So do we have an over/under on how far Poor Martha is going to get in her ‘new life’. It seems as if everything else in this season of The Americans has been put on hold, as ‘Travel Agents’ is now solely focused on the Martha situation and whether or not the KGB can extract her, before the FBI catches up. Given how concerned I was with the fate of Pastor Tim, this has been an exciting and somewhat unexpected major development.
Let’s skip right to the amazing work by Alison Wright and director Dan Attias this week. While a number of scenes played great, three easily stuck out. The first was watching Martha react to the world closing in around her, complete with a dolly zoom trick to really heighten the tension she feels. While sometimes handled in a more muted sense, there was a real balance of scope in this episode. It may not have had any hit music choices, but seeing Martha’s paranoia handled in a visually creative way, balanced with overhead shots of the city (rarely seen, I believe), I really felt the work going in to making it Martha vs. the world.
The second key sequence was Martha’s goodbye to her parents. The writing here was fantastic, as you could feel the real emotion of a person having to separate themselves from their life and feel so achingly bad about it. Combining this tearful phone call with a shot of Martha standing in the middle of a bridge and you couldn’t help but wonder if she was about to end it all right there.
Lastly, Philip informing Martha of his real name and that she will be living a new life in Russia was pretty devastating as well. I mean, this is feasibly how it will have to be, but the building up of these characters over the past few seasons has really allowed this show to deliver when it comes to seeing such sad results have to play out.
The rest of the cast has been affected by all of this as well. Gaad is basically sulking in disbelief. Sitting by the window as the FBI agents tear apart Martha’s apartment feels fairly tragic. Later on, he muses about how Martha, his secretary, was seduced and taken in by a KGB agent right under his nose. Regardless of what happens to Martha, I would be amazed by an actual confrontation between these two, as I would not know what to expect.
Stan is in top form this week. He continues to follow all the right clues and work this whole discovery to every point it needs to go, even while trying to put Gaad at ease by providing some reasonable outs (which are almost fair, given how Martha was brought into this whole thing). Still, it does allow us to see a badass Stan stand up for himself, when it comes to being pushed to use Oleg to help flush Martha out.
Then of course we have Philip and Elizabeth. After being given the situation by Gabriel, with a ‘kill if necessary’ message to go on top, the two are both doing what they can to get Martha back by any means. This allows for another stunning confrontation, where Liz is forced to gut-punch Martha to calm her down, while Philip yells for Martha in an open area, with FBI all over. The real issue is the confrontation between the Jennings.
Elizabeth clearly did not take news about Philip revealing his face to Martha well last week and this week she digs into it. Philip does his best to explain what the relationship between him and Martha is and that he loves Liz, but it looks like time will be needed, especially with this whole situation not having been resolved yet. I haven’t had to mention how this show is ultimately about the marriage in a while, but it is neat to find The Americans in a position where it can actually bring that back up, in the midst of all this other drama.
As the season has now pivoted into its second half, The Americans is now in a place where these pieces will be moved into striking positions. I am not sure what will happen next with Martha, but I also still have Paige and the Pastor Tim situation to deal with, let alone the work with William and the glanders samples. As always, the series has found a way to play up the character stakes right up against the actual plotting. It’s exciting to see where this is all going to take us.
Other Things Behind The Red Curtain: