The Americans is an American period spy thriller television series created by Joe Weisberg for the FX television network. Set during the Cold War, it follows the story of Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip Jennings (Matthew Rhys), two Soviet KGB officers posing as an American married couple living in Falls Church, a Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C. with their children, Paige (Holly Taylor) and Henry (Keidrich Sellati). The show also explores the conflict between Washington's FBI office and the KGB Rezidentura by following the perspectives of agents on both sides, including the Jennings' neighbor Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich), an FBI agent working in counterintelligence. The series begins in the aftermath of the inauguration of President Ronald Reagan in January 1981 and concludes in December 1987, shortly before the leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
|Created by||Joe Weisberg|
|Opening theme||"The Americans Theme" by Nathan Barr|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||6|
|No. of episodes||75 (list of episodes)|
|Production location(s)||New York City|
|Original release||January 30, 2013 –|
May 30, 2018
The Americans premiered in the United States on January 30, 2013, and concluded on May 30, 2018, after six seasons. The series was acclaimed by critics, who considered it among the best of its era; its writing, characters, and acting were often singled out. Although The Americans went relatively ignored by major award shows during its first seasons, the series's final season earned Rhys the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, while Weisberg and co-lead writer Joel Fields won Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series; it was also awarded the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Drama. Additionally, Margo Martindale won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series twice for her performance in the third and fourth seasons, and the series became one of the rare drama shows to receive two Peabody Awards during its run (the first time since Breaking Bad).
Season one follows Stan Beeman turning Nina Krilova into an American spy in the Rezidentura. Philip has to kill FBI counterintelligence agent Amador after Amador catches him with Gadd's secretary Martha. Beeman then kills Vlad, a young and inexperienced KGB officer, in retaliation for his partner's murder. Nina becomes a re-doubled agent, confessing to the Rezident. Elizabeth and Philip's marriage implodes after Philip briefly reunites with his former Soviet lover Irina, who tells him that they have a son named Mischa serving in the Soviet military. The Jennings reconcile after the death of Elizabeth's former lover Gregory. The season ends after Nina blows up an FBI operation to capture Elizabeth while she picks up a dead drop that is under surveillance, but Elizabeth is shot and badly wounded during the escape.
Season two follows the Jennings attempting to capture technology and data relating to the United States efforts to develop stealth aircraft, including kidnapping Russian defector Anton, who is a scientist on the project. At the same time, Elizabeth and Philip attempt to solve the murders of two other Directorate S operatives, Leanne and Emmet. Believing that Captain Larrick, a Navy SEAL, is responsible, they agree to free him from blackmail after he gets them access to a training camp for Nicaraguan Contras. At the end of the season, it is revealed that Jared, Leanne and Emmet's son, murdered his parents after they discovered he had been recruited by the KGB. They are then approached by Claudia, their handler, who informs them that their daughter Paige has been selected as the next recruit, under a program to develop "Second Generation Illegals" who can pass background checks and presumably be hired by the FBI and the CIA. When Nina fails to turn Stan into a double agent, she is arrested by the KGB for espionage and returned to the USSR.
Season three features the Jennings coping with the stress of preparing themselves to reveal their true nature to Paige. To make her more comfortable with the notion, Elizabeth becomes more involved with Paige's church activities. Meanwhile, Elizabeth learns her mother is dying and remembers their life together in Russia. The main storylines for the season include the arrival of a Soviet defector whom Stan is assigned to monitor (and fears may be a double agent), the war in Afghanistan (which takes a toll on both Philip, whose son Mischa is serving in Afghanistan, and Oleg, whose brother was executed by the Afghan resistance). Other plots include exploring the relationship between the Soviet Union and the anti-apartheid movement, the manipulated Martha's secret spying on her FBI bosses being uncovered, Nina's time in a Soviet Gulag, and Oleg's attempts to protect her through his father's influence.
