23rd Mar2013

The Americans 1×08 – “Mutually Assured Destruction” Review

by Nathan Smith

Stars: Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Annet Mahendru, Holly Taylor | Created by Joseph Weisberg

There’s a great quandary that lies in the middle of ‘Mutually Assured Destruction.’ If Philip and Elizabeth’s marraige is a sham, if they’re together just because of the so-called mission, do they really have to stay married? It’s a thought that should cross everyone’s mind when you watch week after week. Because as good as they are as spies, they’re just not cohesive as a married couple. They sleep around although that’s generally for the sake of the mission. But, the cover is only that, a cover and the sake of their kids is the only thing seemingly keeping them together. Until now, that is.

The “A” plot this week isn’t really where the thrust of the plot is, it serves has a backbone to a bigger overall issue though and that’s where it hits hardest. The mission of stopping the assassin who can’t be called off is a device as old as time, but the way that it’s handled is quite effiecient. But, because they’re going into it without any information or who the target os, it serves it’s purpose. Sure, they have to kill the assassin, but not until after he’s done his job and killed three agents and the scientist. The hitman’s procedure in killing the scientist is so well done, it’s almost like a magic trick. Another thing to mention is the big shootout in the hotel room with the assassin is well executed (pardon the pun). So, the steely resolve of the FBI is shaken in one fell swoop, and this half-baked mission has Philip questioning the people they work and causes Elizabeth to blame herself as a terrible agent.

That’s where the divide lies and it’s done so well. And leaves them breaking apart, and you feel bad for Elizabeth because she sleeps with the targets for the job, not for love and that’s where Philip broke the trust, by lying to her about what he did. And more so brilliant is that Granny is the one that used that bit of information to drive the wedge in. It makes sense as an overall arc for the two of them. It’s taking it into interesting directions. Because if the two of them begin to see it as anything more than a cover, they blow the cover. It’s a job, but with children and passion in the middle of it, things get complicated. The only thing that doesn’t stick is Elizabeth trusting Claudia so soon after the torture test. It just doesn’t make sense, especially when you have someone so guarded like Elizabeth. But, both of them blame different things for the mission failure, even though Philip is technically right. With head and heart in the way, it gets messy.

Another interesting development sneaks its way into the background as well, something briefly touched on in earlier episodes, which is Amador’s obsession with Martha. Because Philip uses Clark to finally get Martha in bed to get the information about the assassin, it opens up newer problems in the heart of it overall because now Martha’s even more into Clark. But adding an agent into the mix gives it spice. The plot is handled very quietly in the beginning with that awkward scene between Amador and Martha in the copy room, but later we see the infatuation is obsession. It’s all intertwining between everyone.

Because tangentially, they run both Philip and Elizabeth’s marriage and Stan and his wife’s marriage down the same tracks of failure, and while we see nothing but brief glimpses of how Stan’s marriage is destructing, we know that he feels guilt for what he did. He didn’t do it for a mission, his marriage isn’t a cover. It’s a quite nice story, even if Beeman is only in the thing for a few brief scenes. Getting a safehouse for all the meetings is smart for covert meetings and the like, but it’s also like giving someone a pad to cheat and cheat. Still, Stan rejects Nina because he wants it to all be business like Clark is with Martha. But, the bigger thing is Nina revealing that she got a promotion from her bosses instead of an execution. And quietly, she reveals that she will keep giving information over because that’s what happens. She’ll never get freedom, despite the carrot of hope being dangled over her, so she’ll stay until they get rid of her themselves. And her resignment to it, whether for love or fear, is plain and simple, beautifully done. Because this show is all about those moments.

Check out the rest of our The Americans: Season 1 reviews in out The Americans review archive.

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