The follow up to last week’s excellent season premiere is a look at an outcome from all angles, as there is a lot of focus on the fallout that has developed from the shocking climax of “Comrades”, which leads to table setting and paranoid glances out of windows. That does not mean The Americans is not very assured in where it is headed though. Given that The Americans is not really a show that relies on procedural elements to help the casual viewer take a look at what the series has to offer, I am actually quite glad it moved forward and addressed the events of last week directly, as to provide a perspective for nearly every character. The series only has so many people it can deal with, but the world is slowly building and it helps to have an event that works on a plot level and a character one.
A lot of this episode features Elizabeth being paranoid. It is an interesting way for Keri Russell to play the character, as Elizabeth has generally been a character one would regard as “in control” for the bulk of the series, but here she is legitimately worried about the safety of her family, which plays nicely into my thoughts on the season’s opening episode. Later on, she does take on a small mission to clean up after another agent, leaving the children on their own, but it stands to reason that this is the most concerned she may have ever been in preserving what she and Phillip have built in the United States together.
Phillip has a lot more to do this episode. With Elizabeth choosing to look after the kids, Phillip is going about seeking answers for what happened to his “comrades”, Emmet and Leah. This leads to a well-put together sequence of Phillip traveling and breaking into the home of Fred, the man involved in the hand off last week, which occurred before the discovery of the murders in the hotel. While Phillip making his way into Fred’s home is effective enough, as we get to see some stealth spy work in action, the sequence that follows is even more impressive.
After Phillip awakens from being knocked out by Fred’s electrified booby trap in the floor, a tense conversation emerges, which ends with some plot point being delivered, but is preceded by a well-acted conversation between Matthew Rhys and guest star John Carroll Lynch, who is great in pretty much everything. Things start out at an escalated level, as Fred does not believe a disguised Phillip to be on his side, but once Phillip manages to get himself out of the danger zone, more is learned about the relationship Fred had with Emmet and his family. It sheds a bit more light on characters that ultimately don’t matter, but also informs Phillip about what it means to have a family that you can only reveal so much about to certain people, which hits at what this season seems to so far be exploring – maintaining a family.
I would be curious to learn what audiences are more excited about, when it comes to The Americans, the family life or the spy games, as the show does a good job of balancing both, but definitely wants to invest more of itself into the family, give or take a cool action scene, which makes the most sense to me. That said, with the supporting cast consisting of characters mainly focused on said spy games, it does leave me curious about how difficult it is to achieve such a balance.
I did not talk much about Stan and Nina last week, but they have more to do this week, in an episode that was more dialed down, but still interesting in what it was presenting. Nina has two nice scenes. One involves her fending off the advances of Oleg, who is either far too smitten or on an assignment to learn more about Nina. The next involves her relationship with Stan, which is a very secretly one-sided one at this point; given Nina’s very detailed, yet cold reporting about the sexual encounter she had with him. While these two were not as directly connected to the hotel murders as the other characters, the notion of disclosure and keeping certain feelings in check certainly feels like a thematic connection had been made, even if Stan is seemingly on the losing side of this.
Even Martha managed to be factored into the fallout of Emmet and Leah’s murders, with her discussion with “Clark” about getting a gun to protect herself. This comes at the end of a conversation where Phillip has decided he will not return to Martha as “Clark” for the evening, but instead go home to be with Elizabeth and his kids. Again, watching this show find a way to convey what priorities matter more for Phillip and Elizabeth is quite interesting to me and I can only imagine what kind of dangers lie ahead, given what we still don’t know and what ones close to our leads could potentially find out.
So to come back to Elizabeth, who watched the suspicious van outside her house for a good portion of the episode, she finally asks what it means to be “taken care of” in regards to the son of Emmet and Leah, who discovered the bodies in the hotel room. Her concern is apparent and her confidence is shaken. Her mini-mission was a nice break and shows how “in control” she still can be, but I really want to know how far the concern for her family will go. Elizabeth could not handle decoding messages in the early part of this episode, what else could her paranoia lead to?
Other Things Behind The Red Curtain:
- Given her spot in the main cast now, I am intrigued by Martha’s role in this season. She is sure to be featured more in coming episodes, but there is an inevitable sadness to a character I already see as an unfortunate part of the spy games going on around her.
- Paige Watch: The girl has some sleuthing skills and she is slowly exercising them.
- Oleg is also a fan of Blondie. I can’t wait to hear of the movies in America that he enjoys.
- I wrote down “Vintage Playboy” in my notes, but I have nothing to really add to that.
- “Family time over Raiders of the Lost Ark? Are you insane?” – Henry Jennings does not get a lot to do, but I’m certainly on his side after that statement.