The Americans Season 6 Episode 1 Review: Dead Hand

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With a notable time jump leading into The Americans Season 6 Episode 1, we find the Jennings family somewhat divided.

Mere weeks before one of the most vital summits between the United States and the Soviet Union ever recorded, a retired Philip is line dancing, watching Henry play hockey, and running an expanded and thriving Dupont Travel business.

Elizabeth, on the other hand, is nervous, strung out and constantly racing against the clock to find information in preparation for the summit. Her people believe Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev is about to trade State's secrets in return for the American Star Wars program.

Never have Philip and Elizabeth seemed so out of touch with each other.

The Jennings circa 1987 - The Americans

For five seasons, I've been wondering where this is all going to end, and I still can't pinpoint a moment in time when it will happen. But the premiere revealed something shocking. Elizabeth is on the wrong side of history.

All of the work Philip had been doing with est and his deep introspective looks far into his soul fit in very well with where others in Mother Russia were heading at the time. They were all doing some soul-searching, and they didn't like what they found.

Related: The Americans Season 5 Episode 13 Review: The Soviet Division

Gorbachev wanted to save communism and the Soviet Union by introducing a democratic process wherein it became a one-party system with multiple choices for leadership. Feeling the winds of change, it seemed like a solution. 

It wasn't a solution for all, and would soon lead to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Before getting there, internally the two sides would struggle and fight over what would become of their homeland. 

From what I can understand, if those pulling Elizabeth's strings had rolled with the tide, communism would have been saved. As they fought tooth and nail against Gorbachev, it was all torn asunder.

Paige the Spy - The Americans Season 6 Episode 1

Elizabeth and Philip have never seen eye-to-eye in their system of beliefs. Or it's been a very long time since they have. Being in the US changed Philip. He came to believe in Western values and freedom, while Elizabeth took no comfort in them. She continues to see the home she left as a young woman through rose-colored glasses.

That much was apparent as she watched a movie about the Motherland with Claudia and Paige as a way to better familiarize her daughter with Soviet Russia. For every slightly negative query her willful daughter proposed, the adults had a counter suggesting things are not quite as they seemed in the film.

Related: FX Sets Premiere Dates for The Americans, Atlanta and Trust

Running assets with Paige, now in college, and doing holding up her end of Communism on her own doesn't appear to suit Elizabeth. She's never seemed so tightly wound. She's lying to other agents and taking unwise risks.

Elizabeth is also losing touch with Philip and lashing out at him when he desperately wants to talk.

Philip: I know how tired you are, but I need to talk to you.
Elizabeth: If you knew how tired I am, you wouldn't still be talking.

Not only is it unlike her, the behavior can ultimately change the course of her life and others going forward.

Oleg and Philip Meet - The Americans Season 6 Episode 1

Seeing Oleg settled with a wife and family was heartwarming until he began saying his goodbyes. He loves his country and the changes afoot so much he's risking his life and all he's achieved to do his part to ensure the future continues and the hard days are over.

On a show like The Americans, someone isn't going to have a happy ending, and with Oleg's farewells, it felt like he might be a casualty of stopping the likes of Elizabeth those who want to put an end to the Soviet Union's forward momentum.

Related: The Americans: Costa Ronin and Chris Long Discuss Filming in Russia and Oleg's Journey

Selfishly, if it meant contact between Oleg and Philip and that Philip would become aware of Elizabeth's activities, I'm all for Oleg's sacrifice. 

Oleg: We need your help.
Philip: We?
Oleg: The people running the organization right now have a very old life view of things, and Gorbachev doesn't have the power to get rid of them.
Philip: I'm out of it.
Oleg: I'm told. I wouldn't be here except some very powerful people out there to get rid of Gorbachev, to stop all the good things that have been happening lately in our country. Your wife had a meeting in Latin America with the General of Strategic Rocket Forces. Strange, right?
Philip: No stranger than us meeting here. My wife just does her job. That's all she's ever done. She's good at it.
Oleg: I know. But it's possible that she's being used by the people who are trying to stop all the progress that we've been making. Or she's one of them.

It never dawned on me until the general handed Elizabeth the necklace with the cyanide pill inside and told her she "cannot be arrested" that she was on the wrong side. Likewise, it hadn't occurred to me she could be being used by that side until Oleg said it out loud to Philip.

Elizabeth isn't pleased with the way her operations are going. She's not enjoying her work. It would be easy to say it's merely because she's no longer doing it with Philip, but she should be finding a new, if different, type of joy "reading in" her daughter to the family business. 

Related: Enjoy UNLIMITED access to thousands of Movies and TV shows with Amazon Prime Video. WATCH ANYWHERE. CANCEL ANYTIME!

That's not something that's apparent from "Dead Hand." Sure, the future of her homeland is at stake, but haven't they always believed that to be the case? That's why they do what they do -- their belief that at any second the Americans were going to annihilate them.

Could it be more than your average stressful KGB Grade S illegal spy day shenanigans making her glum? Is she having second thoughts about what she's doing for her country? I sure hope so.

Oleg: Everything is divided up. That's how [Arkady] explained it to me. This summit, it could be a turning point. We have a pretty good idea where you stand.
Philip: I'm not involved anymore. This doesn't involve me.
Oleg: We want you to find out what you're wife has been doing and tell us, and if you have to, stop her.

Because if not, Mother Russia has asked one of there best agents to step in and stop her. 

And I think Philip would ultimately sacrifice his wife, just as Oleg put himself on the line, to secure the future of both his countries. Because in helping take down Elizabeth and the side she's working with, it will also help the United States. 

Line-dancing Philip wants a nuclear-weapon-free world for his hockey-playing son.

Related: Carissa's Corner: We Need to Talk about Our Reboot Problem

It wasn't apparent as the credits drew to a close that's where the season is going, but where else can this be heading? The US and Russia are at odds (soon to be smoothed over with the summit). Then the internal struggle will continue within the Soviet Union for another four years. 

Philip wants to be out of the business, but it's become too personal. It's in his living room. With Elizabeth lashing out and fingering that cyanide pill, what will happen if he doesn't step back into the ring?

If you watch The Americans online, you know time jumps can be expected. Another leading into the finale seems appropriate. Will the full Jennings family make it to the end? What about everyone else?

Other areas of interest:

  • Miriam Shor lands on The Americans? Thank you. Will her amazing attitude while dying spark something in Nurse Stephanie (Elizabeth)?
  • Adderholt is married with a baby and joining Stan and the Jennings for family dinners? I can't believe we've missed all the crazy dinners leading up to this.
  • It was a brief part, but I recognized the hockey mom watching her son with Philip. Will there be a relationship there?
  • Elizabeth killing the lovelorn Naval fellow to protect Paige was Mama Bear gone rogue. That's the kind of mistake that can come back to haunt her later.
  • As usual, the music was perfection. Crowded House "Don't Dream It's Over" was an ideal choice as we saw how distant Philip and Elizabeth have become. It lent some hope to the season, as well.

If I had requested a season premiere, I couldn't have come up with something better than "Dead Hand." It lays the perfect foundation for a final season both historically and within the Jennings world. There is already a hole in my heart where The Americans of the future should be!

Sound off below. 

Dead Hand Review

Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 3.4 / 5.0 (20 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on X and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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The Americans Season 6 Episode 1 Quotes

You know about Dead Hand now. You cannot be arrested. [Pushes a jewelry box across the table.]


Elizabeth: It's hard to trust the Americans. There's a long history of these types of negotiations.
Paige: I know.