In a television landscape filled with broken marriages and lies piled on top of lies, The Americans' Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings might have the most unique connection in quite some time. On the surface, everything seems normal; the two have been married for 15 years, time which has produced two children, a travel business, and a wide array of memories and shared experience. Unfortunately, many of those memories and experiences have been as a result of their real jobs as KGB sleeper agents, which Phillip has been itching to get out of and fully embrace the American lifestyle that Elizabeth has rejected at every turn. Now that the critically acclaimed FX drama has entered the back half of its first season, it's time to start thinking about how the constant push-pull of Elizabeth and Phillip's relationship will play out and, perhaps, resolve itself.
Before there can be any resolution, though, Phillip will have to both move on from his feelings of betrayal over the torture he and Elizabeth faced and deal with the inevitable fallout from his time with Irina in New York. When asked about what the remainder of the season held for the couple, The Americans star Matthew Rhys said last week's episode "sort of solidifies and consolidates everything he was beginning to believe, not about her, but certainly about the KGB anyway." For much of the season, Phillip has been the one to attempt and make his marriage work while Elizabeth kept her distance, so it makes sense of him to not hold what happened against her and use it to fuel his fleeting loyalty to the KGB. Phillip wants to leave and make a new home for his family, but according to Rhys, he's in "great transition" and "isn't quite sure how to get out, really."
But will he and Elizabeth end the season on good terms? It's seemed that for every positive step the couple has made this season on The Americans, they've leapt back three feet and with the Irina bombshell lingering in the ether, any fragile trust that Elizabeth had in her husband would be blown to bits. "I don't think the resolution is quite possible given what they've been through and the amount of back and forth, you know the chess game they play with each other where revelation after revelation has come out and the amount of betrayal involved. I don't think it will be resolved overnight and I think that's sort of the glorious element to it, is that it can't be a quick fix relationship," said Rhys of the chance for reconciliation between him and his TV wife.
Part of the mistrust in their relationship, aside from the cheating revelations, emotional distance, and different ideas about the direction of their lives, comes from Phillip's uneasy friendship with Stan, the FBI agent next door who has already snuck into the Jennings house once this season looking for evidence. Being the fierce patriot that she is, Elizabeth doesn't like the fact that her husband is spending so much time with A) an American and B) someone who could bring down their entire life with one phone call, but according to Rhys, Phillip actually does like Stan.
"Phillip does come from a decent moral place in many ways and he has a love for the lifestyle they've created. I think part of that is this sort of white picket idyllic idea of having a best friend in a neighbor. I think he genuinely does like Stan, although he tells Elizabeth it's good to keep your enemies closer, I think with Stan there's a genuine fondness there."
Although he expresses a fondness for the action scenes and the variety of roles he gets to play within the Phillip Jennings character, Rhys proclaims "chipping away at the veneer of what their relationship is" to be his favorite part of his experience working on The Americans. The moral gray areas, best seen in Phillip's reaction to Elizabeth being whipped as "this half realized position he's in of being her husband, not being her husband, and being allowed to be protective and not allowed," have been one of the hallmarks of the show and the unique relationship at its core, as there's an uncertainty to their interactions that matches the uncertainty in their occupation. From one day to the next, Phillip and Elizabeth can go from hating each other to appreciating having another person there that understands the things they go through as an agent, mirroring a job that takes them all over the country and has them up close and personal with a multitude of foreign diplomats.
Despite their animosity toward one another and the secrecy that plagues their relationship, Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings need one another to survive, both in terms of backup during missions and the occasional emotional support that the other is able to provide. Though they may have the odd connection in the United States, there's no one there that they can be themselves around aside from each other, so regardless of outside factors, they're going to have to work things out.
Whether it kills them (or anyone else) or not.