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The Americans “Cardinal” Review (2×02)

5 Mar

CARDINAL2top“We’ll get used to it, like we got used to everything else.”

The Jennings family has been through a lot recently. Last week, Philip and Elizabeth saw the bodies of a murdered family with ties to their own, and that traumatic event has compounded upon their paranoia. There’s an unsettling feeling permeating this second hour, a slower, yet still compelling episode with nice character work.

Paranoia seems to be grasping hold of Elizabeth more so than anyone else, as she’s constantly preoccupied with the workers across the street and with keeping her kids in her sight. It’s a contrast to the season 1 Elizabeth, a steely, methodical spy who was able to keep her emotions in check; all that is now crumbling a bit. Notice how she shuffles the kids off to a theater before she leaves to help out the Sandinista; she can’t even trust the safety of her own home.

Philip also experiences a bit of this struggle when he goes to see Fred, Emmett’s defense contractor contact. He’s electrocuted and knocked out, and–in a series of very compelling scenes–is forced to talk his way out of taking a bullet. Throughout, we know that Philip’s the clever one here, the one who’ll make it out alive with a cool head while Fred’s left sobbing in his room. Yet, interestingly enough, the very reason he succeeds is not solely because of his spy savvy, but because of the emotional connection he shares with the guy. They seem to truly understand each other and what they’ve been through.

In general, there’s a tightrope everyone seems to be walking, but everyone also has someone pulling him or her off it. For example, let’s take Nina and Stan, as well as Martha and Philip/Clark. In the case of the former, Stan’s all about taking down the KGB, but his infatuation with Nina is compromising his ability to view everything through an objective lens. In addition, even Nina’s toeing a dangerous line here, juggling different balls at once, some of which seem ready to fall.

As for Martha and Philip, we’re now starting to see the facades come down. Yes, Philip still has to lie to Martha, but this time, it’s to get out of seeing her and to go home to his wife. Earlier on in the episode, there’s another shot of Elizabeth sitting alone, but at the end of the episode, they’re all together.

The problems by no means have disappeared, though. Martha seems to be wanting to go above and beyond, and she being an intelligent woman, should have no problem doing so. This carefully constructed life is being outgrown, and it’s only a matter of time before Philip has to face the consequences of his lies, not only to her, but also to Paige. There are threats lurking in the darkness, but sometimes, the real threats have been under our noses the whole time.

GRADE: B+

OTHER THOUGHTS:

-Anyone get True Detective vibes from Philip’s disguise?

-That’s a, uh, detailed report Nina typed up. “I serviced the subject orally before allowing him to penetrate me.”

-Wow, they really should’ve watched Raiders of the Lost Ark by then. Damn spy work, preventing good ol’ movie time.

-There’s a walk-in to the Rezidentura, Bruce Dameran, who’s now Stan’s target.

Photo credit: FX, The Americans

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