After six seasons, it is time to say goodbye to the Jennings’ with a gut-punching series finale of The Americans.
The FX Original Series followed Russian spies Elizabeth and Phillip Jennings as they lived their lives in Northern Virginia is as much about human relationships and espionage.
The final season saw Elizabeth and her husband Phillip start to drift apart, as Phillip focused more on their travel agency, and Elizabeth on the espionage, with complications leading up to the final episode, The Americans Season 6 Episode 10 “START.”
Series star, Keri Russell, who plays Elizabeth Jennings, recently held a conference call with reporters to give the series a postmortem including several of the shocking series finale twists.
“START,” picks up immediately from The Americans Season 6 Episode 9 “Jennings, Elizabeth.” Phillip is being tailed by the FBI after a meeting with Father Andrei. He calls Elizabeth using their code word “topsy-turvy” to get the go-bag out of the safe. But, of course, “START,” can’t have everything go to plan.
The first twist of the episode is the decision to leave their son Henry behind.
“I had no idea that they would pick such an emotional route of devastation with the kids,” said Russell. “I did not see the Henry aspect coming at all, and that was just devastating to me.”
“Paige, in my mind she’s already kind of implicated by her parents and all of – because she knows so much. Henry is kind of a little clearer because he’s still so clean and he’s really succeeding in his life. And to take him away from that would be cruel in some way,” she explained.
While the Jennings’ hearts start breaking early on in the series finale, there was one big plot point to tie up as well. That’s Noah Emmerich’s character, Stan Beeman, confronting the Jennings about their status as Russian spies.
The scene occurs in a parking garage with Elizabeth, Phillip, and Paige, getting ready to leave Paige’s apartment in which all the secrets come spilling out.
“We shot that all in one day. I want to say it took about nine hours and we shot in the same garage just standing there. And I have to say, you know, credit to Matthew [Rhys] and Noah [Emmerich] because I can’t remember the page count on that, but it had to be like a nine-page scene, and just so many monologues,” Russell said.
“I don’t care how much you love a show by year six, [a] sort of laziness just happens. And they came in and just killed it. I mean, they knew every word and they kind of just did it right there, and it was amazing to watch,” she continued. “I actually don’t say much in it so I got to just kind of watch it unfold.”
In the very first episode, the Jennings meet their new neighbors, the Beemans. Stan works in counterintelligence, creating a tense situation for the spies and for six seasons hadn’t figured out the Jennings real story. That all changes in the last few episodes of Season 6, when he begins to catch onto some of Elizabeth and Phillip’s unusual behavior.
Ultimately, Stan lets them go. An interesting turn for a character so loyal to the FBI, a turn that Russell loved.
“I love that Stan doesn’t turn them in. I mean, I think that’s the complication that Joe [Weisberg] and Joel [Fields] present so well is there is no bad guy there is no good guy,” Russell elaborated.
Yet, the scene doesn’t wrap everything up in a nice little bow. Phillip’s parting words to Stan are about his suspicion that Stan’s girlfriend Renee might be a KGB operative. Russell isn’t quite sure what she thinks about that hanging thread.
“That seems pretty creepy to me. But that’s just my take on it. But how crazy right to the end – ‘oh by the way I don’t know [for sure] yes or no, but look out for it.’ What do you do with that?” Russell said.
THE AMERICANS — “Tchaikovsky” — Season 6, Episode 2 — Pictured: (l-r) Holly Taylor as Paige Jennings, Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings. CR: Patrick Harbron/FX
The rollercoaster of emotions is amplified by the episode’s climax when Holly Taylor’s character, Paige, gets off the train, choosing to stay in the United States while U2’s “With or Without You” plays over the montage.
Russell thought the ending was fitting for the characters, even though they make it safely to Moscow they have paid the ultimate price.
