Wednesday, June 1, 2016

REVIEW: 'The Americans' - Paige Demands the Truth About Philip and Elizabeth's Jobs in 'A Roy Rogers in Franconia'

FX's The Americans - Episode 4.12 "A Roy Rogers in Franconia"

As Paige deals with last episode's trauma, she sees her mother in a new light... and finds she has inherited some of her parents' skills. Plus, has Oleg reached his breaking point with Stan?

Part of "A Roy Rogers in Franconia" plays as set up for next week's explosive season finale. The mission to get the Level 4 clearance codes from Don was a success. Everything is in place for the agents to steal the infectious disease the Americans have weaponized. That's an exciting tease for the finale - with Stan and the rest of the FBI having their eyes on William as well. But another part of the episode plays as dealing with the emotional consequences of the end of last week's episode. Elizabeth killed a man in front of Paige. She did it in order to protect her. But she killed a man nevertheless. All of this time Paige has believed her parents' jobs weren't dangerous. And now, her whole world has been flipped upside down yet again. It's really fantastic watching as everyone in the family tries to navigate this new and uncertain stage of their relationship. It's different than before but just as satisfying to watch.

Elizabeth and Paige don't keep their almost mugging a secret from Philip and Henry. Yes, they still present a fake story to Henry so he doesn't have to worry as much as they are. But it's still significant because this is something that all three of them need to address. In that moment, Paige saw her mother as the brutal and trained killer she is. She knows just how cold and harsh her parents can be. They forced her into keeping a daily relationship with Pastor Tim just to make sure he wouldn't report them to the authorities. But seeing Elizabeth kill is something different altogether. Paige isn't sure how to react. She is sick that this seems commonplace to her parents. It all happened so fast and Elizabeth was quick to action. Paige isn't sure what to make of the situation. And yet, this experience forces her to challenge everything her parents are telling her to do. It's not in some rebellious way either. She demands the full truth no matter how harsh or unsettling it is. They've promised to tell her the truth in the past. But now, she demands it.

Paige needs to understand what killing a man means to Elizabeth. She needs to comprehend how a person would be willing to enter such a dangerous world. Elizabeth can't just explain it away with the easy and vague description of serving her country. Paige deserves more answers and clarity than that. Her parents need to start telling her more. They are hesitant to do that because they don't know how far to push. When they first opened up to her, it lead to a spiral that included Pastor Tim. Now, Paige is a little older and wiser. She still can't deal with what her mother has just done. But she is open to hearing Elizabeth's side of things as well. To her, this world isn't dangerous. She is simply doing her part to fight back against the perils of the world. She understands that her job comes with a lot of risk. But that doesn't keep her from acting on what she believes is right. All of this is delivered in a fantastic monologue where Elizabeth opens up to Paige about where she grew up. That helps paint the picture to Paige about the world Elizabeth has always known. It's so different than the reality Paige has lived. This story helps her understand but she also has a surprising reaction as well.

Paige still loves her parents. Elizabeth has done this horrifying thing but it doesn't send Paige running away. In fact, she embraces them more and wants to make sure that no more threats are coming for them. Her relationship with Matthew has been fairly innocent. But now, she's pushing him ever so slightly for information and insight into Stan's job. She wants to protect her parents. She knows that Stan and the FBI could be a major problem if they are ever caught. She wants to help. This is something she has taken her own responsibility over. It's not the same as the Pastor Tim situation. In that case, it was her assignment to be an active part of his life everyday and report back to her parents. That's something she needed to do in order to maintain the status quo for the family. Philip and Elizabeth aren't asking her to monitor Stan through Matthew. They have their own relationships with Stan that have proven beneficial in the past. Yes, Stan is working on something big right now at work that will affect Philip and Elizabeth's mission next week. So, it is important that Paige warns them with the little information she has to go on. She has shown a real knack for some of the skills Philip and Elizabeth use in their work. But again, it's not something they are asking of her. She has burdened herself with this in order to protect the family. That's something she wants to do. But is it also coming at the expense of her own feelings? Does she really like Matthew? Or is she playing into that dynamic to protect her family?

