selenak: (The Americans by Tinny)
[personal profile] selenak
In which we seem to be at half point, in many ways.



Unless this was the last season, which I was told during the hiatus it won't be, there was no way the Jennings clan would actually relocate to Russia, so the question was how it would be prevented with an in-universe logic without also all the character development that led to P & E wanting to call it quits in the first place being destroyed. The way the show found works for me, especially with what it seems to set up.

But back to the beginning. Pasha survives his suicide attempt and it does work as intended, not that it makes our antiheroes feel better (nor should it). Plus they get a Cultural Revolution moment with Tuan as he tells them later that his report a) contains self criticism for his own moment of humanity (seeing his former foster family) and b) critisizes Philip and Elizabeth for lax security arrangements and almost blowing the entire operation near the end by hastening across the street to save Pasha. This - both the reporting on P & E and the self accusation - is so much in the spirit of the type of dictatorships both China and the Soviet bloc countries were that it felt like watching Brecht's play Die Ma├čnahme on speed. Mind you, it also sets up something important for the ending, to wit, Elizabeth's calm "you're not going to make it, kid, because in this life you need a partner" dissection of Tuan. Which of course isn't always true - having had a partner didn't save Emmet and Leanne - , but it's certainly been true for Philip and Elizabeth so far. And Elizabeth's conviction that is true for her is important to recall given what she offers at the end of the episode.

(The other thing about the Tuan opening scenes I found interesting was that P & E actually expressed the wish they could adopt him, well, "take him with us" before he went Cultural Revolution on them, after having seen Tuan at his worst re: Pasha, because it struck me that this was them at their most responsible. They weren't feeling mushy about Tuan but were very aware of what he is becoming and that he needs people to counteract it, if at all possible. Also, the "a kid" - "like we were" - is as close as Elizabeth has yet come to acknowledging that they were (mal)formed at a very young age.)

Both Stan and Philip express the wish to quit their jobs in this episode. Stan seems to get talked out of it by Renee which is a mark in the "is an undercover spy" columm for her, though I still maintain she won't be a Russian one, but a US internal affairs investigator. Philip and Elizabeth, by contrast, agree on wanting to quit through the episode, and then Philip finds out via listening to the latest tapes of Kimmie's father that said father has just become promoted to head of the CIA's Soviet division. The implication is clear: there's no way the Centre will let him stop being Kimmie's handler NOW. I actually think Claudia was sincere when she said in her first reaction that if experienced spies want to quit, it's probably really time (because that makes sense; if you force people like P & E to stay at these kind of jobs, you heighten the danger of defection to no end), but a direct line to the head of the CIA Soviet division just overwhelmes that. (And it's dependent on "Jim", as Kimmie is unlikely to build that relationship with someone else.)

This is the in universe ploy to keep the premise of the show alive for a season longer, it makes sense, and it offers more, not less good character stuff. Philip considering just destroying the tape and keeping the intel to himself but ultimately not going through with it says several things about Philip right now. He may be sick of the business, but he's also aware of the enormous advantage this particular intel offers, some of that sense of duty is still there, and he's ultimately not about to make such a decision on his lonesome but with his partner. Though he already is aware of what Elizabeth will say. Well, half of it.

Elizabeth in early s1 would just have insisted on handing the tape over. Elizabeth now still feels bound by patriotic duty and is ready to give up her own retirement wish, but she's also unable to stand seeing Philip go under the increasing self loathing the job produces any longer, and thus offers to do the spy business alone (except for the Kimmie part, for obvious reasons), with Philip running the travel agency only. This is why her scene with Tuan is a counterpoint, imo, because otherwise a viewer might believe her believing what she says when she assures Philip (who immediately points out she needs him) that she'll be able to do it alone. Elizabeth's prediction to Tuan - that without a partner, you get caught, killed or under - now looks like a dark prophecy. Of course she could still talk about work - but that's not the same thing as having someone who has your back.

Sidenote: I don't think Philip is going to become a travel agency husband for real, or if so not for long, both for Doylist and Watsonian reasons. The show's not about to let one of their leads solely deal with dissatisfied travellers, and Philip has been chronically unable to let Elizabeth be in danger without assistance for his entire adult life. But I think Elizabeth wanting to try that in order to help both partner and country is a great character moment for her.

Meanwhile, Henry could become the next teen going violent if this continues. Presumably Philip told him he wouldn't be able to go to the elite school because at this point, he was expecting them to relocate to Russia quite soon, but for Henry, it must feel like arbitrary parental cruelty. Paige, with less cause, launched her I'M GOING CHRISTIAN rebellion when feeling her parents were massively unfair to her. Heaven knows what Henry will do, but I hope it will finally give the poor guy more than one line per episode or so.
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