“We were talking to Tommy Schlamme about it, one of our directors, and he was saying, because the guys, Joe [Weisberg] and Joel [Fields], let him read it very pretty early on, and I thought he said this thing that made so much sense which is: you’re watching this couple go through the series and you’re rooting for them but you want them to pay in some way for what they’ve done and they chose the most painful way for them to pay,” Russell said.
“They like took their kids away and it’s something I could not have seen coming at all and I just think it was so – I mean it was – and what’s great about the Paige [scene] is they’ve already lost Henry and you can’t imagine that they would take Paige too and she chooses to stay behind and you’re just like, woah,” said Russell. “As a parent as a mother, it was just like…too much, too much.”
Although the tense road out of the United States has plenty of opportunities for the Jennings to be apprehended by the FBI, they safely make it to Russia and are left looking out at Moscow with the final shot.
“It’s definitely not American, hopeful, right? And I think Joe and Joel talked for a while about really wanting a Russian ending. And whatever that means to you, you know, but I certainly don’t think it’s like everyone wins and everything’s fair, it’s a bit more complex than that. It’s a little more bittersweet,” said Russell.
The ending might be surprising to some people who may have expected Elizabeth to die after a string of murders and receiving a suicide tablet in the season premiere.
“[The] thing that I have really enjoyed about this project this series is I’ve been continually surprised in a good way. Like I’ve always been surprised with the turns and the twists and I’ve never been bored by them. So I had no idea what was in store, and then and the way the season was going by about the third or fourth episode I thought oh well they’re setting her up to die because she’s so unlikable and she’ll never redeem herself,” said Russell.
When it comes to Phillip and Elizabeth’s future Russell doesn’t see an easy road ahead for them, at least not for the first few years.
“I mean it’s pretty devastating what the loss of children would do to a marriage. But interestingly Joe [Weisberg] and Joel [Fields] were always sort of – when we were talking about this scene about those end moments I think what they wanted to convey which was hard at times was no matter what like we’re going to have each other,” explained Russell.
“We’ve come this far together and we’re going to get each other through this. And I think that’s what they really wanted. And ultimately it was this story of this marriage [and] this relationship. So I think that is their hope that they will pull each other through this moment.”
Looking at the ending in 2018 eyes there is a bit of hope though. Even though Elizabeth and Phillip are separated from their kids now, history tells us the course of events could change.
“We obviously know in today’s age that, you know, the Berlin Wall does fall and communism doesn’t win. The hope is that in a couple of years they’ll go back and try to repair and find the kids,” said Russell.
“But, you know, that’s the only saving grace I have as a parent, you know, as a fan of the show, you know, is to go. ‘Oh but, you know, it’s all going to change in a couple of years and they can go back and find them. But yes I mean that’s I think and I think those would be a couple of pretty bleak years or wouldn’t you think?’” Russell explained.
Over the last six years, Russell has loved playing Elizabeth Jennings, a character that has had her own strength, goals, and unique character arc throughout the entire series.
“A lot of times the female part is like the doting wife or the comforting wife, so it feels incredibly satisfying to begin this process six years ago what we did and then to start to end here. I mean just I just relished it was a real treat to get to do this job,” said Russell.
“Elizabeth got to stay Elizabeth for such a long time she didn’t have to be good or she didn’t have to fit in or she didn’t have to get soft. And she did have a reckoning of some sort in herself but, you know, I loved that she stayed the way she was for so long,” Russell explained.
Russell also liked the story was really about human beings and these two operatives in a marriage.
“I was talking recently about the marriage and some of – we were discussing the idea of they were saying do you think Elizabeth sort of leaving the system, and going rogue, and going off on her own was in a way choosing Phillip and the relationship. And I would argue that they were inching along toward that past the whole way,” said Russell.
“You know, they were always sort of taking steps away from the center and getting married and private and telling each other secrets they weren’t supposed to tell and that bond was getting much stronger than I think and the level of intimacy much more than just an average operational relationship.”
What did you think of The Americans series finale? Do you think the Jennings got what they deserved? Let us know in the comments below.