After six gut-wrenching seasons of Cold War spy drama, FX’s The Americans is reaching an earned conclusion. Shame that almost no one has seen it. Last season’s premiere episode fell to a 0.3 rating among the 18-49 demographic (that’s bad), according to Deadline. It’s a deep, complex, and nuanced show about big ideas and small decisions with nuclear consequences.
Given the state of global politics today, The Americans is required viewing.
One of the series’ creators, Joe Weisberg, is a former CIA officer and knows how this world of espionage and deep cover works. Weisberg’s real-world experiences and tactical expertise elevates the stakes of The Americans‘ subterfuge and violence to absolutely terrifying levels.
Sadly, the strength of The Americans is also its weakness. The incredible tension in this series is unrelenting, which can be exhausting to watch. However, it’s so damned compelling to see these spies balancing family with espionage, while staying one step ahead of the feds, that it’s worth the indigestion. It’s too bad such a quality production hasn’t found a larger audience; however, it’s admirable FX gave the creators so much rope to tell its story.
If you’re unfamiliar with The Americans, here’s a quick rundown: Philip and Elizabeth Jennings are a typical 1980s working-class family with a son, Henry, and a teenage daughter, Paige. Philip and Elizabeth are also Russian spies pursuing America’s deepest Cold War secrets. Additionally, Henry and Paige are waking up to the reality that their parents are anti-American foreign agents. On top of all that, they just happen to live next door to Stan Beeman, an FBI counter-intelligence specialist.
The Jennings, Stan, and the FBI have been circling one another for five seasons, and that circle has been rapidly shinking.
Season six of The Americans brings the story to a logical and (probably) bloody end. The Jennings have performed their job with ruthless precision, but the body toll and the strain of secrecy has worn them down. They’ve been living in America for more 20 years and are beginning to question their mission; they’re also struggling to bear the weight of their past deeds. Beeman has been just as zealous in the pursuit of his goals, but he compromised his morals and ethics along the way. These broken and conflicted characters are amazing to follow.
Both the Jennings and Beeman are headed for a collision, which has been promised since the very start. The series’ final episodes will be teeth-clenching stuff.
The Americans is not easy viewing, unfortunately. Some of the violence is truly hard to process — perhaps because there’s some truth and fact behind it all. There’s also the realization that people like Philip and Elizabeth are living in our communities right now — maybe more than a few — and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to further Russia’s goals.
The Americans is the best show on television for all of these reasons and more. If you’re a fan, this final season is bittersweet — but once it’s over, just tune over to the eerily similar events playing out on the nightly news. If nothing else, The Americans certainly adds some flavor to the drama playing out in our daily international politics.