‘The Americans’ Defies All Expectations In A Must-See Episode

05.05.16 3 years ago 4 Comments

There’s no dialogue for the first five minutes of last night’s incredible episode of The Americans, “The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears.” (You’d think that would be the best episode title for a prestige drama ever, but nope, last season’s “Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?” has it beat.) There doesn’t need to be. The silence speaks volumes.

Martha and Clarke, er, Philip wake up, she turns away from him. They have breakfast with Gabriel. Martha studies a jar of peanut butter for a peculiar amount of time, like a death row prisoner savoring her last meal before taking that long walk to the chair. The three of them leave while the sun’s still down, to an otherwise abandoned runway where an airplane is waiting to take her, and only her, to Cuba, then Prague, then finally, Russia, her new home. Right as Philip is about to say something, Martha interrupts him. “Don’t be alone, Clarke,” she instructs him. It’s one last #PoorMartha for the road.

This was the 47th episode of The Americans. I should know better than to expect Martha’s plane to blow up while its taking off, or for someone to shoot her in the back of the head, because it’s not that kind of show (except when it is). The only explosions in “The Magic of David Copperfield V” — which sets aside the Martha Death Watch (although she’s as good as dead; if she returns to the United States, she’ll be guilty of treason), in favor of showing the effect this “simple” secretary had on so many lives — are Elizabeth and Philip’s fight over EST, and Martha, and Gregory, and so many other “agents” they’ve lost, and my jaw hitting the floor when “Seven Months Later” came on-screen.

Narrative time jumps can be a lazy crutch for writers when they’ve dug too deep of a hole to climb back out (True Blood, Masters of Sex, and Desperate Housewives are guilty of this), but there’s nothing careless about The Americans‘ decision to leap forward over half a year. (The transition from Copperfield’s Statue of Liberty to the mini golf version was an inspired choice by director Matthew Rhys. I wonder which wig he wears behind the camera?) It’s a pivot. If the first eight episodes of the season were about Nina and Martha, then the final five move back to the Jennings and Stan. What a relief.

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