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The Americans Review: "Safe House" (Episode 1.09)

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<i>The Americans</i> Review: "Safe House" (Episode 1.09)

It used to be that if you were in the opening credits of a TV show, you were safe. No matter how much peril characters were put in, viewers knew they would live to see another episode.

Shows including The Sopranos and Lost changed all of that. We live in an era where, unless you’re Don Draper or Olivia Pope, pretty much anyone can be killed off at any time. And there has been certainly plenty of bloodshed already on The Americans. But still, killing off Agent Chris Amador (Maximilano Hernadez) in “Safe House” shocked me.

Even as I sat there wondering how Philip and Elizabeth were going to handle this situation since now Amador knew what they looked like, I still somehow thought he would survive the hour. It was a rather clever bait-and-switch by the show. All this time I’ve been worried about Nina and Martha when they manage to endure hour after hour.

I’m going to miss Amador on the show. There’s still so much that could have been done with his character. And he was often the comic relief the series desperately needs. Was his death necessary to push Stan over the edge? Perhaps. But Stan has been on shaky emotional ground since the beginning of the series. I’m going to fall on the side of “killed off too soon.” I already knew how high the stakes are on The Americans; I didn’t need Amador’s death to remind me.

“Safe House” was full of misunderstanding and miscommunications. Things effortlessly escalated because, once again, the right hand didn’t know what the left hand was doing. Amador confronts Phillip outside Martha’s apartment. Clearly he’s driven by jealously, but he’s also a little suspicious of Martha given her skittish behavior by the file cabinets in the last episode. But he’s obviously not there in any official FBI capacity because when he goes missing no one thinks, “Oh that’s right, he was staking out Martha’s apartment.” If Philip had refused to go with him, could Amador really have done anything about that?
Philip shouldn’t have spent the night at Martha’s but he did, perhaps because he now only has an empty hotel room to return to. No one in the KGB even knows that Elizabeth and Philip have Amador. When Arkady doesn’t go jogging as planned (blame a microwaved potato gone wrong), Stan kidnaps Vlad, who claims he knows nothing. And he really doesn’t know anything. His death in the episode’s final seconds was the most graphic death to date (blame the half-eaten hamburger falling out of his mouth). And we see the scariest side of Stan. He lulls the guy into a sense of calm, feeds him, asks him if he wants a soda, and then shoots him in the back of his head. Noah Emmerich was simply fantastic in this episode. He’s got the market cornered on eerie calm. The calmer he is, the more menacing he sounds.

The hour kicks off with Philip and Elizabeth telling their children that they are taking a break from one another and that Philip is moving out temporarily. It was a heart-wrenching scene and one that could have been lifted straight from a family drama. That’s what continues to amaze me about The Americans—there’s such a believable story about marriage and family amid all the espionage and mayhem.

Now both sides have committed killings that weren’t supposed to happen and were not sanctioned in any official capacity. The FBI has also made finding who killed Amador a “top priority.” How this all plays out should propel the series to its first season finale.

Other thoughts on “Safe House”:
• Most DVR recordings cut off the final minutes of the episode. Those were crucial minutes to miss.
• The Dorothy Hamill haircut was definitely my least favorite Keri Russell look.
• “Clark, I’m in love with you. I’ve waited my whole life for you.” Seriously Martha. You need to get a life. Is there some self-help book we can send her?
• It was rather brazen for the FBI to discuss killing Arkady at the Beeman’s party and equally brazen for Philip and Elizabeth to show their faces to so many FBI agents. Both things didn’t really make sense.
• I found it interesting that suddenly Elizabeth and Philip cared about Amador’s suffering. They have no problem killing anyone but don’t like to see anyone die a prolonged, painful death? Since when do they care about the enemy?

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