20th Mar2014

The Americans 2×04 – “A Little Night Music” Review

by Nathan Smith

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

The-Americans-cast

“We’re screwed” – Stan Beeman.

Never has there been a more ominous portent uttered by anyone on any show than this declaritive statement which, rather fittingly comes at the end of a big confession scene in which one man holding a deep personal secret shares said secret with another man he considers a close friend. But the dramatic irony of it all is that, the person in question, Philip, the man acting as confidant is sharing the deepest, darkest secret of all, one that would send Stan Beeman spiraling into violence, something that we’ve seen him capable of doing very, very well.

Stan’s confession of his affair with Nina (which as we see later Philip and Elizabeth knew a whole lot about), comes at a particularly rocky time in his marraige and career. He loses his commendation (which that small scene features a great moment with Richard Thomas, who has been doing damn fine work as Gaad, especially as the season moves along, he’s very imposing and I love to see it all the same) for the shooting of the walk-in as a result because of his implicit involment in the shooting death of Vlad last season. So we can see that this confession is another moment in the chipping away at the facade of Beeman. The speech that Emmerich gives about his love of Nina is sold really, really well. It’s just strong stuff, and you can hear it in his voice as he describes the reasons for loving this woman, and even offering up a reason for the dissolution of his marriage, which is still awful enough on it’s own, but he can sell the ideology of just why he’s falling away from his wife. And the answer is work all the same.

Stepping back for a moment to Philip who offers up his own advice on the Beeman marriage. Sure, it’s easy to tell others exactly what to do to fix their shit, even when your own life is falling around you. He tells Elizabeth all about his happy lazy romantic day with Martha, and then we see that it’s completely the opposite. I love that the writers are trying to show the tearing away of “Clark” and Martha’s marriage, and that the domestic bliss we saw at the end of last season has fallen away pretty quickly (that fight about the mother calling and Martha washing her hair in the sink seems to ring , and that Martha is drinking her concerns away alone every night. One note to mention, Alison Wright does a good job of selling her desperation, she’s charming and aloof all the same, but is still a lonely woman due to the arrangement she’s made with this man who’s barely around. And easily enough a fascinating gem is seeing that she’s got some spying equipment of her own. My only complaint is that we don’t see much of the Clark and Martha plotline to truly understand the anxiety both are currently feeling, but in a stuffed episode, it’s kind of hard to stay with one thing too long.

A theme this week would be simply put – the past comes to bite you in the ass. We’ve seen how it’s affected Beeman, because of his shooting of Vlad, he’s lost his commendation and potentially his working environment. And Claudia uncermoniously comes back into the Jennings’ life as a result of her two agents, Emmett and Leanne. It’s interesting to see her come back and try to join up and catch the person responsible for her agents’ deaths. I love that she gives insight to Elizabeth’s lack of mental strength in coming back to work. And we see it so well, and Keri Russell sells it so well. We’ve seen that Elizabeth has had no qualms in the past about sleeping with a mark to get information, the mark in question being the classical music listening Navy seaman, Brad. Watching Elizabeth manipulate Brad to get the files for Andrew Larrick aka suspect one in the homicides, is like watching someone conduct an orchestra with a mark as an audience. You can practically see Russell’s eyes moving back and forth as she links the points to make up her lie. And it’s so convincing.

I love the small moments that make up Nina and Arkady’s plots this week. We get hints that something much more is in play with Oleg and the power he’s trying to wield in getting information on the scientist, Baklanov. I love the scene with Arkady telling Oleg about humble beginnings in relation to Chairman Andropov. It’s a great moment for both men, because Arkady is a strong character and Lev Gorn has done great work week in and week out, and it’s even easier to see why Annet Mahendru got a series regular upgrade as she perfectly essays the cold, hard exterior of someone who just does her job and pushes all the messy romance out of the way. And leading into the small moments of the Jennings clan and their dissolution. Paige is seeking friendship with her newfound gal pal, Kelly and seeking religious comfort all the same(which does lead to a great run of how Elizabeth sees religion as the “opiate of the masses”).

Which leads to that final scene, which ended quite shockingly, I must add. We slowly built towards the kidnapping or “repatriation” of Baklanov who will lead us closer to this whole mission the Centre has the agents headed towards. But that kidnapping scene which lead into a full blown fight in the middle of the street at the hands of Larrick was just aces work, directed so very capably by Lodge Kerrigan. It’s such a tense suspensful and pretty violent scene, and all throughout my brain is just fighting for questions, and then it smash cuts right as Baklanov gets kidnapped by the wrong people. And it still proves that when Keri Russell needs to unleash her full-blown badassery, she goes and she does it.

Damn, what a great episode this week.

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