The Old Man episode 4: does Harper know who Emily really is?

John Lithgow and Alia Shawkat in The Old Man
John Lithgow and Alia Shawkat in The Old Man (Image credit: FX Networks)

People burying their past is a big part of The Old Man, but as many of the characters are learning, you may never be able to bury them deep enough.

The Old Man has become one of buzziest shows of the summer, as the Jeff Bridges-led spy thriller has been enthralling fans with its stellar performances from Bridges, John Lithgow, Alia Shawkat and Amy Brenneman in particular, some great action sequences and plenty of espionage intrigue. Most of that was on display in episode 4...

SPOILER ALERT, we’re going to go into specifics on the episode, so if you’re not caught up yet be sure to do so before continuing to read. May we recommend doing so like Zoe (Brenneman), with a glass of wine and your best pups at your feet.

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In The Old Man episode 3, we learned that Angela Adams (Shawkat) is really Dan Chase's (Bridges) daughter Emily. Her role as a trusted adviser to Harold Harper (Lithgow) has been a big advantage for Chase as she was able to tip him off to the assassin Julian (Gbegna Akinnagbe) that was sent to kill him. However, episode 3 teased that Emily is not as good at hiding who she really is when her mother is brought up. That thread continued to be pulled in episode 4.

Early on, Emily is at Harper’s house. She brings up that Chase’s wife is a part of this mystery and could be critical to solving it. Her interest in the wife is curious to Harper. Later, Harper receives a call from Julian, who tells him he thinks he has a mole on his team. Harper doesn’t make it clear that he has it figured out who that may be, but two key scenes certainly make it seem like he has an idea.

First, when talking with Faraz Hamzad’s lawyer, Harper reveals what he knows about Dan Chase’s wife and how she impacted both Chase and Hamzad. This is meant to send a message to the lawyer that Harper does have something to offer Hamzad, but instead of focusing on this transaction of info, the camera remains almost entirely on Emily, listening intently as things about her mother she never knew are shared.

After this, Hamzad invites Harper on a plane to continue his investigation and Emily (despite her father’s objections) joins him. Emily boards the private jet while Harper has a final discussion with Raymond Waters (EJ Bonilla). Waters says that Emily is someone who would walk through fire for Harper and wonders why he is letting her do so in this incredibly dangerous situation. Harper then gives Waters a bit of advice about having kids, "One day, if you do, when the time comes for them to break your heart, remember I told you this — the moment you let them in, you were asking for it."

So what does this mean regarding Emily? Harper has constantly referred to her as "Kiddo" throughout the series and it is clear that they have a deep bond. This line appears to hint that Harper has figured out that the woman he knew as Angela is indeed Chase’s daughter, but because he chose to let her into his circle, he must be prepared to suffer the consequences of her betrayal and what could stem from it.

With the two of them on a private jet to who knows where yet (we presume to meet up with Hamzad), looks like Harper and Emily are about to have a critical heart-to-heart.

Other The Old Man episode 4 highlights

Harper and Emily may have been the big reveal of the week, but there was plenty to enjoy in this week’s episode of The Old Man, including: 

  • Zoe making her move to put herself on equal footing with Chase
  • The flashback scene of young Dan Chase (Bill Heck) silently taking out Soviet troops, as well as the fantastic line “Tonight doesn’t feel like it’s going to be bloodless.”
  • Dave and Carol continuing to be the best dogs

The next episode of The Old Man debuts on Thursday, July 7, in the US on FX and on Friday, July 8, on Disney Plus in the UK. US audiences looking to catch up with The Old Man via streaming can do so on Hulu.

Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Only Murders in the Building, Yellowstone, The Boys, Game of Thrones and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd.