Wednesday, March 19, 2014

REVIEW: 'The Americans' - Religion Sneaks Its Way Into the Jennings Household & Claudia Returns in 'A Little Night Music'

FX's The Americans - Episode 2.04 A Little Night Music

An old friend returns to complicate things for Philip and Elizabeth. Not only do they have to intercept a target who could prove valuable to the Soviet Union, but they also have to take on an important rogue mission without the support of the Centre. Meanwhile, divisions inside the Rezidentura deepen between Oleg and Arkady; there's an upheaval at the FBI; and Martha's frustrations threaten to blow Philip's cover.

The Americans has been having a great second season. The emotional highs it's been hitting lately have been outstanding and well deserved. The events of "A Little Night Music" feel like they largely are setting things up to come. It's establishing a change in these characters. Claudia returns and is slightly more friendly but a bit aloof. She presents a mission for Philip and Elizabeth that they have to try and carry out without the Centre's knowledge or support while also carrying out a task that is very important to the people at the Rezidentura. At the Russian offices, Oleg gets a higher security clearance and is made away of Nina's mission with Stan. Then over at the FBI, Agent Gaad's future is up in the air. Also, Martha is furious with Philip as Clark because of all the secrecy there has to be in their relationship. All of these things pose a threat to the future but are all just quiet simmering at the moment as they are allowed to build up into something grand.

But most importantly changes make their way into the Jennings home as Paige starts becoming exposed to religion for the first time in her life. That is the exact opposite of what Philip and Elizabeth want her to be doing. It's the ideals of the country that they are in that are seeping into her mind, not the morals that Philip and Elizabeth hold so dear and fight for. Paige is questioning things because she never feels like she's getting the whole truth from her parents and she finds this organization that is fun and accepting. And it's stuff that she has never known before which intrigues her even though it infuriates her parents. And they are to blame for this development because they haven't created a safe environment for their children. They worry about their safety every day but they never go about explaining why they are against the customs of the society they live in.

And Philip and Elizabeth just can't deal with that right now as they have more pressing issues elsewhere. She has to seduce the Navy guy in order to copy a file she needs to blackmail another officer while he has to snoop out Anton, a Jewish Russian physics professor, who the Centre wants taken. Claudia notes that there's something off about Elizabeth now that she's back in the field. For the first time this season, we fully see how that idea may be right as she slams that car hood on the guy trying to stop them from taking Anton one too many times. That was a thrilling sequence. Who are those guys and why are they after or protecting Anton? We don't know yet but Philip and Elizabeth are stranded without their target which is going to lead to interesting complications in the next episode.

Some more thoughts:
  • "A Little Night Music" was written by Stephen Schiff and directed by Lodge Kerrigan.
  • But you guys, Henry really wants an intellivision. They can help you learn, you know.
  • Gosh, Martha don't wash your hair in the sink and let the hairs just stay there. It's almost as if "Clark" wanted to get out of there.
  • I'm so glad that CBS and The Millers let Margo Martindale come back as Claudia in this episode. I'm hoping this isn't going to be her only appearances this season. She's very connected to the main narrative of the season so I don't think we've seen the last of her.
  • Also, Stan opened up to Philip about his affair. He changed the details but the confession is still very important for the value of that friendship.