Things have been very topsy-turvy on The Americans this season.
As our favorite undercover Russian spies head into tonight’s series (sniff!) finale, we thought it would be a good time to reflect on this season’s most shocking moments. One of the series’ greatest gifts is that it continues to zig when we are patiently waiting for it to zag.
There have been so many wonderful (but not terribly shocking) moments this season. Of course Philip (Matthew Rhys) would run off to Chicago the minute Elizabeth (Keri Russell) needed him, and obviously Elizabeth would keep lying to Paige (Holly Taylor). Honestly, that girl is going to need so much therapy. And we always knew that one day Philip would have to make that call and the Jennings family would be on the run. But as we head into the show’s final hour, some things remain a mystery. Who lives? Who dies? Can Philip and Elizabeth escape? Do we want them to? Will anyone remember Henry (Keidrich Sellati)? Can someone please check on poor Martha (Alison Wright)?
I simultaneously find myself wanting Philip to elude capture and Stan (Noah Emmerich) to prevail. And what of Renee (Laurie Holden)? Is she a devoted partner who simply thinks it would be fun to work with Stan or a sleeper agent playing the looooooong game? Has the show just been gaslighting us with Renee all along?
So pour yourself a stiff drink, comrades, take a bite of zharkoye, remove that ridiculous wig, put out that cigarette, and join me as we say dosvedanya to the series. Here are our picks for the 10 most shocking moments this season on The Americans.
With his beeps and clunky navigation, there is probably no character more beloved than Mail Robot. He hasn’t broken our heart or betrayed us. He just wants to get people their mail. So it seems fitting that we get a chance to say goodbye to the outdated piece of machinery. In the second episode of the season, directed by Rhys himself, Stan sees the mail robot as he travels the floors of the FBI from his relatively cushy job of investigating murderers, drug dealers and corrupt politicians to counterintelligence. In the Mail Robot’s second (final?) appearance, he rides the elevator with Stan and Dennis (Brandon J. Dirden). The two agents making room for Mail Robot on the elevator may be the show’s funniest moment.
Stavos (Anthony Arkin) may not be the best travel agent in the world. But he is smart enough to know that Mr. Philip hasn’t been selling cruises from the mysterious back room all these years. All this time, I thought the employees of Dupont Circle Travel were clueless. But Stavos is just loyal. A loyalty that’s betrayed since Philip unceremoniously fires him. Fun fact: The actor who plays Stavos is the son of Alan Arkin and the brother of Adam Arkin.
Look, we’ve seen a lot of grotesque things over the years on The Americans. They’ve folded dead bodies into suitcases and removed teeth without any anesthesia (my trips to the dentist have been a lot more anxiety-provoking since that episode.) But Philip hacking off the head and hands of a KGB agent killed during a botched operation may be the worst yet. A weary Philip, who has tried so hard to leave this world behind, must once again do the unthinkable. It was a terrific and nearly silent scene from Russell and Rhys, who can say so much without ever saying a word.
Gennadi (Yuri Kolokolnikov) and Sofia (Darya Ekamasova) have never been the easiest FBI informants. She’s impulsive and a little too chatty. He’s not good at being faithful and mistakes his handler relationship with Stan for friendship. But I still wasn’t quite prepared for Elizabeth to sneak into their safe house and murder them both while their seven-year-old son Ilia watched TV. Philip wasn’t prepared for this either. After learning about their deaths from Stan, Philip does shocking moment number six.
Philip sleeps with Kimmy (Julia Garner), something I’ve been worried about since we first met her way back in Season Three. The fact that she’s now in college, and not in high school, doesn’t make it any more OK. The vacant look on Philip’s face makes it clear that he knows he’s taking advantage of a still vulnerable girl. But having sex with Kimmy is the only way to ensure that he’s invited on her trip to Europe so she can be kidnapped in Bulgaria. But reeling from Elizabeth leaving Ilia an orphan, Philip breaks off his relationship with Kimmy and warns her not to go to any Eastern European countries. He chooses Kimmy’s safety above the operation. “It’s over,” he tells Elizabeth in the next episode.
It could have gone either way after Paige learned the truth about her parents in Season Three. As Philip says, the question was never whether Paige could do the job, but whether she should do it. But as the season kicks off with a three-year time jump, Paige is in college and all chummy with Claudia (Margo Martindale). Over the course of the season, she botches jobs (“Get back in the car!”), uses her skills in the wrong places (those college guys will think twice before being rude again), learns how to drink without getting drunk and gets the Soviet perspective on historical events. In one of the season’s most chilling scenes, she and Philip fight, and her father shows her how easily she could lose. I don’t think Paige is cut out for this.
Every time Philip thinks he’s out, they pull him back in. When the series resumes, Philip is focused more on the travel agency and out of the spy business (Kimmy is his only target), while Elizabeth is run down and haggard (her hair still looks fabulous, though—how could it not?) But Oleg (Costa Ronin) needs Philip to spy on Elizabeth. To let him know if the KGB is trying to get rid of Gorbachev. Philip begrudgingly agrees.
Elizabeth kills people all the time—without ever giving it a second thought. Unlike Philip, her conscience seems clear, even when they kill someone who’s not guilty—like that poor lab worker Randy Chilton, who turned out to not even be doing anything wrong. So in Season Six we see her do what she’s done so many times before. Seduce Jackson Barber (Austin Abrams), an intern in Sam Nunn’s office, and get him to inadvertently bug an important meeting. But Jackson finds the bug and confronts Elizabeth. She drives him to a tunnel and for sure we think this is the end for poor Jackson. Except Elizabeth lets him get out of the car and run away. Why? Because he’s around the same age as her children? Or is it finally a chink in her steely armor?
During the show’s inaugural season, Stan was almost immediately suspicious of Philip and Elizabeth. Remember when he hid out in their garage? Since then, he and Philip have become best friends. Playing racquet ball and drinking beer. Confiding marital woes. But when Philip and Elizabeth leave Henry alone for Thanksgiving (“Who does that?” Stan wonders in “Jennings, Elizabeth”), Stan realizes something might be rotten at the Jennings house. Soon he’s calling Pastor Tim (Kelly AuCoin), going to see an old associate of Gregory’s and snooping around their house. I really want Stan to figure this one out for himself, but if he does, will he ever be able to trust anyone ever again? Will he become suspicious of Renee like we have been all along?
For the first time since we’ve known her, Elizabeth doesn’t follow orders. She does not think the Russian diplomat has betrayed their country and not only does she refuse to kill him, she decides to protect him and kills Tatiana (Vera Cherny). She tells Claudia what she has done, leaving Elizabeth without any kind of safety net. She can’t turn to the country she lives in and she can’t turn to the country she loves and for decades has placed above all else—above her marriage, her children, even her own life (she spent nearly the entire season wearing a cyanide necklace). But what now for the woman who decided to question her orders for the first time?
The series finale of The Americans airs tonight at 10 p.m. on FX. Read our episodic reviews here.
Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and the Assistant TV Editor for Paste. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal) or her blog .