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An exquisite, satisfyingly restrained, even beautiful finale to The Americans last night—a series which only in this, its sixth and final season, has become, in my view, one of the finest series ever on television. This is because, although the series started as gangbusters in its first year, and although it never lost the astonishing originality of its premise and first season, it meandered, almost got repetitive and stuck in a quagmire in subsequent years, only to reclaim the best that it was was and exceed it in this last season.
And the 90-minute finale was at the apex of this extraordinary season. Rather than analyze it in a linear way, I'd rather just share some thoughts about the highlights of what was on the screen:
- I said to my wife that we'd never leave our son, as Philip convinced Elizabeth to do with their son, Henry. My wife agreed completely—then added, but you and I never killed anyone.
- The scene with Stan holding a gun on Philip, Elizabeth, and Paige was brilliant, and yet only the second best in the episode. (It contained peak performances by Noah Emmerich as Stan and Matthew Rhys as Philip, with Keri Russell as Elizabeth and Holly Taylor as Paige putting in their best incandescent performances in the scene between them last week.) Philip and Elizabeth were always good talkers—as good in talking their way into and out of situations as they were with guns and weapons—and Paige has clearly learned and/or inherited that way with words. Is Stan's letting them all go believable? Tough call, but I think it is. His human connection to Philip and family triumphed over Stan's profession, which was part of what this series was all about. Paige's being there brought out Stan's humanity—he certainly wouldn't have shot her parents right in front of her, except if they were attacking him, which they wisely did not. But Stan's decision was based on a lie—the lie that Philip and Elizabeth never killed anyone—and it's not clear if Stan really believed it. (Actually, why would he? He had been searching for the couple who had killed FBI agents.) Back in headquarters, when his colleagues have identified Philip and Elizabeth, Stan vows to kill them. Was that for his partner's sake, or does a part of him really feel that way, because he now knows for sure that Philip and Elizabeth lied to him one last time about never killing anyone.
- Meanwhile, Philip finally had a disguise that was utterly convincing. Not quite Elizabeth. Paige's disguise was better than Elizabeth's. At least the producers made some progress in the disguise department.
- We still don't know if Renee is working for the Soviets. Stan doesn't know, either. It's good not to see every loose end tied up.
- And the best scene, of course, was the very last scene, with Philip and Elizabeth in Moscow, starting to speak in Russian, ending in English, two souls who had sacrificed their lives for a greater cause, created and raised two children, now having only each other. Say what you will about the evil of their cause, it was still gratifying and right to see them alive like this, at the end.
And maybe that, too, is what this uniquely memorable series was all about.