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Each week we will be crowning a "Wig of the Week" from The Americans, FX's wonderful show about Russian spies who happen to wear a variety of insane wigs when doing their spy duties.
Wig of the Week: The disguise, birthmark and all, Philip wears to sneak onto the Martial Eagle base.
Why This Wig: We chose this wig because Philip's actions in it set off the emotions that will guide him for the rest of the episode. However, the much talked about plan to expose the U.S. military's training of Contra forces at the highly secretive Martial Eagle camp takes up a surprisingly small amount of the episode, considering Mr. Iran-Contra himself, Oliver North, has a story credit.
That's not to say that Philip and Elizabeth's plan goes off without a hitch. While Elizabeth quickly kills one person, Philip has to do away with a young man who notices he has a camera and those that followed him. Philip—donning a baseball cap and mullet-like hairpiece to pose as someone who handles the septic system on the base—slits the throat of the young man in particularly gruesome fashion. Before he and Elizabeth get back in the truck to drive away, she wipes the blood off his chin. When they leave the camp and return to the man they had imprisoned in the previous episode in order to steal the truck, they find him cold and slumped over. Philip had gone out of his way to spare his life when Elizabeth wanted to kill him. He hangs back as she goes over to investigate the body.
Much of this season has focused on the internal turmoil of Philip, who oscillates between being the Jennings most willing to adapt to American life (he bought that Camaro after all) and the Jennings most likely to kill in brutal, messy fashion. In "Martial Eagle" those two sides of Philip collide. Philip is both torn up about his actions at Martial Eagle, and firm in his resolve to do what he feels is necessary for his country. He rails at Paige when he and Elizabeth learn she gave $600 to the church she has been attending, shredding her Bible after she asks whether he knows the difference between lying and not. This is the second time this season he chastises Paige in a manner that seems almost manic, his eyes bulging out. Later in the episode, he plays the tape that he doctored to make Martha more loyal to him, bringing her to tears as she hears her bosses at the FBI call her ugly. And yet, in between these two cruel instances it is clear Philip is struggling. In one scene he sits on a boardwalk, letting a long haired-wig cover his eyes, as his gaze is downcast. A man walks over and asks if he is okay.
At the end of the episode he goes to Paige's church, wearing no disguise, only gloves. He encounters the pastor, who he orders to stay away from Paige. As they talk he moves closer and closer to the pastor. He appears to be on the verge of killing the man. Though Philip has committed many inexcusable acts on the show in the name of his country, murdering the pastor for no reason other than spite would have been a different sort of act. It would have been for pure self interest, and would have made it impossible for the viewer to have a modicum of sympathy for Philip. But Philip doesn't kill the pastor. The pastor says, "there is grace and forgiveness for you. For everyone." Philip asks him if he believes that. "I do," he responds. Philip leaves, but not before taking a moment to look at the church.
Does Philip experience a moment of faith? Or is that simply what he needs to hear to make himself feel better about all the lives he has left in his wake? Despite his lack of belief, does he need to believe he too can be forgiven despite killing the men at Martial Eagle, despite all the people he has murdered for his cause?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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