May 31, 2017

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “The Americans”


Last year FX gave THE AMERICANS showrunners Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg a final 2-season order, and from the vantage point of Season 5’s finale, it seems clear that they’ve approached this stretch as a single 23-episode arc, broken more or less in half by a year’s break.  Season 5 was not, in itself, a particularly satisfying piece of storytelling.  Even for a show that has always had a measured pace, the emphasis on moral anguish over action was particularly strong, and while a few stories were wrapped up, most of The Americans was left up in the air.  As a set-up for what’s to come in the final 10 hours, however, it made more sense.

That’s not to say that Season 5 lacked the show’s customary excellence.  There were powerful stories, notably an episode which forced Elizabeth and Philip Jennings (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys) to terminate an elderly woman who might have collaborated with the Germans during World War II and her innocent husband, and an arc in which the Jennings believed they were uncovering a US plot to poison Soviet crops, and committed murder to get the necessary information, only to discover that it was quite the reverse and the US scientists were trying to create crops that could withstand devastation.  The Americans has always been unsparing in showing the psychological damage inflicted by the realization that ideals often don’t hold up to scrutiny, and this season was particularly harsh on the Soviet Union, which weaponized the virus the Jennings had previously captured for them, and which was revealed in the season’s extensive Russian storyline to be a hotbed of unstoppable corruption.

The show also hit hard on its recurring them of the damage done to children by the excesses of espionage.  The Jennings’ daughter Paige (Holly Taylor), who knows some (but far from all) of her parents actions, lost her faith when she realized the Church was willing to do Soviet bidding to relocate the pastor who knew her parents’ secret.  This season, even poor Henry (Keidrich Sellati) felt the pain, as his dream of attending a prestigious private school was ruined (at least for the moment) when, unbeknownst to him, his parents had decided to relocate to Russia.  Worst of all was teen Pasha, a pawn manipulated by the Vietnamese boy Tuan (Ivan Mok), an associate of the Jennings, to attempt suicide so that Pasha’s mother would herself go back to Russia, where she and her American diplomat lover could be blackmailed.  That was even more than Elizabeth could endure.  The finale did, however, contain a rare grace note as Martha (Alison Wright), adrift in Moscow, found out that she’d be allowed to adopt a sweet Russian orphan.

Most of the show’s climaxes will have to wait until next year.  The Jennings’ dream of leaving the US came to an end when Philip learned that he had unique access to recordings of the CIA’s new head of the Russia Division through his (queasy but non-sexual, at least so far) relationship with the man’s teen daughter.  At the finale’s close, Elizabeth offered to let Philip disconnect from all spying activities except those tapes, which would create a different dynamic for Season 6.  We’ll presumably find out whether FBI agent Stan Beeman’s (Noah Emmerich) perky girlfriend Renee (Laurie Holden) is in fact a spy, Soviet or otherwise  Perhaps there will be more about Mischa (Alex Ozerov), the long-lost son that Philip doesn’t know tried to visit him this season.  We also seem owed a conclusion to the Russia-set story of Oleg Borov (Costa Ronin), and the KGB’s investigation into his relationshp with Stan when Oleg served in the US.

There will be plenty to occupy The Americans‘ final 10 hours, and even though this year’s 13 drifted a bit, it still offered its usual supply of superb performances, intelligent writing and chewy thematic complications.  We’ll know more about how successful this piece of the final story was once we’ve seen the rest.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."