The Americans “Pastor Tim” Review (4×02)

23 Mar


“I’m not who I was.”

One of the strengths of a great show like The Americans is its ability to develop its characters, to constantly have past experiences in mind as it crafts their present day storylines. In the quote above, we see a Nina who has come to terms with who she used to be and who she is now, and because of that, we can look at her note smuggling decision in a new light. This is slightly different from Philip and Elizabeth, both of whom I feel are still struggling to work through any connections–or disconnects–between past and present. However, bit by bit, things are coming together for them even as everything seems to be unraveling. Overall, the show tends to find these quiet moments of connection among the chaos, and that’s why it resonates so much for me.

Take, for instance, the final scene in the garage between Philip and Elizabeth. It’s a subtly beautiful moment that occurs even as the pieces continue to crash down around them, even as they acknowledge that they’re in trouble. The camera pulls back in a way that evokes a feeling of entrapment, but what makes the image more complex is the fact that Philip has his arm around Elizabeth, the fact that he’s comforting her after she tells him about her mother’s death. Here are two people who care about each other very much, sharing a moment together even though there’s still a ton of shit they have to work through. Philip states that he’s looking for something good in all of this. Maybe it’s a moment like this.

At the same time, there’s the recurring idea of “tainted love” throughout the episode (in reference to Philip killing the airport security guard as a woman listens to “Tainted Love”). You can look at Nina and Boris/Anton in that manner, or maybe you can look at Philip and Elizabeth that way. Taking the latter two further, you can read their flashbacks/nightmares–Philip and the bullies, Elizabeth and the Timoshev image–as the past tainting the present in a way. They love Paige, but their past experiences will never go away. Those experiences will continue to shape certain decisions and mindsets, and the show wants to delve into the processes they utilize to work through that pain. Also, another interesting way to read the phrase “tainted love”: perhaps Philip’s love for Paige taints his work. After all, he can kill the airport security guard, but he hesitates when it comes to Pastor Tim.

Overall, I love the thematic richness of the show, and I love that it’s not afraid to let its revelations unravel rapidly. The sheer amount of things that bubble to the surface in this episode is certainly more than it seems, and that’s the mark of the writers nailing subtlety. Its big moments have immense weight, but they don’t feel big just because.



-Another reference to tainted love: the glanders vial itself is definitely going to hang over the season, and even though it hasn’t been released yet, it sure is tainting everything going on with our main characters; they can’t seem to get rid of it.

-I continue to very much enjoy Dylan Baker and his character’s dark wit.

-Putting Henry and Stan together just makes so much sense, and their conversation in this episode is a nice moment of levity in an hour full of tension. However, why do I get the sense that Henry might know more than he lets on? We tend to forget about him in the background, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the writers have something planned out for him later on.

Photo credit: FX, The Americans

2 Responses to “The Americans “Pastor Tim” Review (4×02)”

  1. Justin March 24, 2016 at 2:14 pm #

    That would be a twist if it turns out Henry isn’t as clueless as he seems.

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