11th Apr2013

The Americans 1×10 – “Only You” Review

by Nathan Smith

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

From its inception, The Americans has been a show about spies creating lives and facades in an effort to throw down a regime that they’ve been taught to need to destroy since they were youngsters. But, it also raises another idea in its midst, an idea amongst many, many others – people who aren’t raised in this life but are still nevertheless devoted to the cause or at the very least helping to build the cause, to give it weight and vitality. ‘Only You’ revolves around many of the events in the last few episode, really the whole season and brings Gregory back into the fold and provides closure, at least for now to things involving Amador’s death and Gregory’s involvement with the cause. It’s also a tense, dramatic hour of television.

It ties in everything smoothly and rather neatly. Stan’s downright dogged approach to finding this ring that Amador left behind gives the episode its full tilt thriller approach as he and his FBI cohorts burst down the doors to get the job done. They give Beeman the weight of it all, in this hunt, he devotes himself maybe a little too much. It even allows for Gaad in all his wisdom to state definitively that they will not rest until this ends with them crushing the KGB once and for all. It’s powerful stuff on this end and the best part of it all is, they don’t ask you to root for either side. This devotion to destroying either one’s cause is where the real weight of the show lands.

Despite Philip and Elizabeth’s involvement in the overall story, they really don’t have too much in the way of their overall story, other than seeing them separated (Philip in a no-tell motel and Elizabeth in the house) but we see that things are slipping ever so slightly, the children are backbiting and things remain as business as usual. More interesting the dichotomy in which they handle the Gregory situation that lies central to this week’s story. We know Philip had problems with Gregory in handling the situation with their deceased comrade’s wife and the fact that they were at each other’s throats then would have bearing that he’s the one to end Gregory’s life should Elizabeth not do it, and we again know how Elizabeth feels towards Gregory. Despite, the past between the two men, Gregory insists he won’t rat out Philip. This is a very interesting gem here.

Another great thing that the show does, is it allows for a modicum of slip-ups in the case of the Gregory plot, because even the slipperiest of foes get caught eventually. It’s so simple how Stan picks up the scent that leads him to Curtis’ doorstep and then eventually to Gregory’s doorstep. And the idea that Gregory has to leave for this new life in Moscow that Directorate S is setting up for him makes sense, but his reticence to go doesn’t, after all he is devoted to a cause that isn’t his and he’d be well off for a while, at least after what we learned from Claudia during her intense visit (Margo Martindale shining in this scene by just talking him up) but on the same side of it, he knows that to fulfill his mission is to die for the mission. It’s a little murky in that regard. Because Claudia makes it rather clear with Philip that he either goes to Moscow or he “goes.” They force his hand and place Amador’s death on him and still he relents. And he gets his last farewell, a tryst with Elizabeth, whom we know he has the utmost devotion to and goes out with a bang in the stunning montage that closes out the episode. Despite the unclear motivations of Gregory, (he says he’ll never rat out Philip and Elizabeth) he still goes out with bombast and shows that in just these few episodes, Derek Luke gives his character weight.

The thing of it is, The Americans can be a dark and foreboding show when it absolutely needs to be. It makes sense, there is grim matter strewn throughout its landscape. And it’s all the more evident involving anything with Stan Beeman. We’ve again known that he has a past with some hate groups that he’s infiltrated and perhaps taken too deep a dive in the murkiest of waters. It also allows him to be a fiercely compelling character both on page and in the flesh, specifically because Noah Emmerich is outstanding at giving Stan the fire he needs to avenge Amador’s death. The main problems last week, was there wasn’t any feeling to understand in the loss of Amador, other than Stan lost a partner he cared for.  His comments with Philip in the motel about how “everything is temporary,” proves that he’s gotten a more fatalistic approach to the job, even beyond not discussing work matters with his wife, or at least how he’s affected by the work. He dismissal of Nina at the safe house, ignoring her grief over her co-worker’s death shows just how far he’s plundered and yet this makes Stan exciting. That’s not to say he hasn’t been an interesting character by any sorts. That last scene with him at his desk looking at the photo of Gregory deceased in the street shows perhaps we looking at a grimmer version of Stan. It’s at least an older version of the man he may have been way back when he got too deep with his old line of work. That’s deeper and deeper and outright fantastic.

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

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