In the middle of season three, Philip and Elizabeth reveal their true identities as Soviet agents to Paige, who ultimately travels to Germany along with Elizabeth for a secret visit to her ailing grandmother. Philip arranges the murder of an FBI employee who then is framed for the spying in order to protect Martha (who discovers that her husband is a spy, though Philip omits that he works for the Russians). However, the trip to Germany only increases Paige's contempt for her parents, leading to her calling her reverend mentor (Pastor Tim) and revealing her family's secret to him.
Season four picks up immediately after the end of season three and deals with the consequences of Paige's confession to Pastor Tim, which her parents quickly uncover, as well as Soviet espionage within the American bioweapons program, which is being conducted by William, another Soviet illegal. Nina tries to help Anton send a message to his son back in the U.S., but the message is intercepted, and she is executed. Stan becomes suspicious of Martha as the true source of the bug in the FBI offices, but before he finds definitive evidence to prove it, the KGB manages to smuggle her to Russia. As a consequence, Agent Gaad is replaced as head of FBI counterintelligence, and Gaad is then accidentally killed several months later during a failed KGB attempt to turn him. After volunteering at Pastor Tim's food bank, Elizabeth and Paige are confronted by muggers, and Elizabeth kills one of them to escape, exacerbating Paige's crisis of conscience. Oleg decides to return home to the USSR to be with his grieving parents, but before leaving he tells Stan about the Soviet bioweapons espionage, leading to William's capture and suicide. The U.S. then expels Arkady, leaving Tatiana as the acting Rezident. After leaving the military, Philip's son Mischa decides to go to the U.S. to locate and meet his father. Paige begins spending time with Stan's son Matthew, despite her parents' objections.
Season five opens with Philip and Elizabeth, disguised as airline pilot and flight attendant respectively, beginning a new assignment with Tuan, their Vietnamese "adopted son". They investigate a defected Soviet agriculture expert Alexei Morozov, befriending his wife Evgheniya and their son Pasha. Oleg finds himself back home in Moscow with a new task to investigate corruption in the state food supply system. Stan balances a new romance with a woman he met at the gym named Renee, while hearing worrisome details concerning the CIA's unfolding plans for Oleg. Exfiltrated Martha tries to adjust to life in Moscow. Henry is romantically interested in a girl and wants to attend a prestigious boarding school with her and some of his new friends; Philip initially agrees, but later refuses. The Center arranged an attractive position for Pastor Tim in Buenos Aires. Paige tries to deal with her complicated existence; Elizabeth teaches Paige calming techniques as well as offers fighting training. Philip and Elizabeth are secretly married by a Russian Orthodox priest. Philip and Elizabeth make their final decision to return home to the USSR with their children, who have not been told. However, new information requires them to stay in the U.S. to continue the Kimmy operation.
Season six takes place three years after the events of season five. Philip has mostly retired from fieldwork, and now mainly manages his travel agency. Elizabeth works to steal technology related to the Dead Hand nuclear weapons control system, and to develop intelligence regarding an upcoming summit on nuclear disarmament. Opponents of Mikhail Gorbachev in the KGB and Soviet military order Elizabeth to assassinate a Soviet envoy to the summit, who is working with Gorbachev to ensure the success of the summit. Arkady creates a plan to ensure the summit is a success and Gorbachev is safe, sending Oleg back to the United States to carry out the plan. After learning about Arkady and Oleg's work through Philip, Elizabeth disobeys the Center's order, saving the envoy. Meanwhile, Stan has a mounting suspicion that the Jennings are Soviet agents, and their cover is eventually blown. Stan confronts the Jennings but allows them to leave. Philip and Elizabeth escape to Russia, while Henry is left behind, and Paige chooses to stay behind in America.
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||13||January 30, 2013||May 1, 2013|
|2||13||February 26, 2014||May 21, 2014|
|3||13||January 28, 2015||April 22, 2015|
|4||13||March 16, 2016||June 8, 2016|
|5||13||March 7, 2017||May 30, 2017|
|6||10||March 28, 2018||May 30, 2018|
Cast and characters
The surnames of most of the Russian characters are not revealed. In scenes taking place inside the Soviet embassy, the characters address each other in a familiar but respectful manner, using given name and patronymic, without mentioning surnames. "Ivanovich" means "son of Ivan" and "Sergeevna" indicates "daughter of Sergei".
- Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings (Nadezhda), a KGB officer and wife of Philip. In comparison to Philip, Elizabeth's allegiance to the KGB and the Soviet Union, as well as the ideology of communism, is stronger and more straightforward.
- Matthew Rhys as Philip Jennings (Mischa), a KGB officer and husband of Elizabeth. Although loyal to his cause, Philip holds little animosity towards the United States. Philip is close friends with Stan Beeman. As Clark, one of his multiple identities, Philip romances Martha, an FBI secretary, to obtain classified information.
- Maximiliano Hernández as Chris Amador (season 1), Stan's FBI partner.
- Holly Taylor as Paige Jennings, Elizabeth and Philip's daughter.
- Keidrich Sellati as Henry Jennings, Elizabeth and Philip's son.
- Noah Emmerich as Stan Beeman, an FBI counterintelligence agent and the Jennings' neighbor. Unaware of the Jennings' true nature, he is very close with the family and best friends with Philip.
- Annet Mahendru as Nina Sergeevna Krilova (recurring season 1, main seasons 2–4), a clerical worker turned KGB agent at the Soviet Embassy, and Stan's former informant and lover.
- Susan Misner as Sandra Beeman (recurring seasons 1 and 4, main seasons 2–3), Stan's wife.
- Alison Wright as Martha Hanson (recurring season 1, 5, main seasons 2–4), Agent Gaad's secretary and Philip's informant.
- Lev Gorn as Arkady Ivanovich Zotov (recurring seasons 1–2, 6, main seasons 3–4), the KGB's Rezident at the Soviet embassy.
- Costa Ronin as Oleg Igorevich Burov (recurring season 2, main seasons 3–6), originally the Soviet embassy's Science and Technology officer, a privileged son of a government minister who was appointed thanks to his father's connections so he could enjoy the comforts of the United States; at the end of season 4, returned to the USSR after his brother's death, in the KGB at first and then at his father's ministry.
- Richard Thomas as Frank Gaad (recurring seasons 1–2, main seasons 3–4), an FBI Special Agent and Stan's supervisor.
- Dylan Baker as William Crandall (season 4), a Russian agent and biochemical warfare scientist.
- Brandon J. Dirden as Dennis Aderholt (recurring season 3, main seasons 4–6), an FBI agent.
- Margo Martindale as Claudia (recurring seasons 1–5, main season 6), the Jennings' second and fifth KGB handler.
- Daniel Flaherty as Matthew Beeman (seasons 1–5), Stan and Sandra's son.
- Peter Von Berg as Vasili Nikolaevich (seasons 1–4), a former KGB Rezident.
- Derek Luke as Gregory Thomas (season 1; special appearance season 6), an American militant and Elizabeth's longtime lover.
- Wrenn Schmidt as Kate (season 2), the Jennings' third KGB handler.
- Lee Tergesen as Andrew Larrick (season 2), a United States Navy SEAL blackmailed into working for the KGB.
- Michael Aronov as Anton Baklanov (seasons 2–4), an émigré Russian-Jewish scientist working on secret stealth technology.
- Kelly AuCoin as Pastor Tim (seasons 2–6), a pastor who heads the church which Paige Jennings attends.
- Frank Langella as Gabriel (seasons 3–5), the Jennings' first and fourth KGB handler.
- Vera Cherny as Tatiana Evgenyevna Vyazemtseva (seasons 3–6), a KGB officer at the Rezidentura.
- Peter Mark Kendall as Hans (seasons 3–5), a member of the Jennings' operational team.
- Julia Garner as Kimberly "Kimmy" Breland (seasons 3–6), the daughter of the head of the CIA's Afghan group, later head of the Soviet group.
