by Josie Kafka
With only one episode left this season, The Americans is all about surprises.
Philip, Elizabeth, and Paige are still reeling from the revelations in “Stingers.” Paige’s demand for the truth was a simple, straightforward one—and one that reflects elements of any child in an abusive home: “Why aren’t we like the people around us? I know this is not normal.” For Paige, though, it’s not a question of pain and emotional manipulation. It’s a question of absence.
Prompted by the Centre’s interest in cultivating a replacement for wayward Jared, Philip and Elizabeth revealed the truth. But I don’t think they really thought through the ramifications. Philip’s and Elizabeth’s neglect of their children means their children have very little reason to be loyal to the family. Paige just might be more loyal to Pastor Tim, and I think she’s certainly more loyal to Jesus, however she understands him.
Even Gabriel and Claudia (welcome back, Claudia!) don’t seem to know what they’re walking into. They aren’t sure about Paige. The Centre nearly gave up the Directorate S program after Jared murdered his family. I can’t picture Paige murdering her parents, but I wonder why Elizabeth and Philip are not considering the parallelism of their life with Jared and his family.
I mention all of this because I was struck by the shot of Henry sitting on the couch, watching TV and playing with his Gameboy, that was our cut-to-credits image:
Elizabeth and Philip neglected their children in favor of being spies. Now they’re neglecting Henry in favor of Paige, whom they are cultivating as a spy. But what about Henry? He’s just down the hall. He’s always around. He must have noticed the weirdness, just as much as Paige. And he continues to connect with Stan. Is Henry the threat no one notices?
The shot of Henry—with his back turned towards his parents, his screens ablaze—mirrors the shot of Martha towards the end of the episode. Earlier in the episode, her back was to Philip while she talked about painting her apartment. But by the end of the episode, she faces Philip, and us, finally ready to admit that she must make a radical decision about both her marriage and her job:
In that case, Philip didn’t know what he was walking into. Hans’s surveillance could only reveal external threats (like Stan) rather than those within (Martha). Next week, will Henry “face” the truth, and his parents? Will Paige? Philip and Elizabeth do not seem to be in control of what they are walking into in any of their current operations.
In that way, they parallel the FBI, who walked in on a (to them) surprising massacre by one mujahedeen against his apparent compatriots. Unlike Henry and Martha, Zadran half-faced the camera, his motives and their outcomes unclear to the FBI agents whose perspective we share:
As with all episodes of this show, “I Am Abassin Zadran” left me unsettled. Knowing how many balls are in the air, and how many of our jugglers are distracted by other operations, I’m on tenterhooks for the season finale.
Josie Kafka reviews The Vampire Diaries, True Detective, Game of Thrones, and various other things that take her fancy. She is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)