Advertisements

Best of TV Costuming 2015: Removing Disguisies and Revealing the Truth on The Americans

11 Dec

Welcome to TV Ate My Wardrobe’s “Best of 2015” costuming series and rather than doing a straightforward countdown we’re going to do a variety of posts that look at which costumes and shows have made a huge impact this year. From items we want in our own wardrobe to pieces that got everyone talking; we want to celebrate the work of television’s best costume designers.

So while there won’t be a Top 10 there is a show that would take the top spot without too much deliberation needed and The Americans takes that title; it is only right then to kick off our end of year coverage with this. The Americans is a repeat player in the “Best of” costume discussion with wigs (of course) and the ‘marriage disguise.’

Both detailed the key attributes in how Elizabeth and Philip mask their identities; one protects their overall cover while the other makes it possible for them to serve their country in the long term and costume designer Jenny Gering’s work is a vital piece of the spy life versus family puzzle. What season 3 did was take this and spin it on its head with the Paige problem; what do you do when your bosses want your daughter to become part of the program?

The Americans 3.10 Philip and Elizabeth - CopyThe threat of Paige finding out permeates its way throughout most of the season until it reaches a head when Paige directly asks what the deal is with their strange behavior. They may look like regular parents – okay maybe not regular parents – in their turtlenecks and office wear as they run their small business and they are anything but. They’ve still got almost everyone else fooled including their FBI neighbor and aside from a couple of close calls the spy biz is ticking along. Philip only had to kill one person this season and that is already an improvement on his high body count last year. I mean he has had to seduce a high school girl who is pretty much the same age as his own daughter so it hasn’t been obstacle free. Oh yeah and then there is the difference in opinion about what to do regarding Paige.

Elizabeth and Philip are both dedicated to the cause, but Philip is the one who often looks like he is on the edge of the abyss and could be persuaded to defect if the conditions were right (ie Elizabeth would have to agree, which ha). Elizabeth is more inclined to follow orders and so when they were dropped with the Paige bombshell at the end of last season she was the one who didn’t think it was so bad. For Philip all he can see are the bad things they have to do whether it is what they do to someone else – breaking up a body and putting it in a suitcase – or the lengths they go to get information. It’s not just about committing acts of violence and there is so much more they inevitably give away in the name of the cause.

The Americans 3.10 StingersIn fact the night Paige confronts her parents they have been out for work scoping out a hotel and working out which one of them is going to be on seduction duty. It falls to Elizabeth wearing a revealing white suit and black bob to perform this duplicitous task. A far cry from their travel agency office where Paige has visited earlier that day. When Philip and Elizabeth return home they are blindsided by Paige’s questions about who they really are as she begs them to stop lying. The conversation takes places in the heart of their family home; in the kitchen and at the table they share every morning. What makes this moment so spectacular other than the fact that the writers go THERE three episodes before the season finale is that Paige has agency in a storyline that has been all about her parents. She is the one that makes her parents finally figure out what the fuck they are going to do about telling her.

There is no separation of family and spy life in this case because they are so intrinsically linked and by having this conversation in such a communal space it hammers home this point. The time has come to reveal who they are and the decision to tell the whole truth (well a general overview) doesn’t involve dramatic wig removal (more on this later), but instead comes after a series of looks between Philip and Elizabeth followed by the smallest indicator of a nod. They still look like mom and dad and she didn’t have another experience where she should have knocked; however EVERYTHING about who they are from their names to their place of birth has been a lie and it is hard to get over this level of deceit. It’s why I can’t be too mad at Paige when she spills the part about their nationality in the finale and why for me she is exempt from the scorn that is normally poured over teen characters who meddle in dramas such as Homeland and Masters of Sex.

Paige is not the only one who is gets to find out who her nearest and dearest really are this season and she gets off easy in the how of this discovery. I mentioned how there is no dramatic wig removal when Paige learns the truth; for Martha she gets to finally see the person she is married to and he looks like a very different person to the one in the photographs. The shit has really hit the fan in the Martha assignment thanks to Agent Gaad finding out he has a bug in his office and oh yeah his secretary was the one who put it there. No one else knows this yet and Philip desperately tries to keep Martha on side pulling the ‘this is who I am really am and you can trust me’ card right at the end.

The Paige reveal was a full on HOLY SHIT moment in what it means to the entire show and yet I don’t think I felt more tense than when Philip slowly took off his Clark disguise; starting with his glasses, the wig pins and then removing his hair piece. He doesn’t utter a word as removes everything that makes him look like Clark and it feels like a horror movie. For Martha she is now looking at a man she doesn’t recognize and all she can do is react with teary eyed confusion.

The Americans 3.12 Clark The Americans 2.12 de-wigging The Americans 3.12 MarthaThe one major misstep The Americans made this year was by ending the penultimate episode with this scene and then giving no follow up in the season finale. It is so big that it needed addressing; is this the end of ‘Clark?’ Or is this a onetime only de-wigging and those glasses will never leave his face ever again when he is in her company?

Lack of dialogue can be just as effective as a passionate monologue and The Americans excels in the non-verbal. Martha can’t get any words out here because there aren’t any that can explain just what the fuck is going on and one of the best scenes of this season tells us everything we need to know through a series of looks. Philip and Elizabeth have come a long way from when we first met them; they’re still not all that great at sharing their feelings, but there is a deeper understanding and commitment. Trust is fundamental here and despite the conflict caused by the Paige problem it didn’t break them up as it might have done in the past.

No scene better demonstrates just how in deep they are with each other than the wordless tooth removal. It plays out like a sex scene and it is incredibly tender even if it involves pliers and some sounds I never want to hear ever again. Especially as I have a scheduled tooth removal next month. At least I will have something more effective than a shot of whiskey for the pain.

