Monday, January 19, 2015

The Americans: Operation Chronicle Review


We Are Not Our Parents...

Given how excellent and intense The Americans has been, I was a bit surprised to find Operation Chronicle a bit more quiet.  However, given that the season finale is up next, perhaps this is the calm before the storm.  It certainly plays that way, as we get a dangerous threat coming closer to everyone.  Operation Chronicle wasn't a bad Americans episode, simply because there hasn't been one.  However, minus a few shocking surprises involving other characters and a cold and calculating menace following our leads, the episode felt a bit, well, again, quiet.

Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) goes to get Jared Connors (Owen Campbell) to safety from Andrew Larrick (Lee Tergensen), whom the Jennings now know is back and out for blood, having already killed Kate and George, the Centre's messaging service.  Her late-nigh flight causes tension with Paige (Holly Taylor), as Elizabeth had promised to help her pack for her upcoming protest field trip with the church Paige is involved with (seriously, I never went to a church that protested nuclear weapons and never heard of one growing up, but I digress).  Paige makes the most overt effort yet to uncover what her parents are up to, listening in on their phone conversation, but Philip (Matthew Rhys) is fully aware of her actions, sternly warning her off the phone or else.

Elizabeth also tells or confirms to Jared all she knows about his parents, and he is somewhat shocked but appears aware that Emmett and Leann were not whom they said they were.  So far they have been keeping one step ahead of Larrick, but he is slowly coming closer to catching up with them, with his years of training behind him.   

Martha (Alison Wright), meanwhile is proving much more valuable to Clark than he thought.  She provides confidential files to him to show how lax security is at her FBI office, and while Clark is pleased he also worries that her brazen behavior could put her (and by extension, him) in danger.  She tells him she loves him and knows about the risks, the laxity of the office...and of Clark's toupee.  She also subtly suggests that they may have children, but Clark puts a kibosh on that right quick.

Finally, Stan Beeman finds himself in a dangerous, no-win situation.  Using Nina (Annet Mahendru) as their lure, Arkady (Lev Gorn) shows up at their safe house with a badly injured Nina, saying Beeman has a choice: either give them the information about Echo, part of the Stealth program the Soviets are desperate to take, or Stan's mistress will be sent to Moscow for trial and execution.

What menace comes from Operation Chronicle comes from the cat-and-mouse game between the Jennings and Larrick.  These experiences Soviet spies, who have faced many deadly adversaries before, are genuinely frightened of this Navy SEAL, showing that gays in the military might not be a bad idea. 

The episode was shrewd in not making the Larrick/Jared chase a central part of the story but in pacing it out bit by bit, showing that Larrick was methodical and patient in dealing with his adversaries (and thus making him more dangerous). 

We also got a bit of 80s nostalgia as Henry Jennings (Keidrich Sellati) plays movie critic.  He is not looking forward to a  particular sequel because the first one was terrible, though he does concede that on the television show, they did have Khan, and he was pretty good, so perhaps the sequel could be good.   That was a nice touch. 

I think we see in Operation Chronicle the difficulty of being the second generation.  We have Jared struggling with the legacy of his family and Paige attempting to find something to guide her.  Even Martha comes into play, as she wants children of her own.  Children are haunting the characters and The Americans excels at mixing the family with the professional world they occupy.

Now, I liked Operation Chronicle and found nothing really wrong with it.  However, this is the first one that felt like a bit of filler for me.  Again, that's not a deal-breaker, but my enthusiasm wasn't as strong for this as for others.   


Next Episode: Echo

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