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How Will They End ‘The Americans’?

Margo Martindale as KGB handler Claudia, in one of the best scenes from this season of ‘The Americans’

Next Wednesday will be the series finale of The Americans, the great FX drama about a married couple living undercover as KGB spies in 1980s Washington. Boy, am I ever going to miss that show and its characters. If you’ve never seen it, I encourage you to give it a try — though of course you’re going to have to start at the beginning. It’s violent, and sexually explicit at times, but the show — created by a former CIA agent, Joe Weisberg — is not only excellent drama, but morally penetrating too in the way it forces you to confront what it means to be loyal, and what you would do for your country.

Because I don’t want to ruin the show for those who haven’t seen it, I’m going to put my answers to these questions below the jump. If you think you will ever watch the show, don’t read my answers or the comments thread. As for my fellow Americans fans, I’d like you to answer the following:

  1. How would you like the series to end?
  2. How do you think they will end the series?

My answers below. If for some reason the coding doesn’t work, and you can see what follows, STOP READING RIGHT NOW TO AVOID SPOILERS!

How would I like the series to end?

With Philip and Elizabeth caught. If they escape back to Russia, I will be really disappointed. There has to be justice.

Really, that’s all that matters: that they’re caught. I want to see the scene where Stan confronts them, and they’re made to see in his trusting face the full cost of their betrayal. I want to see the look in Paige and Henry’s faces when they understand what their parents did.

I want Burov to go back safely to his wife and children in Moscow.

How do I think it’s going to end? 

For years I’d figured that Philip was going to end up going over to the US, not only because he had come to love our country, but because he wanted a better life for Paige and Henry. I thought that their marriage would ultimately fall apart irretrievably, and that would be the impetus for him to betray Elizabeth for the sake of their children and his own future.

Clearly that’s not going to happen. So what will? This thing could end so many ways, but I think that having introduced the cyanide pill in an earlier episode, Elizabeth is somehow going to choose to take it. This week’s episode ended with Elizabeth having received a signal from Philip, who is on the run, that she should clear out. The word “topsy-turvy” must have been the “abandon ship” code. She now knows that she’s running for her life, and no doubt headed to meet Philip at a safe house. They will be arrested at that safe house. The final act will be how they negotiate their futures.

Whatever happens in that coming exchange between the FBI and Elizabeth, it will end with her taking the cyanide pill. She really does love her country, and I think that having lost her children (Paige has turned on her, and Henry hasn’t loved her in a long time), she will find herself in a situation where she fears betraying under interrogation the only thing she has ever really loved: Mother Russia.

What will Philip do?  will strike a deal to go into witness protection in exchange for secrets. The possibility of living as a normal American would be the thing he wants more than anything.  More than that, he wants to cleanse his tormented conscience.

Burov will be sent home. About Paige and Henry? Dunno. It doesn’t really matter, does it? They’re Americans; they can’t be sent to Russia. Hard to see the government punishing Paige. Their parents were spies, yes, but now they get to be normal Americans.

I am sorry that we’re probably not going to get to say goodbye to Martha. Poor Martha is the reason above many others that I do not want Philip and Elizabeth to escape. I don’t see how the showrunners can allow them to.

32 Comments (Open | Close)

32 Comments To "How Will They End ‘The Americans’?"

#1 Comment By Anonymous Bosch On May 25, 2018 @ 9:18 am

I have not seen the series, and thus have no opinion about it, but the photo of Margo Martindale brought to mind one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever seen on TV, namely season 2 of Justified. Martindale, in the role of Mags Bennett, was wonderful. It does not get much better than the scene where Mags poisons Loretta McCready’s father.

#2 Comment By Deacon Nicholas On May 25, 2018 @ 9:35 am

The show’s creator is a former CIA officer, not a former CIA agent. Agents are the foreigners run by intelligence officers. These distinctions are important, at least to former CIA officers (unless, like Aldrich Ames, they are also agents of a foreign power).

#3 Comment By Longterm1158 On May 25, 2018 @ 10:14 am

If you like Margo, and you haven’t seen the two seasons of Sneaky Pete, run don’t walk to Amazon for viewing. You won’t regret it.

