Wednesday, February 26, 2014

REVIEW: 'The Americans' - Elizabeth and Philip Get to Work with Another Directorate S Couple in 'Comrades'

FX's The Americans - Episode 2.01 Comrades

Elizabeth comes back from her injury and straight into what should have been a routine mission - but it goes awry, leaving her and Philip in fear not only for themselves but for their network and family; Paige's suspicions have only grown in her mother's absence; and Stan continues to fall for Nina who has started to play him.

"It's hard. This job. This life. It gets to you in ways you never thought it would. And it isn't easy for me to talk about this but I sometimes wonder if I'm cut out for it."

The episode ends with this provocative line from Philip. Based on what's happened to him and Elizabeth throughout the premiere, it's very evocative of his actual work as a KGB officer. He had no clue that he would have this intimate relationship with the woman he was assigned to work with. He didn't know how protective he would be of his children - whose safety is one of the first things he thinks about. He was prepared for the life and death stakes of the mission and has stood firm in his beliefs to protect the Soviet Union. But nothing really prepares him or Elizabeth for the devastating moment where they discover Emmett and Leanne's bodies gunned down alongside their teenage daughter. Seeing their son walk back to the room is even more tragic as now they will feel even more guilt around this situation.

And what went wrong with the mission? Were Emmett and Leanne just discovered and taken out? Or are the forces that be also aware of Philip and Elizabeth's double identities? They literally have no idea. So, they find the kids and head back to their secure house to try to put everything together. And to try to make some kind of a plan on what to do next. They still have the information from the handoff as well as Emmett's little book.

Which brings it all back to that episode ending quote - which is all just Philip as Clark reacting to Martha, his other wife, about the terrible day he had. It was a terrible day - a horrible thing for Elizabeth's first mission back in the field. But he is still wearing a mask (or perhaps, the better term is his disguise) as its intend as a way to continue to manipulate Martha. But it comes from a truly honest place that he is in.

But to make things even more complex, a member of the Jennings household is also suspicious about what the parents really do. Paige knows that they spend way too much time in the laundry room. And there's not that much laundry. And yet, she doesn't know anything right now. But she's questioning, which can be just as dangerous for her young mind (forever seeing her parents have sex) and her parents (having to be extra careful and aware of her).

And that is the strongest thing about The Americans in its return - Its aware of everything going on within the show and forcing the characters to address those things. Elizabeth and Philip probably want Paige and Henry to be like Emmett and Leanne's kids who have no inclining of their real work. The FBI and the Rezidentura are also aware of things but neither organization has the full picture of anything. Stan and Gaad are dealing with the fallout from Sanford, that guy Elizabeth blackmailed last season, and the colonel. Then, the Directorate is dealing with the reveal that Nina was the mole but is now reporting back to them. They all are plotting and trying to do their best to manipulate the other. But both sides are fully capable and aren't as susceptible as the other side originally sees. It all is immensely exciting. The Americans was great in season one but this episode does take it to a new level.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Comrades" was written by Joel Fields & Joe Weisberg and directed by Thomas Schlamme.
  • Matthew Rhys is one of the best actors in being able to do an American accent. However, that Texan accent was really really weird. But hey, he lost his wig in that fight scene which more than makes up for it.
  • I love the carnival sequences more and more every time I watch - especially its sound design. It over-highlights all the noises of your typical carnival. Nearly blocks out everything Henry is saying as Philip, Elizabeth, Emmett and Leanne are all intensely aware about the various moving parts happening around them.
  • The whole apple got stuck in Henry's friend's mouth. They had to cut it out in pieces!
  • Philip: "Don't jump on your mother! You're getting too big for that."
  • Elizabeth to Paige: "We have to be able to trust each other, okay?"
  • Philip: "Do we even know this is the first time she's checked on us?"
  • Paige: "Oh god mom, it's like she knows you."