TV Review: The Americans 4.2 “Pastor Tim”

The Americans
Season 4, Episode 2 – “Pastor Tim”
Directed by Chris Long
Written by Joel Fields & Joe Weisberg
Starring: Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Lev Gorn, Annet Mahendru, Susan Misner, Costa Ronin, Keidrich Sellati, Holly Taylor, Richard Thomas, Dylan Baker, Alison Wright, Noah Emmerich, and Frank Langella
Air date: Wednesday, March 23, 2015, 10pm

“‹The Jennings are in trouble.

The specter of death has always lingered around the edges of The Americans, but Episode 4.2 “Pastor Tim” brings its otherworldly presence a little too close to home for the Jennings: the glanders still resides in their home (despite Philip’s best intentions), Elizabeth’s (Keri Russell) mother is dead, and the titular Pastor Tim is due for his own visit with the grim reaper after Elizabeth discovers he knows about their secret. The Jennings have found themselves in trouble before, sure, but “Pastor Tim” seems committed to paint the Jennings into a corner that they can’t back out of “” doubling down on threats both internal and external.

The glanders tin is quickly proving to be Philip’s (Matthew Rhys) albatross, as his meeting to turn over the biological agent quickly goes awry. Set to the tones of “Tainted Love,” the exchange becomes, well, tainted “” Soft Cell’s vocals hang over the proceedings in a supernatural fashion. Director Chris Long’s choice to cut between the driver and female passenger ratchets the tension higher. But what’s most striking about this sequence is that it’s shot in such a manner that it unfolds in a manner similar to that of Philip’s first kill. Both are shockingly personal affairs and the way the camera snaps into a close up for both brutal acts joins the two, as if they’re spiritual successors to one another. Yet, this time it’s even more personal “” Philip squeezes the life out of this man with bare hands. And then comes the punchline, as all the work is for naught “” the glanders gets left behind.

Elizabeth doesn’t fare much better, as she’s on the receiving end of two substantial gut-punches. Her discovery of Paige’s (Holly Taylor) betrayal to Pastor Tim drives most of Elizabeth’s actions, as she carefully considers her options: Killing Pastor Tim drives Paige further away, but letting him live spells grave danger. Adding fuel to the fire, Gabriel’s (Frank Langella) news about the death of her mother further unbalances Elizabeth slightly, which seems to even catch Elizabeth off guard. But the most affecting moment comes during her moment with Philip in the garage at the end of the episode. Considering the secrets that Elizabeth and Philip often keep from one another, it’s lovely to see Elizabeth be honest with Philip – not to discount her turn towards Philip after her nightmare, which was tremendously powerful in its own way – but the fact that she’s so vulnerable with him highlights the danger they’re in.

Try as they’d probably like, Philip and Elizabeth are in trouble. But the haunting refrain of Soft Cell reminds us – they can’t run away.

Quick Thoughts:

– The “Tainted Love” sequence reminded me a lot of this scene from Layer Cake, as both scenes detail gruesome acts of intense, close violence set to 80s pop music.

– Also under the grim reaper’s thumb this week are Nina (Annet Mahendru) and Oleg (Costa Ronin), as the former is reminded of her lost child and the latter loses his brother.

– I should also mention that Paige’s scene with Elizabeth was handled quite well, even if the framing of Paige crossing over to Elizabeth was a bit on the nose.

What did you think of this week’s episode?

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