To choose who is more effective as a character actor between the Jennings parents is a tough task to The American fans. Both the roles of Philip and Elizabeth put heavy weight on the show. They are so strong, so crucial and so underground Russians. Yet of course, in a game of spy vs. spy, we have to choose one. And I have to give this shot to Mathew as Philip over Keri Russell’s Elizabeth.
Philip has the entire attitude to put everything up together in just one character. It takes more than just memorizing the lines to master the art of convincing the viewers. He made efforts of putting his feet on the shoes of the character he is portraying to be able to feel the right feelings and act it out effectively. He can disguise not just his identity with that wig but also his true feelings during his awkward moments with his fake wife Martha. Well to be fair, Philip’s role Mathew is the one faking it so he can go straight to his agenda putting Elizabeth as his sister this time. He had been really sneaky with this role. He is also the person behind the name Scott Birkeland who is a Swedish intelligence. Only a meticulous KGB veteran can fool around with these myriad of wigs and mustaches. This role is intelligently played by Phillip.
What’s more exciting to watch out about Philip is that he is compelled to handle the most complicated persona. He looks notorious yet he may be a sheep in a lion’s fur. Throughout the series, we’ve witnessed how cold Elizabeth can be when it comes to killings. Her instinct can by far dictate her to end one’s life just to keep their secret intact. Spying and stealing are also her expertise. Adding the responsibility of doing all these while raising their kids is no joke. But Philip is starting to drag his feet on these merciless things that they have to do as part of their job. He has this tendency to even regret. Because of this, his loyalty to Mother Russia is beginning to become questionable. He is not as fierce as Elizabeth anymore. These inconsistencies in his life, his feelings vs. what he is obliged to do, slowly takes toll in his life and often leading him to release in aggressive sexual rage to Elizabeth.
EW’s Anthony Breznican is a solid Team Elizabeth, “ not everyone agrees with me and I don’t just mean the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which snubbed Rhys in the Best Actor Emmy category, she’s as cold as a Siberian winter at times, but that makes the moments of warmth all the more precious,” he says. “Elizabeth is a true believer in the cause, someone who knows suffering, someone who continually sacrifices her own humanity to make the world a more just and equitable place. Her great tragedy is that she causes so much loss and pain in her zeal to prevent it on grander scales. I love Elizabeth because she’s trying so hard not to love anything, but that’s one fight she has already lost.”
That was undeniably an unyielding statement about Elizabeth but Philip still got it over a very thin victory.