“We love you very much.”
In the world of The Americans, trust can keep you tethered to your humanity, but it can also lead to your demise if you aren’t careful. The characters in this show are constantly walking on a thin sheet of ice, off balance and unsure about whether their next step will send them plunging into freezing water. It’s a precarious situation to be in when you’re in the spy world, but it’s also what makes these characters so compelling to watch; when personal and professional tangle and become inseparable, there comes a time when you simply have to make both work. One little push, though, and it can all come crashing down.
“Stingers” is, in and of itself, an episode that intends to keep us off balance. It progresses several other storylines–Kimberly’s, Zinaida’s, Nina’s–but it holds back on the major bombshell until about halfway through the episode. It’s a brilliantly structured piece of work because its centerpiece is both unexpected and inevitable, something that the show’s been building up to throughout its last few episodes. It is one of the most important scenes thus far in the series, and the actors, writers, and director all nail it.
Trust and allegiance come to the forefront during this brilliant scene, and there’s a clear shift in power now from parents to child. What’s interesting to note is that this situation is grounded in “normal” family situations: the kid grows older and matures, and he or she desperately wants to be treated like an adult while the parents attempt to keep the kid sheltered. Paige is acting similar to how we’d normally expect a growing teenager to act, but what’s different is that she now holds much more power and influence than most people her age do. What complicates things is the fact that her parents weren’t just keeping her sheltered from the outside world; they were keeping her sheltered from themselves.
It’s even more interesting how, in the scenes following the confession, Philip and Elizabeth are closer than they’ve ever been. The issue with Paige has divided them throughout the series, but here, they’re united in being torn between family and country. I feel like I praise Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell every week, but man, do they deserve it. They’re both amazing in this episode, and what makes them both such great actors is their ability to communicate so much with words unsaid. The look that Philip and Elizabeth give each other before they tell Paige is one instance of this wordless communication, and it’s so well handled by Rhys and Russell. In addition, Holly Taylor should be praised for her work in this episode, from the confession scene to her call to Pastor Tim to that final scene with Stan.
And what a final scene that is. The tension is so palpable to the point of being overwhelming, and we can see just how much responsibility has fallen directly on Paige’s shoulders. The balance of power is shifting, a major revelation has been dropped, and this show continues to be one of the best on TV.
-I love the framing of that final shot, with Stan through the window.
-It frustrated me so much that I wasn’t able to make out what was being said on that recording Philip and Elizabeth were listening to.
-Seems like this was all just a ploy by Paige to get her parents to let her stay home from school.
– “Yes, Paige, we are aliens.” I really would like to see how this conversation plays out.
-3 more episodes left this season. Can’t wait. With all these thematic ideas surrounding trust and loyalty and whatnot, it’s actually pretty similar to another show that’s ending its season–and series, for that matter–soon: Justified.
Photo credit: FX, The Americans