The Americans can be a tough show to engage with; I’m comfortable joining the chorus of critics who hail it as one of television’s best, but it’s also a series that I don’t particularly enjoy watching. This has nothing to do with the quality. The Americans is just a series that hold viewers at a bit of a distance. Paige’s story is most what kept me interested in Season 3, what made me return week after week when I wasn’t entirely sure if I wanted to. Teen girls are constantly finding themselves pulled in too many directions and trying to figure out which way they want to go — if they want to follow their parents, or their friends, or the television, or even a pastor. Paige’s character is just an extreme example, one for whom following her parents could mean abandoning everything that she’s ever known but disobeying them could possibly lead to something even worse.
In last night’s season finale, “March 8, 1983,” Elizabeth takes Paige to visit her dying grandmother and learn a little bit more about her mother’s life (and past). It proves to be overwhelming for Paige, especially when they return and she stops short at the airport as if physically unable to go back to her old life after what she’s learned. “I don’t know if I can do this, Mom. I don’t think I can do it: go home and lie to Henry about everything. … To lie for the rest of my life, that’s not who I am,” she says — and Elizabeth’s response, that “everybody lies,” is hardly reassuring. It’s a major crossroads for Paige: She’s peeked too far into her parents’ lives (without even scratching the surface!) and can’t ever return to not knowing, but she doesn’t know how to continue on with this knowledge, this secret.
So Paige turns to what she knows best, and where she’s found solace for the past few months: religion and, more specifically, Pastor Tim. There’s an alarming, vivid juxtaposition at the end, of Elizabeth and Philip intently watching Reagan’s “evil empire” speech as Paige holes up in her room, crying and clutching the phone while telling Pastor Tim about her parents’ true origins. It’s a perfect representation of the two dueling worlds that are tearing Paige apart and ripping away her teenage years. And it’s a reflection of The Americans to come, when the evil empire arrives at home, in your own living room.