In one of the “darkest” episodes of The Americans so far this season, we were treated to a gut-wrenching “tour de force” performance by Mathew Rhys as Philip. This is the reel being presented “For Your Consideration” to the Emmy Panel, and it’s easy to see why. This was a simply phenomenal performance and the episode (although it involved many other excellent performances) belong to Rhys.
This episode shows Philip breaking down bit by bit, casualty by casualty, and we are on the edge of our seats throughout — especially in the final moments, when he confronts the clergyman at the church Paige has been attending.
The overarching theme this season is about the type of people that Elizabeth and Philip are turning into. “Martial Eagle” opens with Philip and Elizabeth making their long planned assault on the Contra training base, a mission in which they expect to have some casualties, but not as many as actually result. Philip kills a young American solider who stumbles across him and refuses to stay quiet. We see that the real septic truck driver dies from exposure to the cold by being left in the forest too long with no protection.
Philip has already killed an innocent programmer for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and something snaps. The look on Philip’s face as he sits in Church, listening to the Sermon, looking up at Jesus is riveting. We are going a bit down the rabbit hole, and no one knows if we’re going to go down further or come up for air.
Philip rages against Paige (even rips out pages from the Bible), totally loses it with her ( as she finds the church and her religion so comforting now), and continues to show his rage against the minister at Paige’s church and at Revend Tim’s God.
Last week I was relieved that Philip had decided not to play that horrid tape for Martha, but she does not escape listening to it this week. Hard to know at first if Philip is playing it to fill her with the same self loathing that is consuming him; or if he has another objective; perhaps the answer is…both. Philip wants to speed things up and is so impatient that if this is the only way he can think of to make that happen. It’s a difficult scene to watch as Martha has become more likeable as the series has progressed. I was genuinely upset that she had to listen to this tape and of course, it has the desired result of her offering to help Philip further.
When Elizabeth attends an AA meeting, you could have imagined she had found a way to attend therapy of a kind, but of course, she has an ulterior motive too. She chats up her “sponsor,” who works for Northrop, in an effort to get information regarding the stealth technology from her.
We do know Elizabeth has problems too, and we see how angry she is about Paige having given money to the church, but she thinks Paige has had it too easy. And like a scene from Mommy Dearest, wakes her up, and tells her to clean the fridge, mop the floor, and fold the laundry.
Philip wanders between rage (tearing up Paige’s Bible” and despair (sitting on a bench by the Boardwalk in his “True Detective” disguise) until he shows up at the Church at the end and dons his black leather gloves. The scene is terrifying as we see “that “ face and realize what is probably coming. Philip is nearly all lost now and so warped that we’re not really certain of his mental condition.
Philip doesn’t believe in the existence of an afterlife or in any of the concepts that Paige now turns to for comfort. He needs to find an outlet for all this anger and fury, but, instead, he finds the gentle, patient clergyman, who speaks to him about God’s forgiveness and anger management. The clergyman does well, and seems to have broken the spell Philip is under, and he walks out of the church without incident.
Worthy of Mention
- The episode gives a shared story credit to Oliver North, an infamous figure associated with the Iran-contra scandal. Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg reached out to North to get some insider detail about the operation, and he wound up giving him so much, they felt he had earned the credit for this one (which was otherwise written by Tracey Scott Wilson)
- Stan’s comment “No one ever imagines they will betray their country” without knowing that he will do so in the future.
- The irony of Stan interrogating the stealth scientists for secrets the KGB might have when they already have their hooks into him, and will soon be able to tap him for his insider information.
- Gaad and Arkady finally meet and it’s a nice scene between the respective bosses. Gaad make his big play and it seems effective, but Arkady is a cool customer and gives nothing away. I think we all want to see That Walton Boy come back for another Season though so….
- Dr. Ruth Westheimer was heard on the radio as Sandra Beeman is packing her bags for her “weekend affair away.” Her radio show was syndicated in 1982.
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