#4 Comment By matthew On May 25, 2018 @ 10:35 am

My thought has always been that by the end they would both realize that what they had done could not simply be erased and they can never go back to Russia after willfully betraying “the center”, so their last act will be one of self sacrifice. They might find themselves in a position where they not only can save their children but possibly Stan’s life also, and while they would die in doing so, they could at least go out knowing they were in some small way making recompense for all the destruction and death they left in their wake.

#5 Comment By Hal On May 25, 2018 @ 10:39 am

I don’t watch the show but when I’m passing through while my wife watches. It’s a bit too much for me.

That said, she speculates that Elizabeth kills Philip for the sake of the homeland. Can’t let him betray everything they’ve fought for.

On vaguely related note, one of my favorite bits of unintended humor from the show was a brief scene purporting to take place in my home of “St. Clair County, IL,” which apparently features rolling mountains in the background.

You know, those mountains that IL is well-known for.

[NFR: Nah, Elizabeth won’t do that. She’s already clearly turned on the anti-Gorbachev KGB faction. What would Philip have left to betray? — RD]

#6 Comment By Bryan On May 25, 2018 @ 10:43 am

I sort of hope that Stan somehow gets involved in a way that he finds out what they did, but that he also realizes they are trying to help Oleg keep factions within the KGB from bringing down Gorbachev and thus, trying to keep the peace talks on track, so he ends up confronting them, but also helping them escape or not be punished to the extent they otherwise would be. A mixed ending where justice and what’s necessary in this moment are in conflict with each other.

#7 Comment By JB On May 25, 2018 @ 11:00 am

I’ll go with this: Elizabeth will take the capsule she’s been wearing around her neck to avoid capture. Paige will get arrested because she’s a rookie and prone to amateur mistakes.

Philip might agree to be in witness protection in exchange for a few million dollars for Henry.

We’ll never find out if Renee is a spy or not.

Mail Robot will continue to build its plan for world conquest.

#8 Comment By Mike On May 25, 2018 @ 11:14 am

In jest, Early on the show seemed to be all about parenting tips.

In that way, it’s nice to pair w Fiver Upper, which is about marriage.

#9 Comment By John On May 25, 2018 @ 12:30 pm

I always wanted to end on December 25, 1991 with Philip and Elizabeth at home watching as the Soviet flag is lowered over the Kremlin for the last time.

#10 Comment By Anne On May 25, 2018 @ 12:44 pm

I’ve loved this series too, which is why I found this season too hard to watch after the first couple shows. I’ve been watching them “on demand,” dragging it out, pacing myself.
Whatever happens to Philip and Elizabeth — and your scenarios make as much sense as any I can think of — is going to be hard to take. I know the two have hurt some innocents, including Martha, but their lives are hardly their own. They both love their kids; it’s just that Elizabeth has clearly committed her entire self to the Soviet cause and Philip doesn’t want to betray her, or lose the children. Everybody’s in a tough spot.

I believe the real Russian spies whose lives inspired the show were caught and eventually returned to their home country as part of a prisoner exchange. Of course, the nature of their post-Cold War activities probably wasn’t on the same level as what Philip and Elizabeth have been called on to do. The biological warfare story line was chilling.

The series can’t possibly end the way I’d want it to, with Burov and Martha going back to their respective countries to live happily ever after, Philip forgiven and free to pursue the normal life of a travel agent and watch his kids lead their American lives, and perhaps Elizabeth returned to Russia, where the course of history would soon assure punishment enough for a woman who’d given all she gave for the cause of Soviet-style Communism.

As an aside, I thought the writers captured the conflict at the root of the Soviet soul when they showed Elizabeth and Philip finally marrying in a ceremony they chose to be totally private and clandestine…and Russian Orthodox, despite the fact neither believes in God.

#11 Comment By JamesG On May 25, 2018 @ 1:04 pm

A surprise from last week: Philip was under surveillance suggesting Stan’s boss is gaming Stan. Is Renee already ID’d as a spy?

Both will be arrested.

Elizabeth will take the pill and die Philip grieves.

#12 Comment By actualitems On May 25, 2018 @ 1:20 pm

Philip wasn’t under surveillance, the priest was.

#13 Comment By Anonymous Bosch On May 25, 2018 @ 1:32 pm

Thanks Longterm1158, I rarely bother to watch television, but I’ll definitely check out Sneaky Pete if Margo Martindale is in it. She projects depths and shades of character that one rarely sees on a screen.

