Wednesday, April 16, 2014

REVIEW: 'The Americans' - Philip Makes a Purchase, Stan Deals with Bureaucracy & Lucia Tries to Take Out Larrick in 'New Car'

FX's The Americans - Episode 2.08 New Car

Philip and Elizabeth both find themselves faced with painful turns in their various missions. Stan fights to gain access to an American military program that could give him the upper hand in his battle of wills with Oleg.

The priorities of these characters are always such a sensitive subject and the drama really hits them hard again in "New Car" as many people are forced to decide what comes first in their lives. Is the devotion to the cause more important than the safety of family? Philip can be a cold killer but he also doesn't mind the perks of living in America and the material objects he can get to support his family. He spends the money on a new car just because it feels good. And he wants to have some kind of fun too. He's here in America, why can't he treat himself to some nice things? Conversely, Elizabeth is so passionate about her country and the values that they support that she doesn't want or let anything distract her from that cause. She's devoted to the mission. She doesn't see why they would need a new car when the old one was perfectly fine and making everyone happy. The new car makes them even happier but it also pulls them further away from the core values she lives by. She loves Philip and her family but she's also aloof and more calculated.

Elizabeth saw a lot of herself in young Lucia. She was a spy just starting out in this country. She become this weird kind of mentor towards her. And yet, when it came time to choose what's important, Lucia chose family vengeance over her country. That's a decision Elizabeth just can't understand and just lets Lucia die for it. She perceives Lucia as a girl who will never overcome those feelings and is much more a risk than an asset because of it. She's angry that it had to happen not because she let it happen. She and Larrick had just gone over their arrangement and Lucia still tried to kill him. It's the decision that Lucia made and one that Elizabeth just can't deal with.

Add on top of that the sudden news of a Soviet submarine going down because the plans Philip and Elizabeth took from the Americans earlier in the season were fake. It's a devastating moral loss for them - as well as a physical one, 160 men died. Philip, Elizabeth, Kate and everyone at the Rezidentura fight to protect their country and for what they believe in. This tragedy is all their fault. And letting down their country is the single most devastating thing that could happen to any of them. Oleg talks about their being other forces to blame as well. But the facts are that they gave them bad information.

And that is a really strong thematic tie-in to the mischief that Henry has been getting into for the past two weeks. Last week I wrote that I had no clue how to respond to this latest development with that character. The show had been developing Paige well but maybe didn't have that same kind of reach with Henry. I was wrong. That closing monologue about being a good person was the strongest acting moment that Keidrich Sellati has done on the show yet. He's been picking up on his parents' skills of surveillance. It was a simple curiosity but in his mind he wasn't doing anything wrong. He just wanted to play some games. In some ways, he's more of the offspring of Philip and Elizabeth than Paige. She is curious about the world and acting out in ways that are concerning to her parents. Sure, Philip and Elizabeth don't condone what Henry does and yet we don't get to see any kind of punishment he gets.

Then, there is Stan. But more, importantly there's Stan's perception of Philip and Elizabeth. To him, they work at a travel agency and their business is doing great right now. Their marriage is stable and they are able to buy this fancy new car. Stan is stuck between two worlds with Sandra and Nina. He also feels confined in a government that has so much red tape to go through that he can't accomplish anything substantial in regards to taking care of his Oleg problem. His only real option is to kill Oleg which is a half joke and half serious. Stan is spiraling downward. He's killed KGB before. But Oleg is a much more personal complication. He has true feelings for Nina and she is his number one priority right now. And that's a huge problem for Stan because she's playing him, making the trap that much more dangerous for him.

Some more thoughts:
  • "New Car" was written by Peter Ackerman and directed by John Dahl.
  • The Americans was renewed for a third season this morning. That makes me so happy. The network must have found a way to make that huge delayed viewing audience into something profitable for the show.
  • There's also Martha struggling with her devotion to her husband and the people she works with. Philip forges a tape that would humiliate her but she doesn't let him use it. Her priority is Clark which is so sad because of how easily he's playing with her.