- Karen Pittman as Lisa (seasons 2–4), a Northrop employee from whom Elizabeth is gleaning information.
- Laurie Holden as Renee (seasons 5–6), Stan's girlfriend and later wife.
- Scott Cohen as Glenn Haskard (season 6), a member of a State Department negotiating team.
- Miriam Shor as Erica Haskard (season 6), the ailing wife of Glenn Haskard for whom Elizabeth works as a home nurse and who coerces Elizabeth into art therapy.
The Americans, a period piece set during the Reagan administration, was outlined by series creator Joe Weisberg, a former CIA officer. The series focuses on the personal and professional lives of the Jennings family—a married couple of Soviet deep-cover agents placed in the Washington, D.C. area in the 1960s and their unsuspecting, American-born children. The story picks up in the early 1980s. The show's creator has described the series as being essentially about a marriage: "The Americans is at its core a marriage story. International relations is just an allegory for the human relations. Sometimes, when you're struggling in your marriage or with your kid, it feels like life or death. For Philip and Elizabeth, it often is." Joel Fields, the other leading executive producer on the writing team, described the series as working different levels of reality: the fictional world of the marriage between Philip and Elizabeth, and the real world involving the characters' experiences during the Cold War.
—Joe Weisberg, creator and executive producer of The Americans
In 2007, after leaving the CIA, Weisberg published An Ordinary Spy, a novel about a spy who is completing the final stages of his training in Virginia and is being transferred overseas. After reading Weisberg's novel, executive producer Graham Yost discovered that Weisberg had also written a pilot for a possible spy series. Weisberg was fascinated by stories he had heard from agents who served abroad as spies, while raising their families. He was interested in bringing that concept to television, with the idea of a family of spies, rather than just one person. Yost read the pilot and discovered that it was "annoyingly good", which led to developing the show.
Weisberg says the CIA inadvertently gave him the idea for a series about spies, explaining, "While I was taking the polygraph exam to get in, they asked the question, 'Are you joining the CIA in order to gain experience about the intelligence community so that you can write about it later'—which had never occurred to me. I was totally joining the CIA because I wanted to be a spy. But the second they asked that question ... then I thought, 'Now I'm going to fail the test.'" The job at CIA, which Weisberg later described as a mistake, has helped him develop several storylines in the series, basing some plot lines on real-life stories, and integrating tactics and methods he learned in his training, such as dead drops and communication protocols.
Weisberg was partially influenced by the events of the Illegals Program to write a pilot script for the series. His research material included notes on the KGB's Cold War left by Vasili Mitrokhin and conversations with some of his former colleagues at the CIA. He stated that, unlike the circumstances involving the Illegals Program (which culminated in 2010), he had opted to set the story in the early 1980s because "a modern day [setting] didn't seem like a good idea", adding, "People were both shocked and simultaneously shrugged at the  scandal because it didn't seem like we were really enemies with Russia anymore. An obvious way to remedy that for television was to stick it back in the Cold War. At first, the '70s appealed to me just because I loved the hair and the music. But can you think of a better time than the '80s with Ronald Reagan yelling about the evil empire?" In a 2017 interview Weisberg said that the show tried hard to resist the influence of the current political climate: "What you don't want is for people watching the show and thinking 'Oh, those clever writers, they did little things here and there that have to do with Donald Trump or what's going on with Russia today'".
Weisberg said he had no idea about who would star in the series before casting began. FX president John Landgraf had the idea to cast Keri Russell in the series. Leslie Feldman, the head of casting at DreamWorks, saw Matthew Rhys in a play and suggested him to Weisberg. Russell and Rhys had met briefly at a party years before, but were not fully introduced. They both were attracted to the series because of its focus on the relationship between their characters. Said Rhys, "You have two people who have led the most incredibly strange life together with incredibly high stakes, in this scene of domesticity that is an absolute lie, and at the end of the pilot they're finding each other for the very first time."
