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The Americans “Behind the Red Door” Review (2×06)

3 Apr

The Americans - Episode 2.06 - Behind the Red Door - Promotional Photos (9)

Humans feel emotion.

Even the most cold-hearted, calculating, and intelligent spy will feel emotions; it’s all a matter of how much they let those emotions affect their jobs. The better you are at understanding and manipulating them, the better you’ll be at carrying yourself when you’re sent out into the real world. What happens, though, when those emotions take over?

Take Stan, for example, who’s become so caught up with Nina that he seems detached from his other surroundings; it’s a prime example of tunnel vision, and Charlotte Sieling–the director of the episode–does a nice job of framing various shots so as to convey that feeling. Beeman’s being simultaneously screwed by Nina and Oleg (no, not like that.), and he’s becoming so caught up that it’ll be difficult to pull out of that rut; hell, the door’s being painted red, the same color that’s come to represent the people he’s fighting against. Yet, the irony here is that although Nina seems to wield the power in that final conversation in which she breaks up with him, the simple reality is that she’s not in much better of a position. Where exactly does she go from here?

In fact, so many characters have walked right into a trap of their own doing, and I can’t really fault them for it. Even Claudia admits that she had relations with someone, which very well might’ve led to Emmett and Leanne’s deaths; it’s an inherently human thing to do, but it may end up with her in the ground. She’s driving off at the end, driving off to a bleak future that is past the point of revolving around money or politics, revolving around things that may seem superficial, but sure as hell are better than nothing.

Being driven is all you can really ask for in this type of environment, and if anything, at least someone like Lucia is driven by her cause. Her emotions take over after she’s on her way to killing Maphis, but she’s able to detach long enough to finish out the task, per Elizabeth’s advice (which actually seems to be more of a commentary on Elizabeth’s own psyche and relationships). Elizabeth takes that home, and here, we once again see her spy life and home life colliding.

So much of this season’s been about family, about the very palpable sense of fear that’s building up as home and work continue to run on their collision courses. Her request to Philip is a manifestation of her own fears about family–seeing Paige mature, along with the final realization that her husband has a different side to him–and her memories of her own rape, and the writers take something flirty and playful and turn it into something heart-wrenching and dark. Note the contrasts between the overhead shots of Elizabeth on the bed; the first one is of her naked, baring all as she’s laid out next to Philip, and the second one is of her alone, curled up and sobbing. Her husband’s never going to truly embrace the Clark persona as anything other than a form of coping with his current life, so this is extremely uncomfortable for him, as well. As the first overhead shot suggests, Elizabeth’s more prone to putting out and attempting to explore those emotions, while Philip tries to keep everything inside. As great of a spy Liz is, there’s always been a jealousy, a tiny fountain of emotions in the back of her mind that’s causing her to second guess herself. That’s why she asks her husband if he’s mad at her.

Sometimes, some things are best left untouched. We might have to touch them, and they might be expendable in the eyes of the cause, in the eyes of the government. We see this with Maphis. Our need for intimacy may get used against us, as we see with Larrick. Once you take one step, it’s just a slippery slope all the way down.

GRADE: B+

OTHER THOUGHTS:

-Please don’t be the last we see of Margo Martindale.

-It’s nice to see a writer-director female combo. That’s way too rare these days.

-The nice pullback shot in the Beeman’s house really conveys that isolation Stan feels. Also, they’re discussing John Belushi.

-So let’s get this straight: Elizabeth wants to have sex with Clark, her own husband, who’s normally Philip but is now playing as his other identity with his other fake wife. ….Only on The Americans.

-It seems like Lucia’s perhaps nudging Paige out of the picture just a tiny bit, in Elizabeth’s eyes.

-Nice little window into Gaad’s home life this week.

-Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys dating in real life? Perhaps.

-Wigs!

Photo credit: FX, The Americans

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One Response to “The Americans “Behind the Red Door” Review (2×06)”

  1. louisoc April 3, 2014 at 5:13 pm #

    The direction this episode was exceeeeeeeptionally good. This is a show whose technical aspects are usually solid but unremarkable, and something this week really resonated with me.

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