Wednesday, April 13, 2016

REVIEW: 'The Americans' - Philip Worries About Martha Continuing to Be a Viable Asset in 'Clark's Place'

FX's The Americans - Episode 4.05 "Clark's Place"

Philip must consider his life with Martha and makes a crushing choice from which there is no coming back.

Nina's death last week reminded the entire show and the audience of the life-and-death stakes of this universe. The work that all of these characters do can come toppling down at any moment. The state of things really isn't stable at all. When it came to Nina, that cost her big time. It was a surprising moment but inevitable nevertheless. There was simply no way she could have escaped that situation and continued being a viable character on this show. The show isn't afraid to build to those moments and allow the repercussions to reverberate throughout the narrative. Philip and Elizabeth aren't personally affected by Nina's passing. But they too are on high alert with the threats they face that could destroy everything they've work so hard for.

Ever since the first season, viewers have wondered just how long Nina and Martha would be alive. Four seasons in, death has finally come for Nina. And now, it's starting to feel like Philip's mission with Martha is hitting a very pivotal turning point that could disrupt everything. He has relied on her so much over the years. She has been a loyal asset to him because she really does have this great love for Clark. Despite a ton of challenges, their working relationship is still strong. It has changed considerably since the early days of Season 1. She's aware that he's not a government agency simply making sure his fellow officials are doing their jobs correctly. He has revealed his true self to her and doesn't rely on a wig and a false identity to fool her. Philip has constantly pulled her closer whenever she gets frightened about her co-workers discovering what she has done. This relationship means so much to her even though she knows that she is betraying her country in order to have it.

And now, Martha may have to deal with the consequences of her actions. Stan is starting to put the pieces together and is much more suspicious of her now than ever before. The FBI has no solid proof connecting Martha to a covert organization spying on the United States. It's all just a hunch that Stan has. Gaad discovering the bug in his pen last season put the whole office on edge. Philip had to devise a new plan to get information out of the FBI. It's not as sturdy or reliable as the original bug was. Martha has been making copies that are slowly building up concern amongst the office. But more importantly, Stan and Aderholt know that she's hiding something from the office. They aren't sure if it's an innocent affair or something much more nefarious. Philip and Elizabeth don't know either once they get word of just how much danger Martha is really in.

So much of Philip and Elizabeth's lives right now is waiting and seeing what happens. They are agents accustomed to working quickly in order to protect their lives and turn the tides in this war against America. They can move slowly when the situation requires it. The show isn't immediately showing the value in Elizabeth continuing to work Young Hee as a contact. It's a slow build as Elizabeth is gaining her trust and slowly peeling back the layers of a complicated family backstory. That plot is probably heading somewhere exciting. It's just not apparent yet. Conversely, Philip and Elizabeth are frustrated when they realize that Martha is likely being followed by the FBI. They want to do whatever it takes to protect their asset. Philip has formed a real connection with her. It's not as real as his marriage to Elizabeth. But it's still a significant part of his life. Should Martha be captured, she could lead the FBI right to Philip. So, he has to take many more precautions now to make sure that doesn't happen.

In the process of that though, it seems like Clark is only pushing himself further away from Martha. She's at a loss of what to do now. The pressure is slowly getting to her and she doesn't know how much more of this she can take. She's come to rely on Clark in order to understand what to do in this world. He coaches her with every situation and she follows accordingly. And yet, he wasn't there for her when she really needed it. She went on that date with Agent Aderholt and opened herself up to him a little bit. It was a story she's rehearsed before with Clark. But it's still enough to place even more doubts in Stan's mind. Martha wants things to go back to being how they used to be without having to worry about things. They can't though because Gaad found the bug and Stan won't let this suspicion go. So now, she's hopelessly pursuing Clark who's gotten much more aloof. He needs to flee as soon as Hans tips him off that Martha is being followed. His place is basically a nondescript apartment after he leaves. It's void of any kind of personal touches. That shows just how disingenuous this dynamic can really be when it comes to protecting his identity. She's walking around not knowing if she'll ever see him again. He comforts her but that's not enough to help her during this difficult time. But alas, Philip just has to wait until the Centre can determine whether or not the FBI actually has a case against Martha at all. But this story proves that Martha still cares about their relationship more than anything else while Philip proves that he can't be there for her when she really needs it.

This season has been fantastic because of the narrative's willingness to slowly backing Philip and Elizabeth into a corner. They are still managing the Pastor Tim situation as best as they can. Here, they even show up with another agent poising as a priest in order to appeal to Tim's humanitarian side to show all the good work they are allegedly doing. The truth is much darker and more sinister than that. But this approach is the only way to keep Paige happy and in their lives. They still aren't being completely truthful with her though. She's desperate for answers now that she knows the truth. She craved this deeper understanding of her parents. And now that she has it, she wishes she could take it all back. It's very confusing for the entire family. But it's mostly devastating for Paige as she's not sure how to feel. She makes up with Pastor Tim because that's what her parents require her to do. She even reports back to them that their assessment of the man was true. He does care for her and doesn't want her to get hurt. But this is still a very precarious dynamic that can go wrong any number of ways.

All of this also plays nicely against Henry continuing to spend more and more time with Stan. It's the most substantial story Henry has ever been giving. It's completely innocent too. Elizabeth is puzzled as to why he spends so much time with their FBI neighbor instead of kids his own age. But Stan's house largely gives him a normal family unit that he enjoys. Philip and Elizabeth are his parents but he seeks out Stan's advice instead of theirs. He has built a really strong rapport with Stan. Despite tension in his friendship with Philip, Stan has been more than welcoming to Henry in his life. Sure, it's a little awkward when Matthew also shows up. But it still remains completely innocent and fun. Philip shows up to clear the air with Stan. That affords Philip and Elizabeth the opportunity to learn that Stan may be working with Agent Aderholt and spying on Martha. Again, it's a very precarious situation built on something fun and sweet. It's the show continuing to twist the knife in a really exciting and compelling way.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Clark's Place" was written by Peter Ackerman and directed by Noah Emmerich.
  • The show has always used '80s music well and with purpose. The use of Queen's "Under Pressure" may be a little too on-the-nose to the amounts of pressure Philip and Elizabeth are currently dealing with in their lives. But it still makes it exciting to watch as they release that tension with sex.
  • Despite promising his dad that he would stay at home, Oleg decides to return to the United States and the Rezidentura after he learns that Nina has been executed. It shows that his ideology is changing - which may give Stan an opportunity to turn him into a double agent.
  • When Philip and Elizabeth meet with Pastor Tim and Alice, it always seemed apparent that they were manipulating them with this story of their actions saving lives. So, it was a little unnecessary to follow that up with the two wondering if the third party was actually a priest or not.
  • Philip and Elizabeth keep promising to tell Paige everything that happens when they go out and work. And yet, they always keep some crucial details from her. She's starting to become aware of that fact as well.
  • Gabriel has worked with William for a long time. William has been in this country for 25 years and his work really hasn't accomplished a lot. That's why this mission is so crucial right now and he can't just walk away from it.
  • Stan is good at Trivia Pursuit and Philip is not. That really is not surprising at all.