“The Americans” finale (FX): A masterpiece


An expertly matched young Soviet couple extensively trained in espionage, martial arts and whatever else it takes to “pass as Americans”.  Six (season) years of plotting, manipulating, ferreting out political and military secrets to benefit the Soviet Union (in the Cold War 80s), disguises and always one-step ahead of the FBI. Complex issues of loyalty, principle and betrayal- ultimately leading to an inevitable crisis climax.

But those years unexpectedly assimilated them into American life more than either thought, concurrently running a business and creating a family. A male bonding between two lonely men playing cat and mouse, neither understanding the inevitable consequence.

And then, following the inevitable betrayal from a peer, it was over, leading to one of the most emotional, heart breaking hours in television history.

The season ender (Season 6, Episode 10- May 31, 2018) cascaded into 11 minutes of confrontation and emotional chaos between the Jennings and Stan. The painful decision to abandon innocents forever and a shocking scene literally as far as a border, literally and metaphorically, accompanied by the U2 song “With or Without You” (which was perfect.)

There is no killing, no guns, and no violence. There is only the stage set for whatever might come next. Henry tearfully stares off into the distance as hears the truth sitting on a hockey bleacher. Paige knocks back a shot of cold Vodka in a “safe house”, quietly awaiting what comes next.  But we don’t know what will come next, only that there will be a next we’ll never see.

Philip and Elizabeth stand by the side of a road in front of the Moscow State University, glancing out over the city. They made it home, but where is home? They willbe forever haunted by their choice to leave the children behind.The life they grew into is gone and they no longer recognize their new home. Last words spoken (in Russian): “We’ll get used to it”. We see the end of all their stories but we have no idea of their future and we probably never will.

The Americans is one of the top five valued TV series ever created. The finale is steeped in quiet but wrenching emotional turmoil.  Not a dry eye in the house. I seriously doubt if we’ll ever see anything like it again.

Parenthetically, the Director was very astute in picking parts of the soundtrack. I have created a brief youtube of two clips from the finale, each with a sound track that worked actually perfectly. First is from the hauntingly beautiful “Brothers in Arms” (Dire Straits- 1985). The second with “With or without you” (U2- 1987), perfection for that particular portion of the film.  You really don’t need to know much about what’s progressing in the film clip, just watch and listen to how the music clip infiltrates and adds texture to the clip. I’m using these clips and some others in my music class at Pitt in July.


If you can find the episode (S6E10) I highly recommend watching it. You really don’t know much more about what came before to enjoy the mastery of it.


2 thoughts on ““The Americans” finale (FX): A masterpiece

  1. I completely agree with your review. One of the best, along with the finale of All in the Family and MASH. Wonderful television.

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