Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Americans: Gregory Review


Soviets In The Hood...

The private lives of our KBG agents come under close scrutiny in Gregory, where agents alive and dead discover that the human heart is the most inscrutable part of life.

Robert, the KGB agent who had been stabbed in the Pilot, died from his injuries.  The FBI discovers Robert's true identity and something else: he had a wife and child that no one knew about. 

Among those who didn't know this part of Robert's life are Philip and Elizabeth Jennings (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell), who worked with him in the field of espionage.  The news comes to them in a most shocking manner: a coded message sent by 'Robert' from beyond the grave is really from his widow, Joyce Ramirez (Audrey Esparza).  Joyce, completely unaware of Robert's real identity, though he might have been a drug-dealer and that his disappearance was related to his criminal activity.

Now the Jennings and the FBI are in a race to get at Joyce, who is still oblivious to the truth.  In order to aid the Russians, Elizabeth goes to an actual American collaborator, Gregory (Derek Luke), to use his network and find Joyce.  Now, Gregory and Elizabeth have been having an actual romantic relationship in all these years, of which Philip I think knows of but which is now starting to really bother him.  Moreover, for the first time in her life Elizabeth too is starting to see this as an actual extramarital affair, not a separate relationship from her cover.  Gregory doesn't see it that way, but Elizabeth is starting to pull away.

FBI agents Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich) and Chris Amador (Maximiliano Hernandez) put her under surveillance over their objection.  While they want to pick up her immediately, their superior Frank Gaad (Richard Thomas) thinks she might lead them to more agents.  The FBI, however, didn't count on Grannie.

The new minder may appear all sweet and sugar, but Claudia (Margo Martindale) is as cold and ruthless as they come.  She now is going to head up the Jennings' operations, giving orders about what to do with Joyce.  Gregory and his crew manage to take her from right under the noses of the FBI, and now the interplay between Gregory, Elizabeth, and Philip start endangering the mission about what to do with Joyce and her child, Oscar.

Stan, meanwhile, is coming close to putting things together about how black men are apparently in league with the Soviets, but he doesn't have all the pieces.  The Jennings don't want to kill Joyce (let alone Oscar), so a solution is cooked up: spirit Joyce and her son to Cuba (where the Puerto Rican Joyce won't have difficulty with the language), and perhaps soon her family could join her. 

The Jennings are relieved, and now their domestic situation begins to clear up.  Philip is angry at Elizabeth for opening up to Gregory (in more ways than one) while remaining closed to him, but now Elizabeth does open up: about her past, about how she and Gregory came to be, and how perhaps she now has started feeling that what she and Philip have may be more than a front.

Unknown to them, but under Grannie's orders, Joyce and the baby do not go to Cuba.  Instead, Oscar is taken to Robert's parents in Mother Russia, while Joyce is found dead of an apparent heroin overdose.

Gregory is a great combination of both spy caper and domestic drama.  We learn about Elizabeth as a person, and the complex, even contradictory feelings within her.  She at first gives herself to Gregory (whom she met at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and recruited there...proving that the SCLC was a Communist front) because he too was a True Believer.  This was what attracted her to Gregory, versus her assigned husband.  However, as she has grown as a mother and wife, things are starting to get confused.  Russell has hit her stride in this portrait of a woman loyal to the State but also wondering whether she now has to give up her children and what she has for those pleasures of the flesh.

We also learn about Philip.  Yes, he can still take down people quickly, but he also is a deeply wounded man who yearns for that connection Elizabeth has with Gregory.  Whether he has fallen in love with Elizabeth or has grown so accustomed to her face I cannot say for sure.  However, Rhys has this seemingly effortless mixture of tough strength and intense sensitivity.  We see this when we first see Philip with his daughter Paige at a diner, where she is reading Girl's World Magazine with Nancy McKeon (Jo from The Facts of Life) on the cover.  The tips about boys on the cover so horrify him that he freaks out at the idea that his girl could become a woman.  He is not just a spy, but a father.

Rhys and Luke have a great scene where they confront each other about Elizabeth.  In many ways, it is the classic struggle between the husband and the lover, who both claim a woman but who now may not know whom she truly loves. 

Gregory is the debut story for Martindale, and she is sensational as Claudia (I prefer Grannie myself).  She is tough and direct, masking her evil with a veneer of kindness.  As Joyce is being taken from the Jennings into Grannie's charge, I said to myself, "I don't trust her."  My fears were justified, and Martindale uses that mix of outward kindness with interior ruthlessness brilliantly.  The end of Gregory is perhaps not surprising, but still so terribly, terribly sad.

The Americans continues to build up and up, and this episode is so well-acted, written, and Gregory does well both story-wise and with character-building that I think I can say I am a real fan of this show and hope it keeps going as well as it has been.

I tested as "Elizabeth". 
Would have preferred Philip...


Next Episode: In Control

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