#14 Comment By Craig On May 25, 2018 @ 1:32 pm

I think the writers will contrive some circumstance where Philip is forced to administer the pill to Elizabeth in accordance with her wishes.

#15 Comment By Steve On May 25, 2018 @ 2:46 pm

The last episode made it clear they can’t go home. It isn’t even home anymore. I can see Elizabeth taking the pill or going out in a blaze of gunfire. I bet Phillip turns himself in via Stan. That is the most plausible way for him to keep the family together. His being arrested shatters it. But on God’s home and we get a shot of Martindale in handcuffs. I expect to be wrong but this has been such a great show that I don’t expect s Dexter or Sopranos ending.

#16 Comment By Augustine On May 25, 2018 @ 2:54 pm

On a side note, I recall that, when the Wall fell, a couple of Soviet spies came out asking for political asylum in my home country. They had been living in a tropical country for decades and had learned our ways, fitting in pretty well. They loved it and just couldn’t, for the life of them, go back to long winters, methinks. Their request was granted and I never heard of them again in the news.

Likewise, perhaps Phillip and Elizabeth will just use their crafty ways to move to Puerto Rico incognito, away from the cold, in so many senses, capital.

#17 Comment By Buck Jones On May 25, 2018 @ 7:10 pm

I had no idea that Rod Dreher was such an Americans fan! Kudos!

As for @JB: his mail robot reference made me laugh out loud and almost do a spit take on my glass of rosé.

Unfortunately, since i live in Paris, I can’t watch the current season (not even available for purchase on iTunes, thanks to licensing agreements between FX and who knows), but I was in London last week and binge watched the first six episodes of season 6. It’s a shame I have to wait for our corporate over-lords to open the gates of Elysium for me here in France, but I digress.

Based on what I saw from the first six episodes, I would say that RD’s prediction is pretty spot on. Personally, I can’t stand Paige or Elizabeth, and would not mind it all if they both went down in a blaze of misguided communist glory thanks to Uncle Sam.

Flash forward 20 years with an elderly Clark and Martha enjoying their golden years together in Florida, line-dancing at some country western bar. (Sigh).

[NFR: I really can’t stand Paige either. Have to say that Holly Taylor is miscast as a trainee spy. — RD]

#18 Comment By Andrea On May 25, 2018 @ 7:54 pm

I won’t look at the other answers before I answer.

I suspect they will get away and may be quietly traded to Russia for other spies, echoing what happened in the case this was based on. I think American Henry will probably end up being sent back with his family and will hate his parents and sister for it. The families this happened to had kids who went back to Russia with their parents and weren’t allowed to return to North America. Paige is now a spy too and Henry will be guilty by association. He’s also still a minor, so he goes with the parents. Stan’s wife is probably a Russian spy. Maybe the last shot is her giving info to Claudia.

What would I like to happen? A poetic ending, with Philip and Elizabeth dying to save the peace process with Russia and to protect their kids. Paige turns state’s evidence and goes into witness protection. Henry becomes a rich business owner. Oleg goes home to his wife and baby and eventually emigrates with them to America when Putin rises to power. Martha is pardoned and gets to come home with her daughter while her parents are still alive. Stan’s wife is innocent and he gets a happy ending.

#19 Comment By Casey Bemis On May 25, 2018 @ 10:18 pm

In the last episode I saw Elizabeth begin to question what the Center was doing, and was unable to carry our a murder. This leads me to think she and Philip will encounter Stan and may provide enough information about upcoming meeting that the whole family will go into witness protection. That’s what I’d like to see. In many ways this is a love story and I’d like it to have a happy ending.

If not, then maybe Elizabeth takes the pill, Philip provides enough info and goes into witness protection. Paige goes out on a limb and dies or is injured. This could change Elizabeth’s mind about her loyalties and she could provide enough info to go into witness protection with family. Could be Henry lives with Stan.

Philip becomes a line dance instructor.

#20 Comment By Stephen Frug On May 25, 2018 @ 11:23 pm

Honestly, my hope at this point is that they achieve a satisfying level of narrative closure with their five main characters (Elizabeth, Philip, Paige, Henry & Stan). In *whatever* fashion. Because while I love the show & the writers are brilliant, they have a *whole* lot of outstanding narrative debts to pay off in an hour. I just hope they can stick the landing.

