This post contains discussion of plot points from The Americans episode ”The Midges.”
For those worried about the fate of Martha, The Americans most pitiable character, tonight’s episode reveals that she is alive in the Soviet Union after being sent there for her own protection last season. And—according to the actor who plays her, Alison Wright—she’s doing just fine.
“The Midges” only briefly touches base with the former FBI secretary who turned accidental traitor when she falls for Philip Jennings (Matthew Rhys) in disguise. After Oleg (Costa Ronin) leaves a supermarket he’s investigating, the camera lingers on a female shopper from behind. When she turns around we see it’s Martha, examining the labels of items on the depleted shelves. So how did Wright prepare to revisit Martha in such drastically different circumstances? “I asked [showrunners Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields] how they wanted her to appear,” Wright explained. “What is she doing mentally? Is she getting on with it? Is she devastated? They had an idea what they wanted her mental state of mind to be, but the rest they leave up to me, which is a tremendous blessing.”
Weisberg and Fields didn’t want Martha to be traumatized by her new surroundings. “The story they wanted to tell was that she was doing okay,” Wright said. “That she was making the best of her situation, that she was getting on with it, that she was moving forward. She wasn’t in a state of stasis. She was doing the best with her situation, god bless her, and somehow she was moving forward and moving on. Stronger than I would be.”
Wright flew from Los Angeles where she was working on Feud to shoot her scene, and apparently her transformation from one role (1960s Hollywood assistant) to the other (1980s American in exile) tripped up Gwyneth Horder-Payton, who was prepping to direct the following episode. “[Gwyneth] had just directed me on an episode of Feud on the beach in Malibu the day before,” Wright recalled. “And then I flew to The Americans and then she walked onto the set and I was like, ’Gwyneth?’ And she was totally confused. I was in Martha’s costume and her headscarf and whatnot and she had no idea.”
It’s unknown if we’ll see anymore of Martha, but The A.V. Club will have more from Wright on her other FX role after Feud airs on Sunday.