What a perfectly gutting series finale that proved to be extremely satisfying despite leaving many questions unanswered.
In what is the most shocking twist since probably Nina’s death in the fourth season, everyone walked out of START physically unscathed, including Philip, Elizabeth, and yes — even Stan. This isn’t to say that this was a bait-and-switch situation where the writers left everyone unharmed to throw the audience off; on the contrary, the finale is as close to a typical episode of The Americans as possible (minus the part where almost everything is wrapped up at the end). Instead of killing our favorite Russian spies in predictable fashion, which is by far the easiest route the show could have taken, Elizabeth and Philip are alternatively left with the impossible decision of returning home and starting a new life there away from Paige and Henry. It’s a far more agonizing ending for the Jennings, particularly in a show that’s been more about family than anything else, and the final shot with the two of them staring into the Moscow skyline and trying to hide their pain is almost excruciating to watch. And I absolutely loved it.
The Garage Scene
One of the scenes that definitely stands out is the garage scene when Stan confronts Philip, Elizabeth, and Paige (read it entirely below). It’s a confrontation years in the making and executed perfectly thanks to Noah Emmerich, Mathew Rhys, Keri Russell and Holly Taylor’s flawless performances. The built-up tension in those 10+ minutes starts with Stan’s terrifying “hey” and only barely dials down as he watches them drive away at the end.
The writers have always focused a little more on Philip and Stan’s friendship than the others, which gives this scene a whole lot more gravitas. Philip is apologetic, but does not break down completely or get on his knees; instead, he focuses on proving to his former best friend exactly how he got to this point and why he should let them escape. Stan, on the other hand, is furious: his eyebrows move repeatedly, his voice is shaky but firm, and he never puts the gun away until the very end. It’s a heartbreaking decision that he will live with forever, which brings us to Renee.
The Mystery Woman
If the TV Gods ever decide to bring The Americans back in some form, I would be happy with a Renee spinoff. Granted, she isn’t the most riveting supporting character ever, but there’s a mystery behind her that is left unanswered as the show ends its final mission.
Whether or not you choose to believe that her facial expressions as she sees the FBI raid the Jennings’ home across the street mean she is mourning the loss of two fellow comrades, there is no doubt that the show purposely kept us in the dark on this one. Either way, Laurie Holden brilliantly brought this intriguing character to life, and if there’s one thing the disappointing Lost finale has taught us, it’s that some mysteries are never meant to be solved.
I’d be remiss not to mention two of the most gut-wrenching scenes in The Americans history. First, the uber-intense train stop as Philip, Elizabeth and Paige begin their journey back home through Canada is pulse-pounding in every sense of the word. From the petrified looks on Papa and Mama Jennings to the officers double-checking their IDs with the Wanted posters, the show plays one last fantastic ploy on us. The reveal that Paige got off the train while her parents were getting ID’d is a haunting scene unlike anything I’ve ever seen on television, made only more perfect with Philip coming to his wife’s side and grabbing her hand. Gah, my heart.
The second most devastating scene is watching Stan ruin Henry’s hockey game (and life) with the news about his family. It’s done entirely off-screen and inaudible to the audience, which is a bit more frustrating than satisfying. Nevertheless, it’s a touching moment between two people who have always had a lot in common, now more than ever.
Emmy’s, Where You At?
Finally, it would be an utter shame if these underrated performances go unnoticed at the awards season next year. While the competition is more fierce than ever nowadays, this would be a long time coming win for Keri Russell and Mathew Rhys, two of the most dedicated and talented actors in recent years.
With or without the Emmy’s, The Americans proved that quality television still exists, and hopefully, it didn’t end with START (yes, pun definitely intended).
Bits in Disguise
– What a tearjerking teaser with Philip and Elizabeth talking about leaving Henry alone in the States (read it in the quotes section below).
– Oleg’s dad finding out that his son is practically the hero who sacrificed himself by getting locked up is another heartbreaking revelation. Poor Oleg.
– How amazing is Holly Taylor when Paige starts questioning her parents’ impossible decision of leaving Henry alone?
– Shout-out to EST, one of the strangest and oddly satisfying group therapy sessions I’ve ever seen on television.
– Who else teared up when they revealed that there was a fake passport for Henry too, just in case?
– In true The Americans style, we got to see the ridiculous wigs one last time as Philip stops at the most American place of all time: McDonald’s.
– It gutted me that Paige never got to have her “goodbye Henry” moment over the phone, but I choose to believe that she remained in contact with him once she returned back.
– Stan lying about not seeing the Jennings is probably the only time I smiled like a little kid during this finale.
– Elizabeth’s dream while on the plane back to Russia is very odd. Still not sure what to make of that one. Let us know your thoughts in the comments (also, how you’re grieving!).
– I wonder if Claudia made it back. Hmm…
– One last Breaking Bad comparison: this was by far a more satisfying ending and better series overall. #fightme
Quips from the Motherland
Elizabeth: Leave [Henry]? Is that what you mean?
Philip: It’s the best thing for him.
Elizabeth: To be alone? Away from us? That’s not the best thing for him.
Philip: He belongs here.
Elizabeth: He belongs with us.
Philip: We have to do it for him.
Elizabeth: Philip, they would tear him to pieces.
Philip: He hasn’t done anything. He doesn’t even know. This is where he grew up. It’s awful, but… (exhales)
Elizabeth: I killed a KGB officer, left her to die in the street.
Philip: What were you supposed to do?
Paige: Henry’s not coming with us?
Philip: Paige, we’re going to Russia. What would he do there?
Paige: So, we’re leaving him? Alone?
Philip: His friends are here, his life is here. He’s almost seventeen years old.
Elizabeth: That’s the age I was when I started to work.
Paige: He’s not you. None of us are.
Paige: What’s going to happen to him? I don’t understand. How’s he going to live? Who’s going to pay for his college? Is he going to get a job?
Stan: You made my life a joke.
Philip: You were my only friend. In my—in my whole shitty life. For all these years. My life was the joke, not yours.
Philip: What else could I do? You moved in next to me. I was terrified. And then we ended up as friends.
Philip: I did all this stuff, Stan. I don’t even know why anymore. It seemed like the right thing to do. For my country. My country wanted me to. And I kept doing it. Telling myself it was important until finally I couldn’t. And I stopped. I’m done with that now. I have been, for a long time. It was all just screwing people for I don’t even know for what. So I quit, like she said. Like you did. I’m a travel agent now. I’m just a shitty, failing travel agent. Except I guess I’m not. Because now I need to leave if I can. I have to run away from the place that I have lived for the past so many years if I can, if we can. Stan, I have to abandon my son. He can’t come with us because I got caught. I finally got caught. And here we are. And I don’t even know what happens if we make it home because after all these years of being scared of Americans and recruiting Americans and following Americans we finally we actually got something, and it has nothing to do with you It’s our own people. It’s a bunch of fucking Russians.
Elizabeth: They’ll be okay.
Philip: They’ll remember us. And they’re not kids anymore. We raised them.
Philip: Feels strange.
Elizabeth: We’ll get used to it.
Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits
With or Without You by U2
Intense, devastating and immensely satisfying. One of the most memorable series finales in recent memory.