05th Apr2013

The Americans 1×09 – “Safe House” Review

by Nathan Smith

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

There’s an interesting idea raised this week on The Americans. It’s a idea that is always something that rolls around in a show about covert operations and that idea is the shifting of paradigms. We’ve seen from the get-go that Elizabeth and Philip are people fostering an air of falsity. They are not who they are. It’s the mission. It’s how it has to be. But, we look at Stan Beeman, noble FBI agent or at least what we think. There was always talk of how he maybe devoted himself too much to the job, he spent all those years with the supremacists and is further falling away from his wife, sleeping with Nina and so forth. So, both parties devoted to bringing the other down, are becoming more and more alike in the end. ‘Safe House’ is a great episode but has some odd choices along the way.

First things being, the problem with Philip and Elizabeth. They begin splitting up and the reason why it feels a little off is because they’ve only just now started to become closer to one another, and they spend their times lying to everyone else and sleeping with anyone should the mission deem it so, but once Philip sleeps with an ex, all bets are off. It’s easy to buy that them splitting up has great dramatic implications but it just seems too easy, as if they needed a reason to get them apart, especially considering that again, they’ve slept around many, many times prior to the indiscretion. Maybe it’s the lie that broke them up, but for people who live their lives in distrust, it would seem more or less to be business as usual. The real shrift of all of it, is getting Philip to return to Martha’s arms and have him slip up, and have the Amador situation come to a head.

Everything ties in nicely both with the marital woes and Beeman’s FBI madness. Now, the aforementioned Amador/Clark/Martha triangle is a very strange one, only because we knew it had to go south as soon as it was mentioned. Because it escalated rather quickly from harmlessly asking her out on a date, to sitting outside her apartment in the rain. And from what we knew of who he was, he was a person to not give a damn and just move through life. Yes, it raised stake quickly by having him try to arrest Philip and get stabbed in the process. That successfully throws a grenade into all the proceedings. The problem with putting Amador in the middle of all these things, is the he’s felt like a non-character. In the episode, you get little snippets of his past with Beeman but these things needed to happen sooner so his death would have more weight to it, it would have some purpose. Sure, he’s had some traits here and there, but it’s nothing too emotionally keeling. There’s no attachment. He died so that things could go forward and click into place. He was the necessary sacrifice.

It allows for great interspersing between Amador lying on his deathbed and the FBI still going forward with their assassination attempt on the head of the Directorate, Arkady. The FBI going forward with a rogue killing to make up for the loss of their own makes sense because grief is the best fuel for revenge. And when Beeman declines to not go forward until he believes that the KGB kidnapped Amador, that’s when the power to Beeman’s arc really begins. Because when they kidnap Arkady’s assistant in lieu of the real target, and proceed to menace him instead, the show starts to take a darker turn. And Noah Emmerich’s speech about the hunting dogs to the assistant is pretty damned terrifying. Because Emmerich can be intimidating by just talking, and he’s much stronger for it. And the final scene, after Beeman loses his partner, whom he clearly had much affection for, finds out that the assistant is in fact a KGB agent and puts a bullet through his head, you can feel the shifting paradigms moving underneath the surface. Even if it felt like it was going there, it’s still a dark beat for a normally upstanding character. Because as mentioned earlier, he pushes himself deeper and deeper into the role, and how far he’ll go to catch the Directorate, we’ll never know.

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

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