Airtime: Wednesdays at 10PM on FX
Episode: Season 4, Episode 8 (S04E08)
Tweetable Takeaway: #TheAmericans send Martha to Cuba while Elizabeth gets tough on Paige & Lisa
THE AMERICANS are in good hands when Matthew directs “The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears.” It’s a really long title but Rhys delivered a really great episode. He’s is an incredible talent in front of the camera, letting him direct actors he spends hundreds of hours with pays off.
I’ve heard that talking head scenes are the hardest to direct or shoot. Usually they end up boring. This isn’t the case with actor-directors at the helm. Some of the best scenes of this episode are talking head scenes. Keri Russell and Holly Taylor are at their best when Elizabeth deals tough love to Paige. Russell starts the scene with some quiet frustration, moves to the point where it looks like she’s going to blow a blood vessel in her face, and then gets much more angry. I thought her head was going to explode. More importantly, Paige did too. The scene isn’t just filled with tone, it’s textured. Frank Langella and Margo Martindale also share a great dialogue in this episode. Great actors are the common thread, great actors in front of the camera and a fantastic actor directing the scene. Week after week, I talk about the extraordinary writing, and this week was no different, but it’s time these players get more credit for their performances.
Last season, Louis Smith was nominated for a Critic’s Choice for an episode she was in called, “Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?” Her scenes only comprised of two actors, Louis Smith and Keri Russell. Russell alternates from James Bond to Darth Vader as quickly as she changes wigs. Matthew Rhys, he’s just plain underrated.
Seven moths later
This episode pulls off a narrative time jump. Maybe it’s not a rule, but usually a time jump happens at the beginning of an episode. A lot happens this week. At the beginning of the episode, Martha gets on a plane to Cuba. In the middle, there is a lot of marital, family, and espionage stress. Towards the end, David Copperfield makes The Statue of Liberty disappear, Frank Gaad is fired, and Elizabeth kills Lisa, one of her assets, when she starts to whine about the stress of spying and the extra money it pulls in. That’s a lot of ground there, but then, they do a “Seven Months Later” epilogue.
The episode is listed as 44 minutes on IMDB. It’s seemed a little longer and took more than an hour of programming on the schedule. FX is good about episode length. Sons of Anarchy episodes often came in at different lengths, longer when needed. This kind of television shows a deep respect for the audience. There was a time when people said tv shows were only things to sandwich between commercials. Clearly, things have changed.
What did the Jennings’s do for seven months? They probably took that vacation to EPCOT. They set up a lot of trips at their travel agency and it is possible, Elizabeth didn’t kill anyone. If that’s true, I would look for Elizabeth ready to shed her sanity by next episode, that woman needs action.
Eric lives in a world where the television is great, the smiles are warm, the pizza is hot, the puppies are playful, and the zombies are slow and meander while he reloads.
Eric Rodriguez | Contributor