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[personal profile] oyceter
Philip and Elizabeth Jennings look like your normal suburban couple, complete with two kids and a sedan, but they're actually Russian spies. Things get complicated when a counterintelligence FBI agent moves in across the street, especially since Cold War tensions are only getting worse.

So I love spy stuff, but there's a serious dearth of awesome female spies who don't play second fiddle to their male counterparts. I was hoping this series would be an exception, since Keri Russell is billed as the lead, but so far, it doesn't look very promising. I love her character, who is ruthless, incredibly devoted to her mission, and pretty badass, but the narrative keeps undercutting her and giving more weight to her husband and to Agent Beeman. Boo.

It does have less gratuitous female nudity than Game of Thrones (I realize this is a low bar), but we're introduced to Elizabeth when she's seducing someone for spy purposes, and she's repeatedly put in more sexualized situations than her husband is.

On the plus side, there are multiple female characters, and I'm pretty sure the show passes the Bechdel test in each episode.

Spoilers (TW for rape and dubiously consensual situations)

I REALLY wish the writers left out the rape in Elizabeth's backstory. She already has to have sex with various guys to extract information from them while also being caught in a marriage of convenience; did they have to add that as well? Not just that, Elizabeth clearly isn't that into Philip in the beginning episodes, which I don't blame her for, since he gropes her and basically tries to get her to be physically intimate with him by appealing to their having to act like husband and wife. Then they have her beat the crap out of her rapist but then write it so that Philip is the one who is all rageful because he's just discovered the guy raped his wife so many years ago in spy training, and Philip is the one who ends up killing him. The Jennings go to dispose of the body, and at this point, Elizabeth basically has gratitude sex with Philip for killing aforementioned rapist while I am EXTREMELY GROSSED OUT.

I was totally willing to buy dysfunctional, dark spy romance with the husband in love with his wife while they're in a marriage of convenience, but not like this. Even worse, I guess Elizabeth starts having romantic feelings for him due to all of the above? Because I completely do not buy her falling for Philip when they are so politically at odds: she is the true-blue KGB agent while he is thinking of defecting.

Then there's her past lover Gregory, who is the one guy she doesn't sleep with on screen. This would be nice, except the character is black, and I can't help thinking that played into it somehow. Of course, Gregory basically exists so Elizabeth can dump him to show that she's falling more for Philip, and so that Philip can have jealous rages.

I was also very put off by Philip going to beat up a random guy in the mall who hit on his 13-year-old daughter; it reads like the show is making his some avenger of women (esp. with him killing Elizabeth's rapist) and like his daughter and his wife's pain is there for his manly angst.

The show also rewards him for being less dedicated to Russia than Elizabeth is. When she agrees at the end of ep. 4 that they were right to act more moderately like he wanted to, instead of doing what she had wanted to do, I broke up with the show.

So. I do like the spy stuff and all the 1980s stuff, but the gender and nationality stuff is too off-putting for me right now. Anyone knows if it gets better in this regard?

Date: 2014-03-19 03:53 am (UTC)
chaila: Close up of Irina Derevko, and her gesturing hand. (irina)
From: [personal profile] chaila
This is exactly how far I've made it so far too. I'm going to try to press on a little further though, because I have a friend who normally has similar opinions to me who's current with the show and really enjoying it.

I HATED THE PILOT. Ugh. I didn't originally check out the show when it first aired because of the pilot. The combo of her using sex (and, of course, a blow job!) to get info + rape backstory + the total skeeziness of Philip's rage somehow being this big turning point in their relationship = NO. And what I think bugs me most, five eps or so in, is that, in the overall scheme of the show, I don't know that the show thinks their relationship *is* that dark. Like if it really were treated as dark and screwed up, I think I'd like it more, but the show kind of wants it to be partly that, and partly some kind of real romance? Like suddenly Elizabeth is having genuine feelings for him (lol no) and the show focuses a lot on how events affect the relationship, but what I wanted was something a lot more twisted and complicated, where Elizabeth really, genuinely cares more about the mission than him? And given the situation, it should be more twisted and complicated? IDK it's this weird combo of spy shenanigans and high stakes and...typical relationship drama. Which I guess is supposed to be the appeal, but I don't buy it.

It doesn't help that I am 10,000 times more interested in Gregory, and am 10,000% sure that will not go anywhere good. I'll eat my hat if he survives season 1.

I do think it gets a little bit better in regard to Elizabeth not always being the subject of the sexual politics, and their continuing political conflict over Russian loyalties? But I haven't gotten far enough to see how this plays out long-term.

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