#21 Comment By galanx On May 25, 2018 @ 11:35 pm

What I think will happen;Phillip gets killed by Anderholt (Stan’s boss}; Elizabeth gets arrested (by Stan, who blames her for Phil’s death) and possibly takes poison; Paige (who I think is great) escapes because the FBI can’t prove she is guilty and Elizabeth refuses to rat her out.

What I’d like to see; Elizabeth lies dying, struggling to gasp out a few last words. Stan leans over her, says”What? FBI trumps KGB? America trumps Soviet Union? The trump is…trump p***??”
Elizabeth dies, with an oddly triumphant smile, as the camera pans out and a voice is heard in the background ranting:
“No collusion…rotten FBI…no Russia connection….”

#22 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On May 26, 2018 @ 12:35 am

I’m an aspiring novelist of sorts (well, to be precise: there’s a novel that i’d Like to write, but my science career keeps me too busy to actually type out pages). I’m seriously thinking I’d like to set it in an alternate history where the Soviet Union survived into the 2010s.

I’d suspect that with all the semipermanent crises that seem to be afflicting the western powers right now, both economic and cultural, “actually existing socialism” would look like a pretty alternative if it still, you know, actually existed.

Never seen The Americans although I guess it’s an interesting premise.

#23 Comment By Steve Gibson On May 26, 2018 @ 12:48 am

I did not read below the jump or the previous comments. When the Trump campaign took off, I became obsessed with following it and could not also deal with the harsh realities in The Americans. I have two full seasons to catch up on, when I can stand to watch it. Until then, when I want to push the news out of my mind, with something else dark and realistic, I am rewatching The Closer, where the story arc shows a protagonist using her wits instead of guns, to uncover dangerous people and kill them, being drawn into her personal dark side while getting the justice that her victims deserved.

#24 Comment By MrsDK On May 26, 2018 @ 10:52 am

I am really going to miss this show too. The only thing that disappoints me is that their daughter converted to Christianity (although it didn’t last)…yet the horror of the Soviet persecution of Christians was never mentioned. I thought we were in for some amazing tension over that, which never materialized.

I’ve worked in the national security sector since the late 80s and thought that the show evoked those times — and reenacted the HUMINT tradecraft from those times — in a spectacular way.

#25 Comment By Jeffersonian On May 26, 2018 @ 11:03 am

Well, from the “Scenes from Next Week’s Episode,” we know that 1. They go get Paige, and 2. Stan looks at a photo, looks up and says, resolutely, “I’m gonna kill him…”

So, I’m betting on they are able to get away, but the writers will make it razor thin. I am thinking along the lines of stealing a car and getting out at the secret airstrip that they used to whisk away Martha.

Individual characters:

I want Elizabeth and Philip witnessing the tanks with Yeltsin from a short distance away, exchanging looks but no words.

Oleg: the FBI will PNG him after week or so and he gratefully goes back to his family.

Claudia: Elizabeth leaves Stan an anonymous (or, heck, not anonymous, does it really matter at this point?) tip and Claudia does a peep walk.

Paige: finishes college in the UK.

Henry: I really don’t care.

Renee: gets hired at the FBI, takes over E.’s mission.

Aderholt: accidental death by head trauma from banging it on his desk.

Stan: cut forward to about 2009, he’s retired on a beach in the Cayman Islands when he suddenly smells cigarette smoke from a lounge chair behind him….

#26 Comment By Jeffersonian On May 26, 2018 @ 11:05 am

Perp walk not peep walk, the dang auto-correct rears its head.

#27 Comment By Jonah R. On May 26, 2018 @ 2:39 pm

I have no idea how “The Americans” will end, but I’ve always hoped it would end in fall 1989, with the Berlin Wall falling, or, as John says above, with the end of the Soviet Union in 1991. I’ve hoped to see Elizabeth realize that Philip had better instincts than she did and that the horrible things they’ve done were in the service of a nation that deserved to die. I’d hoped to see their faces as their fellow Russians cheer the end of the USSR. That’s just my visceral hope; what we get will probably be considerably more ambiguous.

But the truth is, I’ve had a hard time getting a bead on the show’s point of view. It’s not pro-Soviet, but it’s also never felt really pro-American to me either. In a meta sense, the show seems to have been, at least in part, about showing these characters as full human beings so we have to examine the ways we ourselves balance the good and bad actions of others when we judge them. It’s also a show about conflicting loyalties: To what extent can we be simultaneously loyal to our families, a nation, and our ideals?

