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"Tchaikovsky" slows the momentum of its predecessor while threatening to push the conflict between family, career, and personal conviction to a breaking point in the lives of The Americans' core characters.
"Tchaikovsky" is a move-the-needle episode with a number of strong moments that pop among the many minor moments.
What "Tchaikovsky" gave me with these characters was a renewed sense of how big the world of The Americans is, and how its terrain is littered with loose ends that could trip up Elizabeth, Philip, and Paige.
It was fun to see the unstoppable Elizabeth shutting up, sitting down and picking up a pencil for the immovable Erica.
Never forget that The Americans is a show about parenting, and parents always want the younger generation to have it better than they did.
[Elizabeth is] doing it all without Philip now, she has Paige-a real agent-to consider, and everything is clearly taking its toll.
This interest in the meaning of work, both its cost and its worth, is the central feature of "Tchaikovsky," elaborated in so many contexts that the episode maintains its focus despite covering an immense amount of narrative terrain.
Director Rhys conveys the imbalance of knowledge and power in this scene with a shot of mother and daughter on a hill, the former above the latter.
There are some things in life you can't unsee, things that burn themselves into your brain and haunt you for the rest of your life. I've got to imagine "your mom's panicked face covered in a man's brains" is one of those things.
I find it rather interesting that at this point in the season, the "character" I'm most worried about is their marriage.
"Tchaikovsky" is probably lacking the narrative oomph to go down in the all-time Americans canon. But it's a welcome entry into a so-far very satisfying final season.
After the opening during the premiere and the music, especially, I expect there is a chance the Jennings' marriage will survive, so I'm holding out hope that the tiny cracks in Elizabeth that are near-impossible to comprehend are good signs.
The lunch is mainly useful for hearing about the unsettled state of the White House... This is a nice callback to season one.