The Americans: Season 6 created by Joseph Weisberg (FX Networks, Amblin Television, DreamWorks Television)
Starring Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Keidrich Sellati, Holly Taylor, Noah Emmerich, Costa Ronin, Lev Gorn, Brandon J. Dirden, and Margo Martindale.
The Typical Script
The anti-hero drama follows a tried-and-true script. Main character breaks bad, for certain clearly defined reasons. The viewer can sympathize with the anti-hero’s position. If written well, the anti-hero possesses rock-solid motivations and even though a viewer might cringe at the challenging elements of the character (you know, murder et al), the viewer roots for the anti-hero even if this person is “bad.”
Given this script, the conclusion of such narrative must include just desserts. If the anti-hero doesn’t pay for his or her sins, the conclusion rings hollow. Thus, the final season of anti-hero dramas tend to become a rip-roaring affair. Consider Breaking Bad, every episode of its last season feels like a series of higher and higher stakes with massive body counts in its wake.
So, for many, the assumption was the concluding season of The Americans would follow in the footsteps of its earlier anti-hero dramas.
Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russel) have left body counts much bigger than other anti-heroes. If anyone deserves justice for major sins, it ought to be the Jennings family.
It stood to reason that this final season would pit the Jennings against their next-door neighbor, FBI agent Stan (Noah Emmerich).
So, spoilers and all. Don’t read anymore if that matters to you.
The Americans, instead inverts the timbre of its final season. Fast forward to 1987, the reforms of glasnost and perestroika dominate the Cold War narrative.
A standard storytelling approach would plug into this tension and add to the action. But the show runners instead stay true to form. The Americans always wanted to keep the Cold War in the periphery. This show is ultimately about whether a marriage can be saved.
So, the twist of the final season doesn’t pit Stan against the Jennings; instead, it pits the Jennings against each other.
In the three-year period between Season 5 and Season 6, the toll of spy-craft has split the allegiances of the Jennings husband and wife. Philip has spent the last three years retired, focusing fully on his travel agency, like a fully assimilated American.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth continues the relentless pace of espionage. She has so many missions that her daily existence is one of exhaustion. When the KGB recruits her to spy on Russians visiting American for peace talks—an attempt to discredit Gorbachev—Elizabeth gamely complies.
Unknown to her, pro-Gorbachev Russians have approached Philip to keep an eye on Elizabeth. These forces fear mutiny in the ranks of Russian leadership and what might happen to the positive reforms of Gorbachev. So, husband and wife find themselves on the opposite end of this internal conflict.
And here I go focusing on the Cold War after claiming this season is really about saving a marriage.
Where Is Our Ultimate Allegiance?
As the season unfolds, The Americans asks the question of ultimate allegiance. Do we live within an ideology or do we live for another human being?
Where The Americans zigs as other shows have zagged is through this inward turn. The power of a relationship surpasses any geopolitic. And as such, the viewer wants to root for this husband and wife, no matter their sins, to make it in this crazy world.
Verdict: 5 out of 5