When we last left Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip (Matthew Rhys) things were a mess. It was nothing you wouldn’t expect from two K.G.B. agents posing as an American couple living in a cul-de-sac outside Reagan-era Washington: Their marriage was in jeopardy. Their mentor had just been murdered. Philip had just “married” the F.B.I. secretary who was feeding him secrets, and their daughter, Paige (Holly Taylor), was starting to suspect that they might be more than simply the hardworking owners of a travel agency. And then Elizabeth was shot in a set-up engineered by the F.B.I. agent Stan (Noah Emmerich) who is also their neighbor, who also needs a haircut. (Yes, it’s the ’80s, but he’s an F.B.I. agent, not an earth science teacher.)
This is good television, not great, and one thing that distinguishes them is the quality of the foreshadowing. When Elizabeth, driving away from the cabin where she recuperated, comes close to hitting a family of deer and reacts – big gasp, fluttering hand over attractive clavicle – more like the suburban mom she pretends to be rather than the trained killer that she is, we’d be dense not to suspect clouds on the horizon.
But for now, we go back to the cozy cul-de-sac. (Who could suspect anyone living in a tan house with red shutters?) The kids are delighted to see their mother and delighted to see their parents back together. As they embrace, Paige looks on, rapt, like she’s watching the last five minutes of “The Notebook.” They were so damned adorable that I believed them when they said they were going on a date night, and actually felt a little betrayed when we cut to Elizabeth straddling a hapless Lockheed employee – though perhaps not as betrayed as Paige felt when she walked in on her parents later as they engaged in a nonprocreative sex act.
Now that we know what’s up with Philip and Elizabeth – at least for now, you never know what will change with those two crazy kids! Nina (Annet Mahendru) and Stan are the couple to beat in the contest of “Do we really love each other or are we just using each other or is this some sick combination of genuine connection with duplicity and exploitation that will not lead to anything good?” I wonder about the extent to which Stan feels this affair is part of his job, especially since his wife, Sandra (Susan Misner), knows, but he shows no signs of ending it.
Speaking of Sandra, the episode’s subtlest scene was totally run by her. Of course, this was also great writing: what a stroke of genius to have the wronged wife of an early-’80s-era F.B.I. agent watching Leo Buscaglia (the travel agency of self-help gurus) advocating, during a PBS fund drive no less, the sort of open, honest, transparent emotion and trust that is the exact opposite of what spying (and the show) is all about?
And it was heartbreaking when Sandra quoted Buscaglia to Stan, “He says that love is always open arms – that if you close your arms to love that you’ll find you’re left just holding only yourself.” It’s hard to say why Stan accepted her hug. Was it a gesture of reconciliation? A guard against further suspicion? Or did he just want her to stop quoting Leo Buscaglia?
‘The Americans’ Recap: A Family of Spies in DangerAt the beginning of the show, it seemed like Elizabeth and Philip’s relationship might have a moment of ease. Too bad that stupid deer had to run across the road! That meant there would be that bloody massacre in the hotel room that ended Elizabeth’s and Philip’s short period of harmony.
It also furnished them with a new set of anxieties. It’s one thing for Elizabeth and Philip to consent to a life of lies and danger, but their children have consented to nothing. So far, both of them – Elizabeth in particular – have been absolutely loyal to the cause. But that loyalty was dependent on having one life outside the cul-de-sac and another in it. It will be interesting to see how loyal they stay if those worlds collide.
What do you think about the first episode of the second season? Did you like the deer? Leave your thoughts below.
Source : http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/02/26/the-americans-recap-a-family-of-spies-in-danger/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0