Wednesday, April 23, 2014

REVIEW: 'The Americans' - Philip Confronts a Pastor While Stan Looks Into Emmett & Leanne's Murders in 'Martial Eagle'

FX's The Americans - Episode 2.09 Martial Eagle

Philip and Elizabeth's long-planned mission turns ugly, impacting each of them in different ways. Stan digs in deeper at work as his personal life continues to unravel.

"Martial Eagle" is an Emmy submission episode if I've ever seen one. That's just how much Matthew Rhys gets to do here and how amazing he is at all of it. Last season, The Americans barely registered at all with the Emmys. I will be so pissed off if they get shut out again this year. This season has just been so good. And this is just a really great showcase for Rhys.

Philip Jennings is angry. His world is closing in and he's angry. He's angry at the Americans for the fake submarine propeller plans. He's angry that people got in his way - and had to be killed - during his recon mission at the training camp. He's angry that the truck driver died while tied up to the tree. He's angry at Paige for going to church and giving them 600 dollars. He's angry at the world and at the people who can't understand him. No one is really on the same wavelength with him for the entire episode. He's distant from Elizabeth because he perceives this life is easy for her. It's not but she's much better at handling her emotions. He portrays openness with Martha but that's always going to feel like an act. He's never really his true self with her because he's simply playing her for information.

He focuses these aggressions on the pastor of the church Paige goes to. Here's this man who is in stark contrast to everything that Philip stands for. He welcomes everyone with open arms because that's what he believes in. He's a spiritual man while Philip is a practical man. If he doesn't want Paige to go to church, the pastor should compile with his wishes. It's that simple in Philip's mind.

It's hard to get a read on what Philip is going to do throughout that closing scene with the pastor. He's angry and the pastor isn't exactly understanding what he has to say. We know how lethal Philip can be. He took out the soldiers with ease at the top of the episode. Is he going to hurt the pastor? Or is he going to just walk away from this confrontation? That's the excitement. We have no idea which way it will go and that's all because of Rhys' masterful work. He ultimately just walks away but he's still angry at the world. That's gonna be a powerful character trait in the coming episodes and I'm so excited to see what's coming next.

What The Americans has been masterful about this season is how it forces you to make the effort to connect to the emotions of the characters instead of them guiding the emotions through the audience. The Americans is about these characters and the emotions they feel and not about making the audience feel comfortable or the exact same emotion the characters are feeling. It's that distance that's perhaps why the show's audience isn't as large as it should be. But it's ultimately more rewarding for the characters and the people who've made the effort to connect.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Martial Eagle" was directed by Alik Sakharov with a story by Oliver North & Tracey Scott Wilson and teleplay by Tracey Scott Wilson.
  • Stan is finally getting some actual work done. This season for Stan has largely been about Nina's playing of his emotions as well as the loads of red tape he's had to face in his own government. Here, he gets some answers and is pointed in a meaningful direction.
  • It's gonna be really dangerous really fast for Philip and Elizabeth now that Stan is looking into Emmett and Leanne's murders.
  • But Stan's personal life is still a mess. Sandra is now leaving him to be with another man. In general, this hasn't been a very busy season for Susan Misner. But that scene was pretty great.
  • Philip uses the doctored tape about Gaad and the fellow agents to get Martha as angry as he is. Now, she's much more willing to do something even riskier for him. That's dangerous.
  • Agent Gaad and Arkady met for the first time and Gaad lays out an arrangement that neither one are comfortable with but will likely prove to be important later on.
  • Paige ultimately is getting punished because her ideals are different than her parents. She has the right to be curious about life. But that scares her parents so much. Elizabeth forces a life lesson out of it. But I still feel bad for Paige.