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‘The Americans’ Review: Season 6 Is Moving Faster Than Ever, and Episode 6 Makes It Hurt So Good

Watching "The Americans" Season 6 is like experiencing an EST meeting on hyperdrive — in Episode 6, feelings fly at the speed of sound.

THE AMERICANS -- "Rififi" -- Season 6, Episode 6 (Airs Wednesday, May 2, 10:00 pm/ep) -- Pictured: Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings. CR: Jeffrey Neira/FX

Jeffrey Neira/FX

[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “The Americans” Season 6, Episode 6, “Rafifi.”]

Someone better yell “timber” because it’s going down on “The Americans.” Stan (Noah Emmerich) and the FBI are closing in on “illegals all over the country” thanks to a new source in Chicago. Elizabeth (Keri Russell) is in over her head on a suicide mission trying to save that guy (codename: Harvest), and Philip (Matthew Rhys) just agreed to get back in the spy game to go help her.

But what was that note he left for Oleg (Costa Ronin)? How will Paige (Holly Taylor) and Henry (Keidrich Sellati) factor into the endgame? And how seriously should we take Stan’s ominous foreshadowing: “Every time I go down there, someone ends up dead”?

“The Americans” kicked things into high gear in Episode 6, with laughs and zingers flying fast and loose throughout “Rafifi.” On the one hand you’ve got the mail robot crowding into the elevator between Stan and Aderholt (Brandon J. Dirden), while on the other you’ve got Elizabeth telling Philip the only reason he went as far as he did with Kimmy (Julia Garner) is because “you just wanted to fuck her.” It’s been a speedy season by “Americans” standards already, but the vitriol spewing between husband and wife paired with subtle (yet uproarious) bits of humor collided to make yet another episode fly by. The end will be here before we know it, and that’s a blessing and a curse.

With four episodes left before the series says dosvedanya, IndieWire is taking a look at where things stand at the present moment, but also honoring the little things done consistently well throughout the series — the bits we’ll miss most when it’s all said and done. Some of it will be hard (like Philip firing Stavos). Some of it will be much harder (like Philip volunteering to get back in the spy game). So without further ado, let’s get brutal.

THE AMERICANS -- "Rififi" -- Season 6, Episode 6 (Airs Wednesday, May 2, 10:00 pm/ep) -- Pictured: Matthew Rhys as Philip Jennings. CR: Jeffrey Neira/FX

So, Who’s Going to Die?

The simple answer is Philip. Such a pointed act of self-sacrifice on his part — to volunteer for a mission he doesn’t believe in, simply to protect his wife and her interests — is the kind of thing that usually gets somebody killed. Not only is he out of shape, spy-wise, but his heart just isn’t in it. That’s not the kind of agent you want on a dangerous mission, even if a third body is far better than two.

Yet he’s accepted his role. Even if Elizabeth doesn’t recognize him anymore, he knows who he is and why he’s doing what he’s doing. Philip couldn’t sacrifice Kimmy for the sake of an internal coup d’état — the Soviet Union is divided, and he’s not about to lose a young life because they can’t decide which side he’s fighting for. What he can do is protect his family, by any means necessary. He tried to get Elizabeth to come home — the best, safest option — but she’s not about to listen to him. So he’s headed into the eye of the hurricane, and his sole mission is to pull Elizabeth out alive.

Considering next week’s episode is titled “Harvest” (the codename of the KGB operative in need of extraction), it sure seems like this will be a pivotal mission. Will one of them finally pay the ultimate price? Will they be exposed? Will Stan somehow figure out who his neighbors really are? It all hangs in the balance, and, as Aderholt said, “it’s going to happen fast.”

Cast Spotlight

Let’s take a moment to remember the oft-overlooked Henry and the generous actor who plays him, Keidrich Sellati. Always the younger, forgotten child of the Jennings family, Henry returns in Episode 6 as the impartial observer. Living at boarding school, he sees things when he gets back that the others may be too close to notice. Sure, anyone would’ve spotted the fracture between mom and dad, but his comment about Elizabeth being unhappy surprised Philip enough to make him reconsider his position.

Henry has been the target of light joshing over the years. He can disappear for episodes on end and then resurface with a crush on his teacher or a surprising aptitude for mathematics. Yet despite his arcs being consistently used for comedy, Henry is not a joke. He’s just a quiet kid who’s kept in the dark about what’s really going on with his family because of his age. Paige is like the trial run to see how training goes, and perhaps Henry would’ve been indoctrinated later on, had there been more time (and, presumably, things went more smoothly for the spy family).

Sellati, though, has given his character the kind of laissez-faire attitude he needs to pop in and out of the story. Henry doesn’t know he’s not a major part of the story because Sellati plays him with enough dorky self-assurance to keep him humming whenever he shows up. He never became an unwelcome presence, as so many necessary side characters can, nor did the writers force more on him than was needed. His relationship with Stan was well-developed and remains special. His bond with Philip over hockey has been a simple joy in Season 6, and the latest episode emphasizes the kind of man Henry turned into over the years. His fate is important in all of this, even if it doesn’t feel like his life is ever at risk.

THE AMERICANS -- "Rififi" -- Season 6, Episode 6 (Airs Wednesday, May 2, 10:00 pm/ep) -- Pictured: (l-r) Noah Emmerich as Stan Beeman, Brandon J. Dirden as Dennis Aderholt. CR: Patrick Harbron/FX

Creative Spotlight

For all the love rightfully showered on wigs, “The Americans” gets every period detail right — including the costumes. Tonight’s episode kept the 71-episode hot streak alive with great designs all-around, but with two major stand-outs. First, let’s talk about Paige’s pants. I have no idea what type of baggy, pre-JNCO jeans she’s wearing when she hugs Elizabeth goodbye, but hoo-boy are they a sight to see. I’m sure fashionistas can provide a better description of who made them and — more importantly — why, but they’re undeniably of the era. (Paige’s whole late ’80s look this season has been aptly baggy and big.)

Then, late in the episode, we lay eyes on a magnificent relic of ’80s athletic wear that’s making a bit of a comeback of late: the tracksuit. Sure, modern kids are wearing trimmed sweatpants with cinched cuffs, but even they’d be envious of Elizabeth’s red, white, and blue running jacket. It’s got America written all over it (not literally, since that would be overkill), as Elizabeth preps to be as inconspicuous as possible (a.k.a. superficially patriotic) on her grab-and-go mission. It’s a stunner even if it didn’t indicate where Elizabeth’s mind was, but then if it didn’t pull double duty, this wouldn’t really be “The Americans” now would it? These costume designers, led by Katie Irish, don’t miss a beat.

Grade: A-

“The Americans” airs new episodes Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on FX. There are four episodes left in the final season.

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