DVR Hindsight #15 (6/13/16): The Americans – Season Four finale


The Americans – “Persona Non Grata” – Season 4, Ep. 13 (FX) SPOILERS

History must exist, at least on some level, if only to lay bare the shocking inadequacies of textbooks. As a child of the 1980s, when it was still theoretically swirling around me, my conception of the so-called Cold War between global superpowers the United States and the Soviet Union was nevertheless a severely limited one, as a sort of unbearably tense extended cease fire that had drawn on more or less since the end of World War II. The combatants were surely enemies to the core – with fingers on the nuclear trigger and alternately heroic and dictatorial intentions, depending on whose books you were reading – but, aside from high profile incidents like the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, they were each too wary of the other’s power and resolve to risk provoking any escalation of hostilities. Continue reading “DVR Hindsight #15 (6/13/16): The Americans – Season Four finale”

DVR Hindsight #13 (9/16/15): The Bastard Executioner pilot


The Bastard Executioner – “Pilot” – Season 1, Ep. 1 (FX)

Since the days back when The Shield pilot first detonated and announced the network as a surprising new player in cable drama, FX has considered its darkest original programming with a uniform and almost absurd level of solemnity. Just listen to its TV-ratings voiceover guy, that low, gravelly gatekeeper who dutifully appears at the end of each commercial break to absolve the network from liability for all the iniquitous content to which it’s about to expose the many children watching at home. The disembodied voice, lately heard on urban vampire apocalypse saga The Strain and already honed to a near-parodic level of dripping sinister-ness during seven years of hyping Sons of Anarchy, also has a second charge, which is to simultaneously shoo overly sensitive souls back to their knitting and canasta games while tacitly warning more adventurous prospective viewers to hold onto their hats, or, in the case of the overwrought, undercooked Bastard Executioner, their heads… Continue reading “DVR Hindsight #13 (9/16/15): The Bastard Executioner pilot”

DVR Hindsight #11 (4/23/15): The Americans – Season Three finale

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The Americans – “March 8, 1983” – Season 3, Ep. 13 (FX) SPOILERS

“You can’t see ten feet in front of you. I’ve done nothing but try to take care of you, and because you’re not getting what you want, you think I’m the enemy. And when Elizabeth doesn’t see things exactly the way you see it, you think there’s something wrong with her. You know who there’s something wrong with. Grow up.”

As KGB spy handler Gabriel, played with a precise mixture of grandfatherly warmth and icy detachment by Frank Langella, dresses down his charge, Philip Jennings, thusly, the two have arrived at a long-deferred, finally unavoidable turning point in their relationship. Philip, of course, has been a Soviet spy embedded in Washington, DC for his entire adult life, having navigated a fraught, prickly, at least initially window dressing marriage to fellow homegrown soldier Elizabeth. The Americans is set during the early ‘80s height of the Cold War, a time during which many Soviet and American pawns and proxies (Cuba, South Africa, Afghanistan) were erupting in civil unrest bordering on revolutionary violence and actively affecting the larger chess game in disproportionate ways. Stateside, Philip and Elizabeth are entrenched and invaluable operatives, skilled and deadly intermediaries involved seemingly in every covert Soviet action on the Eastern seaboard, not to mention the parents of two teenagers. Continue reading “DVR Hindsight #11 (4/23/15): The Americans – Season Three finale”