In the most recent episode of “The Americans,” titled “Immersion,” Elizabeth tries to do some mother-daughter bonding with her daughter Paige by telling her how she was raped at the age of 18. The idea is that if mom can get over an experience like that (debatable as we will suggest below), Paige can get over watching her mom kill a mugger, not to mention the fact that she has to keep the facts that her parents are KGB spies a secret. The gambit likely did not work. Paige cannot unsee the killing nor forget who her parents are. Elizabeth, quite prudently, does not inform her daughter how she and Philip caught up to the rapist after he defected to America and what they did to him.

The reminder about what happened to Elizabeth suggests another thing, how was it that she became a monster. For most of the series, the female half of the Jennings spy couple has been the most enthusiastic about performing wet work or whatever else the job requires, including lying, sleeping with people she is not attracted to, and ruining lives. Indeed, in that very same episode, Elizabeth and Philip are plotting to arrange to have a fragile son of a Soviet defector savagely bullied so that his mother will want to take him back to Russia. It’s the sort of thing that has every potential to backfire with a teen suicide.

Elizabeth has always been the most fervent Soviet patriot, extolling the superiority of the communist system, even though she ought to know better having lived in America for so many years, and spewing invective against President Ronald Reagan.

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Until the current season, she has shown no doubt in the justice of her cause and the principle that the ends justify the means.

One does not have to be a mental health professional to suspect that Elizabeth may be still suffering from PTSD from her rape and is trying to deal with it by getting back at the world by committing terrible crimes sanctioned as acts of patriotism by her country. When she murders someone, does she see the face of her rapist?

In the current season, the second to last one of “The Americans,” even Elizabeth is beginning to have doubts. She mentions to Paige that she wishes she didn’t “have to” do the things she does. But the thing that may be driving her may not be Soviet patriotism but a rage against a horrible experience that happened when she was young and has never been seriously dealt with. But then the Soviet mental health system was always oriented toward weeding out dissidents and not helping people with genuine trauma.