THE AMERICANS Recap: “Behind the Red Door”

     April 2, 2014

the americans season 2 keri russell matthew rhys slice

This season, The Americans incorporated a central mystery (“who killed Emmett and Leanne?”) that has driven most of the spy action.  While the show’s greatest strength continues to be the depth and complexity of the emotions of its leads, having them all converge (more or less) under this central mystery umbrella has done wonders for both the plot and character arcs (and a general interest in both).  Now, the Jennings’ day job and their home life are connected in an even deeper way, and its leading to complications on both ends.  But the lesson for all of the characters this week was that emotions have consequences — sometimes deadly ones.  Hit the jump for more.

the-americans-behind-the-red-door-1As Elizabeth and Philip close in on Leric (Note: not sure of the spelling and can’t find it anywhere … may adjust next week. I can say that he is played by the excellent Lee Tergesen), their home life and work life overlap once again, as the information acquired on him is turned, by the Center, into a mission that requires them all teaming up.  The last thing the Jennings want is to reveal themselves to Leric — Claudia repeatedly tells them the danger of seeing him and not killing him in the first place — regardless even if he did murder Emmett and Leanne.  Further, their mission to infiltrate hidden U.S. training camps is also an extremely dangerous one, even without Leric’s unknown motives.

But it is also Claudia who later reveals that a dalliance she had might have led to Emmett and Leanne’s deaths.  Could this be?  Or is all of this planned, and being used as leverage to get Elizabeth and Philip to take new risks?  There’s no love lost between Claudia and the Jennings anyway, so what would it hurt their relationship to reveal something like that?  And for Claudia, the consummate professional, to reveal herself to anyone seems far-fetched.  Maybe there are secrets about Emmett and Leanne that Philip and Elizabeth have yet to uncover.

Elsewhere, Stan must face the strength of his feelings for Nina versus growing pressure from Oleg, and even from Gaad (who is already taking the fall for Stan’s actions).  Nina appears to be in a lose/lose situation, and she knows it.  Juggling so much and being played by all sides, it seems uncertain where things might go next (particularly since Arkady seems in on Oleg’s plans for Stan).  Last year, I wrongly predicted Nina would end up a casualty, but the show shown great restraint in continuing to use her for both sides this year, putting Stan in a complicated position.  Can it all really last, though?

the-americans-behind-the-red-door-2The less successful example of love versus country was with Lucia, a character we’ve barely been introduced to.  She’s young and impulsive, and is quoting manifestos one minute, but defending her drug-user boyfriend/mark the next (which Elizabeth tolerates with boredom: “I’ve been ready to die my whole life for it, Lucia.”)  Elizabeth tells her to cut ties, and she does, but the Congressional aid wasn’t like Brad; if Elizabeth had killed him, that would have been traumatic.  Though Lucia did tell him to think of a cause he loves (his mother Doris will serve), as she ushered him into death via poisoned heroin, the overall effect was that Lucia seems like a bot rather than a fully-formed character.  Maybe that’s the point — these operatives are not people, as the Moused agent challenged Philip about last week — their personality was trained out of them.

And yet, that flies directly in the face of what happens when Elizabeth started prodding Philip about Clarke.  She was curious, and even jealous, about his wild antics in bed with Martha, bringing it up casually “as a joke” after they make love, and later, asking him specifically to bring Clarke into the bedroom.  When she’s disappointed that Clarke is not acting any differently than Philip, Philip gets violent with her, which (potentially reminding her of her rape), reduces her to tears.  It seems that what she wanted was passion, not violence.  She wanted a wildness, or abandon, that she thought wasn’t possible if they were playing themselves.  But bringing role play into the martial bed of two professional role players is too complicated, even for these two.

Philip showed some cracks last year, which Claudia brought up to Elizabeth (and in “Behind the Red Door,” apologized for).  This year, it’s Elizabeth whose focus has been shifting or become more cautious and concerned about the physical and emotional dangers of their job.  She is not a bot, she’s a person.  And this season is showing us that — and its toll — fully for the first time.

the-americans-behind-the-red-door-3Episode Rating: B

Musings and Miscellanea:

— If last week was more about emotion, this week was largely about plot motion.  The new handler and the mission are all set up for the Jennings, as is Stan’s big question about how to handle Nina and Oleg.

— Oleg tells Arkady that he is there because of the technology.  Was the electronic filing / printing out of records at the FBI a foreshadowing of a computer boom that’s going to change the face of spying to hacking?

— Elizabeth gave good advice to Lucia about not forming attachments with marks … advice she doesn’t always adhere to.

— Do Philip and Elizabeth still find time to be travel agents?

— Interesting interlude from Paige, who prefers chatting and having snacks to playing volleyball.  But hey, she was only on the B-team!

— “Would Clarke ever be unfaithful?” – Elizabeth.