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“All of our stories are fucked up”: The Americans showrunners on a big step for their spies

Photo: Patrick Harbron/FX

This post contains a discussion of plot points from The Americans episode “Darkroom.”

Before this season of The Americans began, showrunners Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields emphasized how the love between Philip and Elizabeth Jennings would be stronger than ever. That proved true in Tuesday’s episode when, after years of pretending to be a married couple for the sake of their jobs and their country, they tied the knot in a basement ceremony officiated by a Russian Orthodox priest who had been a contact of Gabriel’s. It was a genuinely touching moment, one that both moved and affirmed how much the characters had grown. As Fields noted, “It’s a show about a fake marriage becoming a real marriage.”


A wedding of sorts had been part of the plan since all the way back in season one, Weisberg and Fields told The A.V. Club earlier this week. But, according to Weisberg, at that point it “didn’t make any sense.” They considered it again during their sophomore year, and then abandoned the concept for seasons three and four. In this, the fifth, season, however, they found an opportunity to use the long-gestating story.

“This whole season is about how close they are and how well they’re getting along and how their relationship has reached a whole new level,” Weisberg said. “So very organically, it pops back up into our minds, ‘Oh, my god, this is the perfect season for them to really get married.’” The writers were also interested in having a plot involving a Russian priest from the outset, given that the KGB did actually use people in that station as informants.


The specifics of the ceremony ended up—perhaps surprisingly, given the amount of history involved on a week-to-week basis—being one of the series’ most intensely researched moments in order to get elements like the translation just right. But the infusion of God into the proceedings makes them not ideal for the spies. Philip admits that’s not how Elizabeth, who’s staunchly anti-religion, would have wanted it.

“Everything has to be fucked up with them,” Weisberg said. “All our stories are fucked up. If they were going to have some kind of simple, easy marriage, that wouldn’t be a good story for us.” Their connection, for the moment, seems to surpass Elizabeth’s dogma. “It still obviously impacts both of them,” Fields added. “My dad was a liberal rabbi, and he married a lot of people who didn’t believe in God. He buried a lot of people who didn’t believe in God. He did lots of life-cycle events, as you would call them, for people of varying degrees of belief. He once said, ‘Never underestimate the power of ceremony.’ And that history, boy, it’s there beneath you when you go through these life events.”


However, to Weisberg’s point, after the moment of shared affection and commitment between the elder Jennings, the episode ends on a deeply disturbing note: Philip and Elizabeth help Paige develop her photos of Pastor Tim’s journal. In doing so, they discover that they’ve been deemed monsters who have irreparably harmed their child. “They are bonded in this marriage, but it is a marriage that carries with it very severe human consequences and a deep psychic toll on themselves and on their family,” Fields said. “In a way it seems right that in the very episode where they are finally able to celebrate their commitment and feel all the beauty that came out of that love, they cannot escape from and are forced to look at the pain that has been wrought by their marriage also.” Fucked up, indeed.

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