Russell described the pilot script as "interesting", continuing, "It was so far from a procedural. And [originally,] I didn't know that I wanted to do it. I always say no to everything. I never want to do anything. [Laughs.] But I just couldn't stop thinking about it. I read it ... and I kept trying to figure it out, because it's so not clear. It's still not clear to me. But there's so many different levels to it."
Rhys said of his character, "He's a sort of gift of a part in that he's very sort of layered and multi-faceted. And when you meet him, he's at this great turning point in his life where everything's changing for him. You just get to do everything. You get to do the kung fu, and you get to do the emotional scenes, you get to do the disguises. It's the full package for an actor. It's a dream."
Noah Emmerich was initially hesitant about taking a role in the series. He explained: "The truth is, from the very beginning, I thought, 'I don't want to do a TV show where I carry a gun or a badge. I'm done with guns and badges. I just don't want to do that anymore.' When I first read it I thought, 'Yeah, it's really interesting and really good, but I don't want to be an FBI guy.'" His friend, Gavin O'Connor, who directed the pilot episode, convinced him to take a closer look at the role. Emmerich stated that he responded to the aspect of marriage and family. "It was really interesting, and it was really intelligent and unusual, and it stood out from the pack."
After recurring in the first season, Susan Misner, Annet Mahendru, and Alison Wright, who play Sandra Beeman, Nina, and Martha Hanson, respectively, were promoted to series regulars beginning with season two. After recurring in the first two seasons, Lev Gorn, who plays Arkady Ivanovich, was promoted to series regular for season three.
Weisberg, one of the executive-producing showrunners and head writers, wrote the first two episodes of the series. Landgraf, who did not know Weisberg but liked the series, suggested to Weisberg that he work alongside Joel Fields as co-showrunner and the other head writer. Fields, in turn, persuaded TV writer Joshua Brand, with whom he had been working on a new pilot, to join the show's writing team as consulting producer shortly after the start; between them, Weisberg, Fields, and Brand wrote or co-wrote ten of the first season's thirteen episodes. In the second season, Gibson wrote one episode, and the show added other producers to the writing team: screenwriter and journalist Stephen Schiff, playwright and children's book author Peter Ackerman, and playwright Tracey Scott Wilson. All six of those writers (Weisberg, Fields, Brand, Schiff, Ackerman, and Wilson) remained with the show throughout its run. In addition, playwright and Americans story editor Hilary Bettis was added to the writing staff in season 5, and Americans script coordinator Justin Weinberger and showrunner's assistant Sarah Nolen were added to the writing staff in the sixth and final season.
Use of Russian language
The main characters of the show, despite being Soviet KGB officers, have to behave as American-born citizens, and therefore do not generally speak Russian on-screen. But other Soviet agents, immigrants and—later in the show—ordinary Soviet people, converse in Russian. Joe Weisberg explained that achieving believable Russian pronunciation was very important because the show was "so much centered on the world of the Russian Russians and the Russian illegals". In most cases, Russian was the native language for the actors playing Soviet characters. Other actors mastered their lines to sound almost native. In particular, Peter von Berg, who played Vasili Nikolayevich, has experience with Russian plays and was an accent coach. General Zhukov was played by a Polish actor. Annet Mahendru, who played Nina, has a Russian mother and speaks six languages. Mahendru praised Matthew Rhys for his efforts in delivering a few phrases in Russian, adding: "It's really important to everyone, so they're all trying, but it's a difficult language for all of us — even those of us who are fluent in it!"
Weisberg underscored the importance of the authenticity. According to him, there were "some perfectly good people [in the Rezidentura] who were easy to relate to even if you didn't believe in the cause they were serving". He concluded: "Once you bring that level of detail into a show, you can't do cardboard cutouts anymore. You're not in the realm of cliché. You will invariably build a real person."
