[This is a review of The Americans season 2, episode 11. There will be SPOILERS.]
Season 2 of The Americans has spent a great deal of time focusing on the emotional toll of those whose job it is to make compromises in carrying out the often shadowy battles of the Cold War. Primarily, the season has seen an examination of the damage that's done in the name of country and ideology, often at the hands of those like Philip who have begun to wonder what it is they're really fighting for, or those like Larrick, who are largely waging a personal war that is motivated more by the need for vengeance than duty.
In that sense, the damage that's been inflicted would still likely be considered of the collateral variety by the powers that be, but that only puts an uninformed spin on what's actually happening in the informal trenches. It doesn't account for the lasting psychological scars endured by the likes of Philip and Elizabeth, the kidnapped Baklanov, or even the emotional bitterness of the cancer-ridden John Skeevers (Zeljko Ivanek). And it certainly doesn't account for what's been endured by innocent victims like Emmett and Leanne's son Jared (Owen Campbell). That is, unless there's an extra dimension to him, that, say, somehow escaped the notice of seasoned professionals like Elizabeth and even Stan Beeman.
The sudden variable of Elizabeth spotting Kate (Wrenn Schmidt) meeting with Jared without the aid (or need) of disguise could dramatically impact what has been the dangling plot thread regarding the unsolved murder of Emmett, Leanne, and their daughter. And as Larrick's murderous ways continue – with Kate becoming his latest victim – the value of Jared, and the information he may or may not have, has risen precipitously.
But with Larrick still on the loose – combined with the knowledge he already has about the murdered spies – and Stan having successfully pieced together the fact that Emmett and Leanne were illegals, the danger of getting to Jared, let alone finding out what he knows, has risen precipitously as well.
'Stealth' is the kind of episode of The Americans that demonstrates how the series handles plot as well as it does character. While the episode is busy bringing the narrative's focus back around to an event that was ostensibly placed on the backburner – pointedly factoring in the complication of Elizabeth's decision not to give Jared the note from his mother – it also establishes the means by which several other arcs will step into line with the demands of the final two episodes.
To that end, 'Stealth' finally sees Elizabeth acquiesce to Paige's wish to become a more present part of her church group. And while she doesn't go so far as to okay the summer gig, Mom does approve a trip to protest nuclear weapons. It's a smaller compromise, one that pleases Paige and earns the parenting side of the Jennings equation a break from the icy stare that was genetically bestowed upon their daughter. But it also points to the growing magnitude surrounding George and Kate's mutual disappearances, and how parental needs and desires must sometimes take a backseat to the needs of the Cause.
Meanwhile, the episode also welcomes Sandra back from her romantic fling to find Stan sitting at home contemplating the worth of his commendation and its correlation to the concept of a 'hero' that Henry sees him as (for school purposes, of course).
Of all the compromises that have taken a toll on the characters over the course of season 2, Stan's are certainly some of the most overt, as the decisions he's made over the entirety of the series have led to the near dissolution of his marriage, as well as the potentially fatal complications Nina is now facing. Oleg advises Nina to run if she thinks getting more information from Stan will be met with failure. Of course, the only person she can run to is also the one she's been tasked with compromising.
The conundrum is part of the high stakes give and take the show excels in demonstrating at every turn. And as the season finale approaches, the chances of those consequences being ruinous in some way or another for nearly all involved has suddenly increased dramatically.
The Americans continues next Wednesday with 'Operation Chronicle' @10pm on FX.
Photos: Craig Blankenhorn/FX
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