None of these are easy answers for Paige. Nor are they easy for Philip and Elizabeth. They have done their best to protect her from their harsh and dangerous world. And yet, it still found its way to her. After so much careful plotting, it all went away because Paige and Elizabeth were walking to the car from the food pantry. It couldn't come at a worse time too. Elizabeth is still struggling with what she had to do to get the clearance codes from Don. Meanwhile, Philip is managing William who is having doubts about this mission. Those are burdens they have to carry because it's their mission. They need to handle these emotions while still following through on what the Centre expects of them. But they also need to be there for Paige during this difficult time. This incident forces them to be more truthful with her than they have ever been before. It's honestly surprising to see them sharing the truth with her. It's a lot to take even for them. They still can't provide every detail. But when Paige continues to press, they share all the dangerous details about what they really do for work. Philip has to go get something from another agent. A weapon that could turn the tides in this war. That's information they give Paige. They do so believing that she can handle it. She has proven herself to be very capable as of late. But it's still quite a turn from what she believed her parents did for their country throughout most of the season. Plus, her reaction to this news will happen just as the mission potentially goes wrong in the finale.

There is a high probability of something happening when William makes his move to obtain this horrifying disease. It was a big deal last week when Aderholt realized that the mail robot was potentially bugged. That was a correct assumption. But it also showcases just how formulaic and ineffective this office has been for the FBI. They've been infiltrated so many times by the Soviets. The consequences have been severe - Gaad was forced out and then killed. But Stan and the rest of the office get their confidence back when Oleg tips them off to the bioweapon mission. The show has really done a slow burn with Stan and Oleg's relationship. This war has cost them both so much. They are in relatively happy moments right now. But that can change in an instant because of the work they do. Oleg is proud of Tatiana and how impressive a job she must be doing - even though he knows nothing about what she really does. And yet, it's meaningful that he decides to betray that relationship to warn Stan about what's coming. He was fine with their dynamic being over. Tatiana was offering him a potentially better life at a different Rezidentura. But instead, he chooses Stan because he doesn't believe in his country's ability to handle such a sensitive weapon. That moment does reach a little and is meant to ramp up the tension heading into next week's finale. Stan and his team make quick progress in being able to pinpoint William as a potential spy. But nevertheless, the dread and tension is looming over the finale in many excellent ways.

Some more thoughts:
  • "A Roy Rogers in Franconia" was written by Joel Fields & Joe Weisberg and directed by Chris Long.
  • William was already being closely monitored at the start of the season. And now, Stan and his team will be increasing that just when he is about to do the biggest and most heroic thing of his career as a Soviet spy.
  • All of the Soviet agents have changed over their years in America. They've evolved because of their time here. It makes William question whether or not he wants to go through with this mission. Gabriel is able to get him back on track by allowing him to return home a hero when it's done. But it's also important to note just how good a partnership Philip and Elizabeth have. Philip had the same concerns as William but he is still a part of the mission because it's what his country is asking of him.
  • And yet, Gabriel is able to manipulative Philip into compliance and action by finally calling Martha's family and letting them know that she is okay and being well taken care of. The consequences of that action are huge should Martha's parents and Stan interact again. But right now, it's played as something Gabriel does to keep Philip happy and focused.
  • Aderholt does learn that there is a bug in the mail robot. He makes sure to report it to his boss who touts the typical strategy of catching the person switching out the tapes and turning them against their handler for safety from prosecution. But all of this goes away as soon as Oleg tells Stan about the bioweapon mission.
  • Oleg makes his pivotal decision because of his love for his mother. It wrecked her when he returned to America so soon after his brother's funeral. He chooses to warn Stan so that his mother wouldn't be one of those at risk of being exposed to such a dangerous disease. He knows firsthand just what the Soviets capabilities are technology-wise. He doesn't believe they can handle this. So now, everyone should be worried heading into the finale.
  • Also, Paige and Matthew kiss. It seems pleasant to both of them. But then, Paige immediately turns around and tells her parents about Stan's movements away from home.