Warning: The following review contains spoilers.
Season two of “The Americans” often moved like a freight train. Right from the beginning the stakes were set and clear, and both Philip, Elizabeth, and the center were on the same side, trying to accomplish the same thing. It was riveting, tense television week in and week out. Season three so far, in contrast, has been much slower paced. But so far I’ve honestly been enjoying season three even more than I did season two. “Born Again” felt like every character was playing an incredibly high-stakes game of chess with everyone else. Philip tries to tell Paige to be herself, Elizabeth lies with the truth to get Paige to identify more with her, Gabriel plays both Philip and Elizabeth off one another, while Nina cold-heartedly gets her cellmate to confide in her.
I need to talk about the scene where Nina’s cellmate gets taken away by the guards, because it affected more than anything else from the episode. I’ve always liked Nina as a character, but that shot of her expressionless face as her cellmate’s primal screams fill the air almost made me completely revaluate her. On some level, I’ve known that she’s mostly just been a survivor, willing to do whatever it takes to get herself out of whatever hole she’s dug herself into. It’s not even like her cellmate was such a great character that I couldn’t stand seeing her leave. She was naïve and ultimately guilty (But boy did the actress nail the scene where she gets taken). But that stare…that blank stare just made Nina seem to detached and emotionless that I was left wondering if I’d been just as charmed by her as Stan and Oleg were, completely oblivious to who she actually is.
Philip and Elizabeth are in conflict again, but that conflict isn’t quite what it was in season one. Even as they’re plotting behind one another’s backs to try to lead Paige towards their side, the two are still close enough to toke up in their bedroom. It’s a delightful scene where Philip reveals his plan of using, of all things, Jesus as a way of putting off sleeping with Kimberly. Matthew Rhy’s giggling is absolutely infectious, and then just as quick Philip says with a dead expression that if his operation with Kimberly continues long enough, and she gets older, that he still might sleep with her.
In a lot of ways, this sums up how this season has progressed so far. We’ve seen the pressure Gabriel and the center have put on Philip and Elizabeth to bring Paige into the operation. Despite Elizabeth’s insistence that it would be for the best, we all know that it’s a terrible idea that will blow up in everyone’s faces. Yet at the same time, it feels like it is inevitable and we can’t stop it. If season two was riding on a freight train, season three is watching one about to crash from a distance. We know it’s coming, but there isn’t a damn thing we can do about it.