Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Americans 3.1: Caring for People We Shouldn't

Good to see The Americans back on television for the debut of its third season tonight.  The whole episode was enjoyable.  But like an old-fashioned sandwich in which the bread is the tastiest part, my favorite scenes in the show were at the bumpers, or the beginning and the end.

The opening sequences of scenes were vintage The Americans, and capture precisely what is so remarkable about this series.  Elizabeth almost gets nabbed by FBI agents on the street - worse, she and the two FBI agents are bruised up pretty well, and, even worse, the agents work right alongside Stan, and even worse than that, one of the agents is Frank, Stan's boss.

Stan, of course, is in the improbable position of being both in the FBI and Elizabeth and Philip's next-door neighbor.  On this night, he comes back home with Philip and sees Elizabeth with some damage to her face.  The very next day, he sees Frank and his partner, also with bruises and putting hospitals and doctors on alert for a woman who took some hits as well - Elizabeth.

So Stan at this moment has the essence of our story, the fate of our heroic anti-heroes, right smack dab in his hands - or, better, in his brain.   And yet he fails, again, to make the connection.  And, for some reason, I as a viewer can just about believe this.  And that's the essence of The Americans right there.

The ending was excellent for different reasons.  Philip's on a mission, involving a woman who previously pleasured him in a car.  Now this same woman is undercover with some kind of agent - neither American nor Soviet - who realizes she's an agent, and apparently strangles her to death. Philip enters the room just a bit too late to save her - assuming she is dead - but was that deliberate on Philip's part?  He in any case looks ready to use the woman's death to blackmail the killer.

And in that whole scene, I'm not clear just who these people are - other than Philip - and what larger role they're playing.   So the show begins with a sequence in which just about everyone is known to us and ends with a scene in which almost no one is known to us, and the one thing they have in common is the relentless adrenalin of people we shouldn't be caring about but do, being in mortal danger.   That's good television.

See also The Americans 2.1-2: The Paradox of the Spy's Children ... The Americans 2.3: Family vs. Mission ... The Americans 2.7: Embryonic Internet and Lie Detection ... The Americans 2.9: Gimme that Old Time Religion ...The American 2.12: Espionage in Motion ... The Americans Season 2 Finale: Second Generation

And see also The Americans: True and Deep ... The Americans 1.4: Preventing World War III ... The Americans 1.11:  Elizabeth's Evolution ... The Americans Season 1 Finale: Excellent with One Exception

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