#28 Comment By Laura B On May 26, 2018 @ 3:12 pm

The Series Finale: Phil and Liz pick up Paige, with the next stop being New Hampshire where Henry attends school.

The FBI, FINALLY, produces an accurate witness sketch of Phil and Liz. Stan sees the sketch at the same time that he’s told that Phil and Liz took Henry from his school, hence; the “I’m gonna kill ’em” response.

Dennis interrogates Father Andrei, telling him that he has to cooperate with the FBI. Oleg is finished.

Phil will die via “suicide by cop” at Stan’s hand. Liz will surrender to the FBI. Henry will live with Stan. In the final scene we will learn that Renee is a Soviet agent, meaning, the beat goes on…

#29 Comment By Dommerdog On May 27, 2018 @ 3:49 am

What a great show! I hate for it to end, but I’m hoping for a great payoff. According to articles and interviews, we won’t see Margo Martindale again. Her last scene was that table scene when Elizabeth told her that not only had she not killed Nesterenko but that she’d tipped off the Gorbachev people.

I found interesting the revelation that the Soviets on this show blame the US for the millions of Soviet casualties in WWII, when it was the Germans who did all that. Had the US not supplied the USSR after Hitler attacked its then ally, the USSR, sending Stalin running to Churchill for help, everybody west of Siberia would be speaking German today. That’s just background, though.

1. What I’d like to see happen: Elizabeth and Philip in a race from the KGB/Center and FBI to a Gorbachev friendly rescue squad. They and Paige are rescued and return to Russia where Philip and Elizabeth part ways and Philip returns to Martha who has better sense than to take him back. Henry is left behind, as was Philip’s other son, because his parents realize taking him would be cruel. Stan takes him in. Meanwhile, Tatiana’s failed attempt on Nesterenko’s life adds weight to Oleg’s revelation to Stan, and Stan runs that up the flagpole. He is granted immunity in exchange for decoding Philip’s message and because of a plea from the Gorbachev camp which promises to clean house of its KGB elements in its embassy. Oleg is ordered by his bosses, as part of the deal, to reveal his contact’s identity. All this sounds just rosy until the FBI realizes E and P are responsible for the death of Stan’s boss’s first partner and Gaad as well as what was done to Martha. Emotions are going to be running high. Brenda will turn out to be nothing more than an Easter egg for Walking Dead fans since Laurie Holden and Noah Emmerich were in the season 1 finale of that series.

2. How it will end: Philip will “seek assylum” in a diversion to allow E and Paige to escape. He will ask nothing for himself but that Henry be taken care of. Paige will be killed by the KGB in retaliation. Elizabeth will go home alone where she will not be persona non grata because she thwarted the attack on Nesterenko, thereby saving Gorbachev’s political future; but we will know that she will always be looking over her shoulder. And, yes, she will realize that she is just as American as those she scoffed and be miserable. Stan will take in Henry. We will have a very satisfying confrontation between Stan and Philip. We need that.

#30 Comment By Dommerdog On May 27, 2018 @ 4:09 pm

One more thought. This story should not have happy endings for everybody, but:

What I’d like to see is Gorbachev clearing the KGB from the Russian Embassy and installing Oleg there because of his loyalty to his country and the risk he took in protecting the Gorbachev regime.

It should not end well for the Jenningses, and as I proposed above, Paige should die by KGB – most likely resulting from her doing something stupid – and Elizabeth should have to live with that. Philip should be apprehended.

I’d like to see things end well for Stan, but I could see it going badly for him, as well, especially if he acts outside his authority in matters of Oleg or if the FBI holds it against him that he’d been a possible source of information to Philip.

#31 Comment By ted On May 27, 2018 @ 4:50 pm

I don’t think the Russians blame the US for the soviet casualties during WW2; Claudia and Liz were angry 27 million soviets were killed an the US didn’t give proper credit to the Soviet Union.

#32 Comment By ted On May 27, 2018 @ 4:59 pm

In the preview for next week Stan says ”I’m going to kill him;” my guess is the FBI discover the car Amador [Stan’s former partner] left his ring in was rented by Phillip and that’s what prompted that comment. Its pretty clear by now Stan is going to find out that Phil and Liz are Russian spies; the FBI has photos of a disguised Phil meeting with the priest but Stan will recognize Phil; don’t know how the show will end.