Of all “The Americans” episodes in this excellent Season 2, “Behind the Red Door” might best encapsulate the passion, fear and danger of espionage. It’s hard to remember sometimes that these are people who have literally given up everything for a cause — and that makes them some of the most fascinating and dangerous people on the planet.
Even in this fictional version, it’s fascinating to watch them try to change the world.
The most dangerous game
Philip and Elizabeth are finally ready to target Marshall Larick, the military guy who they suspect may have killed Emmett and Leanne. Unfortunately for them, Larick is both highly intelligent and rather angry about this whole being-blackmailed-by-the-communists-because-he’s-gay thing.
While Larick is quite convincing about not being the killer, he also lets slip that he’s involved with the training of Nicaraguan Contra leaders on U.S. soil. It’s safe to say that the Soviet Union wants to know what’s going on here — training foreign, anti-Communist fighters on U.S. soil is a big no-no in both international diplomacy and internal PR, after all.
Because of this, Philip and Elizabeth are told to keep on Larick, even if it means letting a dangerous man possibly learn something about their family.
But what about the actual murderer of the other undercover family? That’s still quite unknown, but Claudia provides a clue for the next move. It seems that devoted, righteous Claudia has broken the rules just like everyone else — she had a lover, and she told that person enough that he might have supplied information to the wrong people.
Assuming Philip and Elizabeth stay alive long enough (and don’t get sucked into studying the primitive Internet), they may have to destroy Claudia to find the killer.
Stan struggles, not realizing he’s already caught in the net
Stan Beeman is an intelligent, upright and hard-working man. He’s the kind of person who beats the bad guys by always staying one step ahead. Stan is pretty much the definition of the crime-fighting hero.
That’s probably why he doesn’t even realize he’s caught in the espionage net, even while he struggles to get free.
Literally everyone is playing Stan at this point. Oleg is extorting information in exchange for Nina’s safety. Nina is passing along secrets to her bosses in her own tense game of spycraft. Agent Gaad is beginning to hint that he wants to pass blame to his underling. Even that nice Jennings family across the street considers him a source.
With all of this happening, why is a man as smart as Stan running around with a look of befuddlement on his face? That’s probably because none of this makes sense to him. Stan could bring down the Ku Klux Klan from the inside because that’s a group focused on visible, palpable hate. But the FBI agent is failing miserably when up against sneaky people working for quiet ideals and desperate people trying to preserve their own lives.
The poor guy doesn’t even see the impossible trap they have him in.
Another amazing, complicated woman
There’s a lot of commentary out there about how women are portrayed in the media. Movies are often seen as the worst offenders, but TV also takes some abuse for not showing women as complex, driven and three-dimensional characters.
But if every TV show were like “The Americans,” there would be no problem. All of the characters in this show are beautiful, living creations, while the women are quite simply phenomenal. We get to know another of them this week in Aimee Carrero’s Lucia.
A Sandinista operative loosely affiliated with the KGB, Lucia starts off with a combination of Elizabeth’s passion and Nina’s air of vulnerability. This could be nothing more than a throwaway role in “The Americans,” plying a congressional aide with sex and drugs for access. Yet somehow she uses only a few minutes of screen-time to create yet another female character that lives and breathes and makes the audience care.
When ordered to kill her “boyfriend” to hide any involvement in espionage, Lucia could have taken Elizabeth’s advice and walked away. A drug overdose, fake or not, pretty much takes care of itself. But passion like Lucia’s isn’t just for a cause. A woman like that will have passion and devotion to every aspect of her life.
She could never just walk away from the man. Instead, she speaks of the things worth dying for and holds him as he passes. It is heartbreaking and real. Lucia is a woman and an amazing addition to “The Americans.”