TV Review: ‘The Americans’ Stays Strong With “Operation Chronicle”

“Operation Chronicle” gets underway and lives hang in the balance on last night’s The Americans.

All season long Phillip and Elizabeth have been dealing with issues of trust after discovering the brutal murder of their colleagues in a hotel room. The relationships the agents must rely on to accomplish their missions are all, in their core, uncertain. One bad day or slight weakness is all it took to turn these people to the Jennings’ cause, and it’s all it could take to derail their whole operation. Training and disguises can only go so far, until you need someone to get you in the front door. As such, Phillip and Elizabeth are always one step away from discovery, capture, or even death.

Operation Chronicle continues this course, with Elizabeth racing to Jared after a cryptic message from the missing Kate. We know Kate has already been dispatched by Lerrick, who’s on a vendetta to take out Phillip and Elizabeth. It doesn’t help matters that Elizabeth has so many questions about the Centre’s decisions. Why was Kate meeting with Jared as herself? Why did they choose to reveal what his parents were? But orders are orders, and as Elizabeth sends Jared to the cabin where she recuperated after being shot, we watch Lerrick just a few steps behind her all the way. The tension in these scenes goes largely unresolved as we watch Lerrick hunt for them.

Arkady steps up his plan to get his hands on the ECHO program using Nina. Nina’s emerging as a quiet kind of heroine on this show, especially after seeing the bruises and cuts on her face. They’re obviously there to shock Stan into committing treason, but when she later admits to Oleg how they hurt, it stings him and us. Arkady has quite the ingenious plan, really, and it looks as if it just might work. Either way, I’m rooting for Nina to outsmart both sides and get out with that envelope of cash Oleg gives her. He’s surprised me with how much he really seems to care about her. It creates a dramatic love triangle, especially with Stan woundedly accepting his wife’s decision to move in with another man.

Of course, while all of this is going down, the Centre still wants to accumulate as much “Stealth” intel as they can. Elizabeth can hardly contain her frustration at how much in the dark she and her husband are. Still, together they appeal to Fred as a family, trying to get him to visit a factory that produces a special paint for stealth aircraft to procure a sample. Fred’s been another question mark in a long line of them, but it works and he agrees to give it a shot.

On the lesser end of the hour, The Americans seems to be struggling now with how best to use Henry and Paige. After Henry’s weird video game home intrusion thing, he gets a quick little monologue about Star Trek. It’s Paige who’s been causing her parents the most problems of late, with her desire for faith or her desire to just drive them crazy. When Elizabeth is readying to run out the door, Paige goes into pouting mode since she planned on her mother helps her pack for the Pennsylvania trip. Later, she tries to listen in on Phillip and Elizabeth’s phone conversation, but it doesn’t work out too well. She’s always had some kind of suspicion something was up with her parents, and for good reason. Their lie about clients in Phoenix just sounded made up on the spot. And it’s been clear this season that the Jennings children are suffering as their parents are pulled away more and more by the spy game.

I cannot emphasize enough at how good of a second season The Americans has been giving us. Aside from the kid stuff, there’s been not one wasted moment in any episode. The creative team has done a fantastic job slowly amping up the tension and stakes to a breaking point that promises an explosive season finale.

PS. I’m still trying to erase the image of Clark (Philip) and Martha disposing of that condom. It may never leave my brain.

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