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The Americans – S5E10 – Darkroom

Previously on The Americans, “IHOP”

Images: FX

The last time I remember being so touched by an episode of The Americans, Philip was yanking Elizabeth’s teeth out in the basement. “Darkroom” had far less physical pain, but my heart felt twisted and pulled all the same.

Dark Rooms Reveal…

A main tenant of this show is identity. Who we really are versus the artifices we assume. Philip and Elizabeth unmask (i.e. take off their terrible glasses) and come together as their real selves in a dark room and get married as Russians. Elizabeth and Philip remove their wedding bands. Mikhail and Nadezhda exchange new ones. Despite the many people they have slept with since they’ve been together, they are promised to only one another. It’s interesting to have two atheists (one resolute and one questioning) wed in such a religious ceremony, but we understand their faith in their union transcends their lack of belief in God. When they get home, they place their new bands in a safe, turn off the light and resume their assumed identities. But now, they seem lighter, despite the darkness.

This show is not afraid to linger. When done right, as it was here, it is a beautiful thing. It gave us the chance to absorb the depth of emotion subtly expressed by their two leads. The small smiles and soft looks mean so much after seasons of furrowed brows and drawn faces. We can appreciate the resonance of the ceremony, despite the simple surroundings and street clothes. The camera gives weight to the importance and asks us to ponder the symbolism.

…Too Much

Paige’s consistently troubled face has had many of us rolling our eyes. We’ve long since lost our empathy for this wayward teen. This episode started out no different. She played spy on Pastor Tim and didn’t like what she found out. She conveys this to her parents and they go into problem solving mode. Get the Centre to find Pastor Tim an offer he can’t refuse. But work your daughter so she’s the one who chooses his fate. She feels a sense of ownership and control (despite her lack of both) and you get rid of a long running problem. What’s a little more manipulation when you’ve already done so much? Elizabeth just sees this as a job well done. We may have raised our eyebrows at the Jennings’ parenting choices, but if it stops Paige’s whining….

Fast forward to the last scene. Paige’s “decision” to offer Pastor Tim a job in Europe has won her access to the coveted basement. Her parents efficiently go about turning the dark room into a darkroom and expose more of their true spy selves to their daughter. Nice. We see what you’re doing, show.

What we didn’t see or expect was the impact of seeing those words about Paige on the page. Neither did Philip or Elizabeth. In this one scene, Paige becomes someone our hearts go out to and Philip and Elizabeth are parents. Just parents.

The Morozovs were a nice mirror for this last scene with the Jennings. Elizabeth and Philip see the effects of Pasha’s bullying through the worried eyes of his parents. It feels deplorable and our hearts go out to Morozovs (even Alexei), but the Jennings handle them as expertly as their mission dictates. Maybe Pastor Tim’s words bringing home a little reality is just the tip of the karma iceberg.

The Rest

A lot happened in this episode, but the last fifteen minutes eclipsed whatever came before. Here are some vague recollections:

  • Paige sticks up for her younger brother to save him from her burden. But Henry would definitely turn them in. He’s a capitalist.
  • Oleg and his parents have a lovely (silent) dinner. Just them and all the good food in Russia.
  • Philip is still worried about Renee. And maybe a little jealous. Maybe more than a little.
  • Stan will likely be spending some time in public bathroom stalls (remember the one he ripped apart?). I’d just quit.
  • Philip goes to EST. “Enlightenment is… accepting you are the machine.” This leads him to arrange the wedding and marry the machine.
  • The Rezidentura is back!

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About Mallika Chakravarti (89 Articles)
Mallika is a digital marketer, yoga teacher and nutritionist. She spends her fun time writing, podcasting, consuming vast amounts of media and wishing she could fly. Mallika can currently be found thinking of something else.
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