Filming and locations
The series filmed in New York City at Eastern Effects Studios in Gowanus, Brooklyn, with Brooklyn street locations in Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill. Other shooting locations included: Prospect Park, Astoria, Washington Heights, Mamaroneck, Coney Island Avenue, Kew Gardens, Morningside Heights, Farmingdale, and Staten Island. Shooting of the pilot episode began in May 2012 and lasted until mid-June. Filming began for the rest of the first season in November 2012 in the New York City area. The production used location shots to simulate a dramatic setting of Washington, D.C. Early filming was delayed by flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy. Filming for the second season commenced in October 2013.
The Americans aired internationally in Australia on Network Ten, Canada on FX Canada, Ireland on RTÉ Two, and the United Kingdom on ITV. ITV dropped the series in January 2015 and did not acquire the third season. On July 20, 2015, ITV acquired seasons three and four for their subscription channel ITV Encore.
Season 1 was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc in Region 1 on February 11, 2014, in region 2 on March 24, 2014, and in region 4 on February 5, 2014. Special features include audio commentary on "The Colonel" by Joe Weisberg, Joel Fields and Noah Emmerich; three featurettes: "Executive Order 2579: Exposing the Americans", "Perfecting the Art of Espionage", and "Ingenuity Over Technology"; gag reel; and deleted scenes.
Season 2 was released on DVD only, because the Blu-ray release of season 1 did not have enough sales to justify the format. The Region 1 version was released on December 16, 2014. The Region 2 version was released on January 26, 2015. Special features include two featurettes: "Operation Ghost Stories: The Real Directorate 'S'" and "Shades of Red: The Mortality of the Americans"; gag reel; and deleted scenes.
|1||88% (51 reviews)||78 (35 reviews)|
|2||97% (38 reviews)||88 (31 reviews)|
|3||100% (53 reviews)||92 (23 reviews)|
|4||99% (48 reviews)||95 (28 reviews)|
|5||94% (39 reviews)||94 (19 reviews)|
|6||99% (32 reviews)||92 (18 reviews)|
Over the course of its run, the series received widespread critical acclaim, with several publications naming it the best show on television. The American Film Institute listed The Americans as one of the top ten television series of 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018.
Brian Tallerico from RogerEbert.com argued that while there are many good shows in the era of Peak TV, The Americans was the greatest then on television, and "one of the few that earns the capital-G Great title". Insider named it one of the "50 TV shows everyone should watch in their lifetime".
After it ended its six-season run, Tim Goodman from The Hollywood Reporter considered The Americans to be among the "Hall of Fame" dramas, and stated it was one of his top 5 favorite television dramas of all-time. IndieWire and Paste named it the best FX TV series of all-time. The New York Times named the series one of the best 20 TV dramas since The Sopranos. Vice called it "The Sopranos of this decade". Carrie Wittmer from Business Insider declared it one of the greatest series ever and "the end of TV's Golden Age". In September 2019, The Guardian ranked the show 43rd on its list of the 100 best TV shows of the 21st century, stating that the "gorgeous, slow-burning drama" was "terminally overlooked in favour of flashier, flimsier fare".
The first season of The Americans received positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, it received an 88 percent approval rating with an average score of 7.86 out of 10 based on 51 reviews, with a critics' consensus of: "The Americans is a spy thriller of the highest order, with evocative period touches and strong chemistry between its leads." Metacritic scored the show a 78 out of 100 based on 35 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews". The American Film Institute listed it as one of the top ten television series of 2013. Rob Brunner of Entertainment Weekly described it as "an absorbing spy thriller" while David Hinkley of the New York Daily News praised the pace, noting that "It's a premise that requires as much clever dramatic footwork as you might expect, and creator Joe Weisberg, a former CIA agent, handles the challenge". Verne Gay of Newsday called it a "smart newcomer with a pair of leads that turns The Americans into a likely winner" and gave it a grade of an "A−".
Some reviews were not as optimistic. The Washington Post was cautious in its outlook, stating "it's easy to see how stale it might get in a matter of episodes." Salon would have traded sex scenes for a serious conversation about Reagan's persona and policies. Variety, while finding the concept "intriguing and provocative", ultimately concluded that "[t]he execution ... isn't worthy of the premise."
