rather my daughter get baptised than initiated into the KGB. Teenagers think they’re adults, but fifteen is incredibly young.

Meanwhile, Martha is really pushing Clarke for adoption. I have several questions about this, mainly how Martha thinks her sex life won’t be impacted, but then I remembered that she lives in a one bedroom apartment and would probably have to move if she adopted a child. Like with Paige and Kimberley, Phillip has moral questions about what he’s doing here. Of all the characters on the show, what Phillip and Elizabeth are doing to Martha is the cruellest thing so far. The decision to include this storyline is based on an actual KGB directive that encouraged undercover operatives to marry people in Martha’s position. Phillip gets back from his foster care visit with Martha and their innocence reminds him of his own children: “Remember when walking without falling on their faces was a big deal?” Phillip is so worn out by everything that he’s considering this thing just so Martha will stop asking. Phillip’s getting worn out, and both Elizabeth and Gabriel can tell.

This comes to a head when Phillip spends an evening hanging out with Kimberley, smoking pot, eating ice cream and making popcorn. Kimberley’s passed out from all the pot (which came from Afghanistan, just so we don’t forget it exists), so Phillip goes and checks out her father’s office and finds somewhere to plant a bug in his briefcase. Kimberley never seems so young as when she’s talking about the vegetable garden she used to have with her father – his cover is that he works for the State Department’s Agriculture division. She kisses Phillip just as her parents get home, and he has to bolt out the back door. If anything Phillip is relieved that he can stop there. He’s not sure whether he should sleep with her, and Elizabeth doesn’t know.

Over in FBI land (have we seen Martha at work this season? Where is the mail robot?), Stan is still suspicious about Zinaida, and brings his theory to Oleg. If she is a spy, Stan is fairly sure he can organise a prisoner swap with the KGB for Nina. So, Oleg goes to his superior and says something about Zinaida before he proposes a mission in which they have an agent defect. This would allow them into meetings with top clearance personnel. His superior raises her eyebrows and tells him to write a memo. I have no idea whether this would work on a practical level; Russian defectors are kept under quite tight security as we’ve seen with Zinaida (and it makes sense given the events of the pilot episode), and I have no idea how they’d be able to pass information back to the KGB. On a personal level, Stan is trying to move on with his life. Tori from EST called the FBI to get to Stan, and he’s going on a date with her. Phillip encourages Stan to spend more time with Matthew, but there’s a barrier there. Because Phillip spent three years undercover (also mentioned in the first season), there’s a lack of connection with his son, and he doesn’t know what to do. I really like the actress who plays Tori, so I’m willing to see where this goes. I just hope that Stan never has to worry about the possibility of sleeping with a fifteen year old girl.

Other thoughts:

  • Yusef from Afghanistan is still around. Apparently high ranking officials are being asked about how serious their faith is, on a scale from 1 to 10. Phillip tells him to say 10 next time.
  • Phillip takes Paige dress shopping for her baptism, and Pachelbel’s Canon in D, now known for being played at weddings, was playing in the dress shop. It’s an interesting choice, even if I don’t know why it was made.
  • No Pastor Tim or Nina this week, but they were both mentioned, directly and indirectly
  • The scene where Phillip carries Kimberley up to her bed underlines just how disturbing this storyline is.
  • I think Phillip and Elizabeth’s marriage is doing pretty well: “Do you have to make it real with me?” “Sometimes. Not now”