Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Americans: I Am Abassin Zadran Review


It is said that it is the old who wage war, but the young who die in them.  I find this to be true, and I Am Abassin Zadran, this episode of The Americans, proves it to be true.  Not only that, but it also shows that the players on the world stage may change, but some things appear eternal, like the quagmire that is the basketcase known as Afghanistan. 

There's so much going on around Philip and Elizabeth Jennings (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell).  Their daughter Paige (Holly Taylor) is acting out: staying with Pastor Tim and his wife over the Jennings' objections.  Martha (Alison Wright) is starting to waver in keeping what she knows about 'Clark' and the bug secret from the investigation.  Elizabeth's mother is dying and Philip is pushing Gabriel (Frank Langella), their minder, to grant her a last visit (which Gabriel doesn't want).  Then they have their work of disrupting the mujahedeen group the CIA is working with by playing one side against the other.

At the Rezidentura, the head officer Arkady (Lev Gorn) want to terminate Operation Zephyr (the bug that was placed on the FBI mail robot).  He's tired of listening to idle gossip the device picks up.  Both Tatiana (Vera Cherny) and Oleg (Costa Ronin) advise him to give it more time, suggesting that to terminate an operation so quickly would look bad to Moscow.  Reluctantly, he agrees.  Gabriel meets with our old friend Claudia (Margo Martindale), and expresses his doubts about turning Paige (which Grannie is in charge of).   It isn't that he's concerned with Paige.  He's worried that the efforts to make a spy out of Paige are affecting Elizabeth and Philip, particularly the latter. 

The culmination to this appears to be good news/bad news.  Good news: Abassin Zadran (George Georgiou) kills the other mujahedeen.  Bad news: Paige will see her actual grandmother in East Berlin.

I think I Am Abassin Zadran is a particularly prophetic episode, more about today than yesteryear.  At a critical point in the episode, when Elizabeth and Philip are feeding doubts int Abassin about how the Americans work, he replies, "Why is there no war here, in America?".  It's clear we know what is coming, but it's chilling to realize that in a couple of decades, the same source of trouble for the Soviets will plague the imperialist Yankees.  It's subtle, but highly effective.

We keep getting such brilliant performances from the cast.  Of particular note are Wright as Martha, who is so devastating in her final scene with Rhys as her faux-husband, the terror and heartbreak and fear all revolving so well.  If there were any justice, Wright would be mentioned as a potential Emmy nominee along with Russell and Rhys.  The scene when she calls her parents, if just to hear a familiar voice, is devastating.

Rhys is equally powerful in I Am Abassin Zadran, particularly that last scene when he finally reveals his true self to Martha by taking off the wig.  It's not just an unmasking, it's an emotional strip-tease.  Russell too has brilliant moments when facing off against Maurice (Thaddeus Daniels), the husband of her unwitting agent who pushes for more money.  Her quiet rage at having to deal with this man is palpable. 

We get a beautiful scene between two great actors: Martindale and Langella.  As the Soviet agents, we see the sarcasm and cynicism of those who don't believe that America is "the land of the free" and marvel at the variety of choices of hamburgers.  The paradox of being American, Grannie states.  No wonder they thought the imperialists would be easily defeated.

I do wonder a bit about Martha: how welling she was go to get a ride from Hans or not have some concerns about 'Clark'.  Still, apart from that, I Am Abassin Zadran does great work that will lead to a hopefully great season finale.


Next Episode: March 8, 1983

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