IMG-0835As Martin Luther wrote, “There is no more lovely, friendly, and charming relationship, communion, or company than a good marriage.”  

I couldn’t agree more.  And not just because my wife and I are about to celebrate our 27th wedding anniversary, I promise.

The fact of the matter is that I’m a big fan of marriage.  

Perhaps it was the Royal Wedding of a few weeks ago, but marriage has been on my mind lately.  I found the authenticity of the service planned by the bride and groom very moving. If authenticity is a hallmark of how they have started their married life, one can be hopeful about the long-term prospects for their relationship.  

As it happens the Royal Wedding also coincided with the final weeks of the television series The Americans.  Over the last six years I’ve waited for each season and each episode with both anticipation and dread.  While the premise of the show is fascinating, what I’ve found most gripping, is the central relationship between the lead characters, Elizabeth and Philip.

Through flashbacks we learn that Elizabeth and Philip were matched by their KGB handlers and sent to start a life in suburban Washington, DC and spy (and kill) on behalf of the Soviet Union.  Initially, it is an arranged “marriage” without any legal status, as far as I can tell.

And yet it is a successful one.

The series finale aired several weeks ago and it was authentic and devastating on many levels.  I won’t spoil it for any readers who have not yet watched the series. However, Elizabeth and Philip’s journey as a married couple and as parents is the central drama up to the very end.

I’m now re-watching the prior seasons to see how much of the ending is foretold.  It turns out quite a bit.

I’m halfway through season two and Elizabeth and Philip’s relationship is growing in depth and meaning.  At the same time Philip, as his alter ego Clark, has married a secretary who works at the FBI by the name of Martha.

Some of the most poignant scenes in season two concern Elizabeth struggling with the fact that Philip has an actual marriage with Martha and her marriage to Philip is not real in any legal sense.  

Yet, Martha is largely deprived of Clark/Philip’s attention and it is Elizabeth who truly shares her life with Philip.  

They work together.  They parent together.  They are loyal to each other.  They have their differences, but when the chips are down, they have each other’s back. And not only do they feel love for each other, that love propels them and the plot of the series forward.  Their marriage has a mission (albeit a dark and evil one). Indeed, their marriage has an authenticity Martha can only dream of.

I don’t know if was the intention of the creators of The Americans, but they have tutored their viewers in what it is like to have a good marriage.  

I recognized it immediately.

Published by Rob Radtke

President & CEO, Episcopal Relief & Development, husband, father, friend, traveler, reader, New Yorker.

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