Wednesday, April 20, 2016

REVIEW: 'The Americans' - Martha Finally Hits Her Breaking Point with Clark to Devastating Effect in 'The Rat'

FX's The Americans - Episode 4.06 "The Rat"

Martha must finally face the truth she has denied - and her life may never be the same. Plus, a chilling new development in William's work forces the Jennings to face the realities of what a biological war would mean.

Philip has worked Martha as an agent for three years now. Over that time together, she has provided a ton of valuable information. She's the way into the FBI which has allowed Philip and Elizabeth to stay ahead of them this entire time. Philip did everything he was trained to do to seduce Martha into trusting and loving Clark so much that she would do anything for him. She's the longest asset he has worked with - other than Elizabeth of course. And yet, it has been a very personal connection for Martha. She loves Clark deeply. She believes that that love is genuine. That's why she so willingly does whatever he asks. This season though, that has become increasingly harder to do. He has grown more distant because of the demands of his job. He hasn't been there to comfort her when the suspicion around her has risen at work. It's a precarious situation that was bound to lead to a complicated conflict this season. And now, that has finally occurred.

Philip isn't able to just wait for the Centre to decide what to do with Martha. He knows that Stan and Aderholt are investigating her for possibly doing traitorous actions. And yet, he doesn't know the scope of their investigation or if they have any solid evidence against her. He's once again trusting his feelings and believes that he needs to get Martha out as soon as possible. His love for her forces him into action. And he does have love for her. He has worked with her for so long and has been able to open himself in a way to her that he just can't with Elizabeth. He is still completely committed to Elizabeth, the family they have together and the cause. But he's also torn because of how much he has invested in his relationship with Martha. He is responsible for what she has become over the the last three years. He needs to protect her. Sure, most of that also comes from needing to protect himself as well. But he genuinely wants Martha to survive this ordeal.

And yet, Martha only wants to leave this life behind if she can continue to be with Clark. She too has invested a lot of time and energy in this relationship. She was willing to do whatever he asked because she loved him. She has hopelessly been devoted to him. He has proven to her time and time again that he is committed to this relationship as well. That has been so crucial to keeping this dynamic operational for so long. Whenever he felt like she was slipping away, he was willing to give another part of himself to her. He married her in order to show her just how committed he is to this relationship despite the pressures of his work. He took off his wig in front of her in order to keep her as an asset. She has gone along with every crazy thing he has done over the years because she loves him. Here, he asks her to walk away completely from her life and she just hops in the car. The future is uncertain but it's still clear to her as long as Clark is in it.

But that is a complete fallacy. Philip can't run away with her. He is working so hard right now to protect her when it seems like no one else cares enough to take this threat seriously. She has been his asset and he knows she needs to be extracted out of this situation. He fully believes that her life is in danger which could then destroy all of the work Philip and Elizabeth have been doing. But this situation also showcases his own failings in his management of Martha. He revealed his true self to her and didn't think to mention that to Elizabeth or Gabriel. That completely changes how they approach the situation once Philip brings Martha to a safe house. It's a tense sequence where Philip is fighting for his fellow agents to protect this woman he loves. The fact that Elizabeth is there as well shows just how complicated this whole mess really is. Philip has pulled Martha deeper and deeper into this organization. And now, Elizabeth and Gabriel are realizing just how much damage Martha can really do should she fall into the FBI's hands.

It's also important that Stan and Aderholt are getting some serious traction with their investigation as well. They are pursuing this with the certainty that Martha is a double agent who has been leaking classified information to the enemy. It's a painful realization. Everyone around the office loves Martha. She has been good at her job for a decade. Gaad wonders if she has been a traitor for as long as he's known her. She hasn't been. She was only recently turned because of her connection to Clark. And now, the FBI knows about Clark as well and are actively pursuing that lead. Martha not showing up for work is the key incident that forces Stan and Aderholt into action. They see that as a sign that they are getting close to the truth and her handlers are pulling her from the situation. It affords them the opportunity to have the forensics team go over her apartment. Plus, they are actively searching records across the country for any mention of Clark. They have his name and his identity as a married man. All they have to do is find that bombshell that Martha married him a few years ago. That's a reveal just waiting to happen that will only make this situation even more tense.

But Martha does enough of that on her throughout this hour as well. She's in an unknown environment surrounded by people who appreciate the work she has done. And yet, she doesn't care about that. She just wants Clark to be open and honest with her. He has done so in the past when the situation required it. She's hoping he'll do it again. She has to believe he pulled her off the sidewalk for a reason. And yet, it's just a feeling that Philip has about the situation. He is still able to comfort her in this uncertain new environment. He continues to have sex with her to keep her in line. She is able to relax after that. However, Philip can't. He knows exactly what Martha wants from this arrangement and he knows he can't give it to her. He can't just run away with her to some new destination where they'll be able to live as a happy couple for the rest of their lives. He can comfort her for a moment. But his work and family still take the priority in this situation. He's finally honest with her about who he works for. And yet, that only complicates things even more after he abandons her in the safe house with Gabriel.

Martha trusts Clark with all of her heart. She doesn't trust Gabriel or Jennifer. All they've done to her is lie and be deceitful. She knows Clark must have manipulated her as well. But she also fully believes their connection is genuine right now. He wouldn't do anything to hurt her. And yet, he does exact that when he is forced into going to a meeting with William. Philip is proud of the fact that he was able to stand up to the Centre. He took action and didn't wait for Martha to be killed or tell the FBI all of his secrets. Because of him, he and Elizabeth will still be able to work for the cause. But that comes at a severe cost to his relationship with Martha. It's critical that he attends this meeting with William. He's handing over yet another sample of a biological weapon. But that means all of his worst fears about Martha finally come true. He's terrified once he finds the gun in her purse. She was so afraid for her safety that she was carrying it around now. But him taking it from her is the precise thing that sends her over the edge. She just wants to walk away from all of this and go back to the way things were. That's impossible though. Both the KGB and the FBI know that she knows too much information - which could change the tides in this war. So, her walking out of the safe house is just about the most dangerous thing she could. It's a suspenseful way to close the ending while ensuring that things are only going to become more complicated as everyone continues their search for her next week.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Rat" was written by Joshua Brand and directed by Kari Skogland.
  • Philip and William are starting to form a really interesting relationship. They are both handling very sensitive missions right now. William has wisdom for Philip from years of doing this job. Philip has his own history with the Centre. But it's because of William that Philip gets the courage to extract Martha himself.
  • The Jennifer wig is such a weird look on Elizabeth. It's also very memorable. Even though Martha only met her once before, she still knows exactly who she is once she shows up at the safe house.
  • Martha also has a ton of preconceived notions about the KGB. She didn't know she was working for them. For all she knows, Gabriel will use those vicious tactics to handle this situation with her and Clark. So once Clark disappears, she doesn't know who to trust.
  • Not everything is tense in this episode though. Elizabeth is able to enjoy some quality family time with Paige and Henry while cooking the Korean meal she learned from her new assignment.
  • Stan and Aderholt are completely right with their suspicions about Martha. But it still doesn't seem like they have enough concrete evidence to back up their claims. Still, it's important that they bring Gaad up to speed and he believes it right away.