The Americans 3.03 The Americans 3.03 Elizabeth's eye The Americans 3.03 Philip's eye The Americans 3.03 Elizabeth eye afterPhilip and Elizabeth don’t need to tell each other who they really are because they already know (well some stories from their youth might still be required), but it is moments like this that really lay it all out there. It one reason why The Americans is so fascinating and the exploration of marriage and identity is consistently just as thrilling (if not more so) as the spy missions and disguises they wear.

Advertisements

12 Responses to “Best of TV Costuming 2015: Removing Disguisies and Revealing the Truth on The Americans”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Best of TV 2015: The Music Monday Edition – You’re the Worst | TV Ate My Wardrobe - December 14, 2015

    […] Costumes are not the only thing we are celebrating from this year in television and there have been plenty of incredible music infused moments. A lot of these have come in the final minutes of an episode with a song nailing the emotional pitch of a last scene. One such striking track use comes in the third episode of Orange is the New Black with the Dum Dum Girls “Coming Down” playing over one character’s devastating descent; further adding to the despair felt by these character and the glassy eye reaction from me. […]

  2. Best of TV Costuming 2015: Best of the Rest Part 1 | TV Ate My Wardrobe - December 22, 2015

    […] far the Best of 2015 series has focused on in-depth costuming achievements from The Americans, Hannibal, Fargo and Mad Men. Plus a special You’re the Worst “Music Monday” end […]

  3. Best of TV Costuming 2015: Best of the Rest Part 2 | TV Ate My Wardrobe - December 28, 2015

    […] far the Best of 2015 series has focused on in-depth costuming achievements from The Americans, Hannibal, Fargo and Mad Men. Plus a special You’re the Worst “Music Monday” end credits […]

  4. Best of TV Costuming 2015: The Collection | TV Ate My Wardrobe - December 29, 2015

    […] Removing Disguises and Revealing the Truth on The Americans […]

  5. First Look at The Americans S4 in the First Look Issue of Entertainment Weekly | TV Ate My Wardrobe - December 30, 2015

    […] about Martha after the de-wigging, the status of Pastor Tim post Paige confession and giving Henry something to do so he isn’t […]

  6. Nominees Announced for the 18th Costume Designers Guild Awards | TV Ate My Wardrobe - January 8, 2016

    […] far as shows I would love to see get recognized when it comes to period attire The Americans is top of that list as Jenny Gering managed once again to weave the spy wear with the at home […]

  7. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys Talk Disguises and Season 4 of The Americans | TV Ate My Wardrobe - January 12, 2016

    […] Other disguise aspects to look out for in the future include oversized teeth, which have yet to make an appearance so far as dialogue heavy scenes make it impossible to talk properly while wearing them. They also both point out how helpful the physical aspect of the costuming is when informing how they play these parts. And it is definitely something that is very fun to write about. […]

  8. The Americans Season 4 Promo – “I’m So Sorry Mom” | TV Ate My Wardrobe - February 4, 2016

    […] of dread hangs over everything. Martha doesn’t appear like she is fairing too well after the wig removal revelation and she will have to deal with Philip’s bug in the pen solution. A solution that frames her […]

  9. The Americans Season 4 Extended Promo: “Do People Get Hurt?” | TV Ate My Wardrobe - February 16, 2016

    […] a big, big lie the fact that there is so much more transparency coming to The Americans as a result of secrets shared is exciting and terrifying in equal measure. When The Americans returns in a month not only does […]

  10. Out of the Box: Look of the Week | TV Ate My Wardrobe - March 11, 2016

    […] shot.Also at The Americans season 4 premiere is Alison Wright taking a break from pussy bows, anguished faces and giant 80s hair in a printed Mary Katrantzou delight. Plus pocket points! Keeping with The […]

  11. The Americans 4.01 “Glanders” Review: “You’re Safe. We’re Together” | TV Ate My Wardrobe - March 17, 2016

    […] and so many precarious situations need to be handled. First up Martha and the last time we saw her Philip dewigged and showed his real face. Philip also killed Martha’s co-worker staging it as a suicide and […]

  12. Best of TV Costuming 2016: The Americans, Vulnerability and the Jennifer Disguise | TV Ate My Wardrobe - December 14, 2016

    […] Kicking off with the show which would be top of my list (and has been for the last few years) and The Americans continues the impossible task of somehow getting even better each season and upping the stakes/tension levels. In previous end of year essays about this show we have discussed wigs, the marriage disguise and the act of removing and revealing the truth. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Ex-aspirational

Depression, creativity and the pressures of growing up, as told by a twenty-something not living her best life

Julie Hammerle

Nerds Need Love Too

Sofa and Remote

I love talking about TV as much as I love watching it

Ellie Writes Stuff

About this and that

Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

Authors, Bloggers, Fashion Assassins

Twitter Music Club

A rotation curation music club, based on Twitter, mainly for Kiwis

INTO ROW Z

If you enjoy a challenge, like Claude Makélélé, read my blog. Its about sport.

lost somewhere in new york city

We rock a lot of polka dots

sankles

We rock a lot of polka dots

frocktalk.com/

Just another WordPress.com site

Cultural Learnings

Television Reviews and Analysis

judgmental observer

film, tv, popular culture, higher ed, unicorns

Rookie

We rock a lot of polka dots

ScreenFad

TV show news, reviews, recaps, spoilers, and photos

The Frisky

We rock a lot of polka dots

irkyle.wordpress.com/

I review this shit so you don't have to.

%d bloggers like this: