Friday, March 13, 2015

The Americans 3.7: Martha, My Dear

Finally, a welcome episode of The Americans - 3.7 - that pays some attention to Martha, and the barely believable but riveting role she's been playing in our story.

The Americans began with one huge, all but unbelievable coincidence;  Stan the FBI guy living next door to Philip and Elizabeth, and never discovering (not yet, at least) who they really are.   Their true identities even survived drawings of them right up on Stan's FBI wall, even though those drawing look like, well, Philip and Elizabeth in disguise.   But, ok, my former science fiction editor, David Hartwell at Tor, once told me that readers are usually willing to grant a story one big coincidence before allowing their suspension of disbelief to be shattered, and that makes some sense.

But The Americans soon upped the ante with the Philip and Martha story, which strains credulity in all kinds of ways.  Back to the drawings on the wall, why doesn't Martha think the drawing of Philip in disguise looks at least familiar in some way?   And, sooner or later, won't Stan run into Philip in disguise - say, if he has to make a surprise visit to Martha's house on some kind of urgent business?

But episode 3.7 turned up the temperature even higher.  Gaad discovers a pen in his office has been bugged - presumably a pen given to Martha by Philip, which she - on his urging? - put into Gaad's office.   I put in the question mark because I'm honestly not sure about any of this.   Possibly I turned away from the screen for a moment in a crucial scene in an earlier episode, but my wife had the same uncertainty about the pen got into Gaad's office, too.  (Note added on 14 March 2014: A helpful reader in the comments below reminded me that we did see Philip task Martha with the pen at the end of the first season.)

Then there is the device in Martha's purse - what is it?  My wife was thinking maybe Martha is herself some kind of double agent, but she seems much too upset about all of this for her to be some kind of super cool operative who's taken Philip in on this (though that would be a great twist).  As it is, all of these discovered bugs have made Martha suspicious of Philip, which she should have been months or longer ago in terms of narrative time in the series.

So ... The Americans has opened up some huge holes, which I'm looking forward to seeing how it does not fall into.




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