After a stellar pilot last week, The Americans is settling into their weekly routine, which, judging by this week is a more procedural, mission of the week set up. In “The Clock” the mission revolved around planting a listening device in the private study of the Secretary of Defense. When the premise of the show was first explained it seemed obvious that the biggest hurdle the show would have was making our (former) enemies sympathetic. That is an even harder task when routine missions include poisoning an innocent kid and threatening his mother into submission. But still, they pulled it off.
It helped that the signs of guilt were visible for both Philip and Elizabeth this time. Elizabeth remained loyal to Mother Russia (and Philip remained loyal to Elizabeth), but the stress of what they had been asked to put the housekeeper and her son through and more importantly the fear of what would happen to their own family if they were caught has begun to wear away the shine of their communist ideals. As I said in my review of the pilot, it was a risk to make Soviet spies the protagonists, and it would have been easy to fall into the trap of our own egotistical American thinking and have our superior way of life sway them in their missions. So it is refreshing that they instead chose The Jennings’ loyalty to their own family as the point of discord. It also brings up the interesting question of how long a cover life can stay merely a cover before it is just your life.
That’s a question I’m sure Agent Beeman asked himself many times. In the pilot it was revealed that Stan had spent the last two years in deep cover and this week the similarities between him and his new neighbors were highlighted again. While Philip and Elizabeth were busy threatening and intimidating their way into the Secretary’s house, Beeman and his fellow agents were threatening and intimidating their way to a new informant. It’s interesting that those tactics should leave Philip and Elizabeth guilty and questioning their loyalties and leave Beeman getting congratulated by the president (ok, the chief of staff, but it’s the same thing).
The Americans isn’t concerned with telling us who the good guys or the bad guys are. They are simply presenting facts and letting us decide if nationality is really all that separates the good from the bad.