Title: The Committee on Human Rights
Episode M.V.P.: Holly Taylor
The Americans is a show that delights in the details, and nowhere is that more evident than in the performances its cast delivers each episode. Just the smallest change in facial expressions or body language can signal huge changes in a character arc if you’re paying attention. And that has certainly been true of Paige’s journey over the last few seasons. Holly Taylor has clearly learned from the example set by the brilliant actors around her, and she has become a beautifully nuanced actor in her own right. Her work in this episode especially was filled with tiny touches that revealed big things about where Paige’s mind and heart are at this point in her story.
Paige is at a crossroads, and this episode showed her both being drawn deeper into her parents’ world while also struggling with the weight of what it means to follow in their footsteps—to sacrifice for what she believes is the greater good. I loved the gentle, tentative warmth between her and Gabriel in the opening scene. Taylor’s small, sincere smile when Gabriel said Paige had courage made me happy and also broke my heart because she made it so clear that this is all Paige wanted to hear—that it’s taking courage for her to get through every day now that she knows her parents’ secret. I loved the way Taylor played Paige’s acceptance of Gabriel as the closest thing she’ll ever have to an extended family—with a complex but believable mixture of happiness and hesitation, a desire to know more about this person who clearly cares about her but also a touch of sadness that even her stuffed tiger’s origins were something she was lied to about for years.
As the episode went on, it became clear that introducing Paige to Gabriel worked as far as deepening her connection to her family and their work was concerned. All Paige has ever wanted was to feel like she was part of something that could affect positive change in the world, and Gabriel helped her believe that her parents do that in their own way. That hunger that’s always been part of Paige is something Taylor plays so well, and it came through in such a powerful way when she was asking her parents about the wheat, even though it kills me to think about what’s going to happen when Paige finds out the truth.
The way Taylor allowed us to see Paige processing all this new information about her parents, Gabriel, and the work they do made her decision to break up with Matthew believable. Paige thinks it’s her turn to sacrifice, and it broke my heart to watch her break up with Matthew, effectively walking away from any hope of a normal, teenage life. Taylor was phenomenal in that scene; she has a gift for projecting an honest vulnerability that is rare in young actors. Every beat of that scene was like a dagger in my Paige-loving heart, but the part that made me actually cry was her reaction to pushing him away using what she learned from her mother. The aftermath of that moment was when Taylor’s gift for subtle, expressive movement and physical details was used to its fullest. Watching her physically curl in on herself, holding her hands as if unsure what to do with them was devastating. And the total anguish in her voice when she apologized gutted me. In that moment, Paige gave up any hope of happiness in the service of something greater (made clear in the next scene when her eyes landed on the copy of Marx on her bookshelf), and Taylor made that moment feel deeply, profoundly sad.
No character on television right now ignites my protective instincts like Paige Jennings, and so much of that is because of the believable openness Taylor brings to the character. Unlike the other characters on the show, Paige is an open book; she wears her heart on her sleeve, which has left it far more beaten and bruised than any teenager’s heart should be. Watching Paige slowly close that book and hide her heart away has been hard to watch, but Taylor has done such a fantastic job with this part of Paige’s story that I can’t look away—no matter how much it hurts.