Now this is television.
I was going to wait to put this out until later, but I just watched the Americans to wash the taste of The Man in High Castle out of my mouth and I want to talk about it now.
I’m super late to the game, but I only recently got Amazon Prime since I was going to use that to watch “the show that must not be named”. After that proved to be a waste of time, I figured I would check out some of the other shows as well, and it turns out there’s a lot to offer. Not to mention The Americans from FX, which I’ve only heard good things about. What follows is a close watching of the Pilot episode, spoilers and all. You’ve been warned, and I advise you not spoil anything for yourself. This time, it’s worth it.
I enjoyed most of the first episode. If you want to hook someone, this is how you do it. The first ten minutes are exciting, there’s a night fight thrown in there with good choreography, a race against the clock to deliver the guy they catch to a ship bound for Russia, and then a decision about what to do when they don’t make it there in time.
But more than the plot, the characters are what really shine. It’s such a huge step away from the robots in “that other show” I was totally blown away. The acting is convincing and the characters really have high stakes for keeping their secrets close to their chest. Elizabeth and Philip both do a wonderful job portraying their double lives and come off as both strong and vulnerable as they try to figure out how best to manage their marriage and mission.
We’re going to take a minute to talk about the pilot’s, and perhaps the show’s, fatal flaw. Everything else in the show was wonderful except for Elizabeth’s rape.
Once again, writers only use her sexual assault as a plot device. It’s the main device for the first episode, and from what I can guess, it’s not really going to be a big deal for the rest of the show, despite the fact that it obviously defined a big part of her life. Why when you want to make strong female characters does it always have to be overcoming rape? I understand that’s a strong message to send to victims, but women can have so many other problems rather than being assaulted or used for sex. Her parents could have been killed by Americans, her siblings could have been killed, she might have just not liked the guy they picked up and they had a history. They could have been old rivals, the list goes on and on of things that could have garnered the same kind of animosity toward the guy they kidnap rather than he raped her and she wants revenge. It’s a cheap way to give characters conflict because it’s not expanded upon. It’s nice to see her kick the shit out of the guy and take a moral victory before Philip kills him, but once they dump him in the river, there’s this sense that now she’s moved on. She fought and killed the demon and now it’s never going to be an issue. It won’t ever be brought up, it was just a thing that happened that she had to deal with in this episode. From what I understand, it’s usually something people have to deal with for the rest of their lives. Even if she kills the guy who did it, it would be a scar that she would carry on afterward, that’s just the way it works.
Hollywood. Media. Stop doing this. It’s lazy. You’re better than this.
Other than that glaring issue, the show is pretty great. I was impressed by the child actors, they seemed genuine and they weren’t annoying. The violence is visceral without being gory or gratuitous. The world seems to flow, things feel real and consistent at the turn of the 80s. The FBI agent is a nice touch next door to add a foil and some interesting conflict to the story.
In summation, stop writing rape for women as a cheap plot device, and you have a pretty excellent show. I plan on watching more, unlike another show I still have some lingering resentment for. I give it 4 sleeper agents out of 5.