Matt Zoller Seitz of Vulture liked "how The Americans isolates and magnifies true feelings in dishonest situations". Comparing the "high and violent" first season of The Americans full of "fights and guns and explosions" to Homeland he expressed high hopes about the next season "for one big reason: where Homeland's first season hinged mainly on a relationship between two specific characters, Carrie and Brody, in a specific situation (hunter and hunted in love), The Americans is primarily about the idea of partnership, marriage but also mentorship, friendship and professional camaraderie. It's at once more thematically specific and more dramatically wide-ranging than Homeland. As a result, it feels at once more rooted and more free."
The second season received critical acclaim. On Rotten Tomatoes, it received a 97 percent approval rating with an average score of 8.83 out of 10 based on 38 reviews, with a critics consensus of: "Adding fuel to the fire, The Americans retains all the suspense and action of season one while enhancing the level of excitement... and wigs." Metacritic scored the show an 88 out of 100 based on 31 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim". Several entities have rated the show among the best television for 2014, including the American Film Institute, The A.V. Club, and Grantland.
Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter called the series "one of television's finest dramas" and praised the ability of the writers in "nailing down season two ... by picking up where the story left off and making sure that this spy-vs.-spy thing has real-life costs." Rob Owen of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette praised the series for doing "the near-impossible of making viewers cheer for Russian spies in America and at the same time for the American FBI agents who are trying to unmask those Russians living in suburbia." Alan Sepinwall of HitFix praised the second season, stating how the show has, "taken a major creative leap—the kind that can elevate a show from a strong example of its era to one that transcends eras."
Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times did not approve of its portrayal of the children, expressing concern for how viewers are expected to accept the dangerous situations the children are placed in while the show continues to use crime and violence to advance the story in The Americans and other like-minded shows. The New York Daily News questioned its survivability: "Credibility starts to fray when our heroes, or anti-heroes, keep needing miraculous last-second evasions and escapes." Eric Goldman of IGN felt that the murder of another undercover couple "gave the season an underlying mystery element" and served as "the theme of protecting your children from the spy world".
On Rotten Tomatoes, the third season received a 100% approval rating with an average score of 9.03 out of 10 based on 53 reviews, with a critics consensus of: "Family-driven drama and psychological themes propel The Americans' tautly drawn tension, dispensing thrills of a different ilk this season." Metacritic lists a score of 92 out of 100 based on 23 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim". Alessandra Stanley's review in The New York Times states that, "'The Americans' is an unusually clever, subtle drama that uses the conventions of a Cold War thriller to paint a portrait of a complicated, evolving but not unhappy marriage...[E]very season gets more complicated, and is all the better for it." Maureen Ryan of The Huffington Post declared that the first four episodes were "every bit as taut and finely crafted as the stellar prior season of the show." Emily VanDerWerff of Vox said "The Americans is in the kind of incredible stretch of episodes TV dramas sometimes hit in the middle of their runs" and that it is "on one of the best runs of episodes in TV drama history."
The "visceral" third season where "everyone lies" left Helen Verongos of The New York Times "more paranoid than ever", with "Elizabeth and Philip's worst fears have been realized". For them, according to Laura Hudson of Vulture, "intimacy is secrecy; for Paige, intimacy is truth".
The fourth season received widespread acclaim from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, it received a 99% approval rating with an average score of 9.22 out of 10 based on 48 reviews, with a critics consensus of: "With its fourth season, The Americans continues to deliver top-tier spy drama while sending its characters in directions that threaten to destroy their freedoms—and their lives." On Metacritic, the season has a score of 95 out of 100 based on 28 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim". Brian Tallerico of RogerEbert.com praised the series and wrote, "It is that depth of character and nuance in the writing that elevates The Americans, along with its willingness to offer stunning narrative developments. [...] I'm now convinced that when we close the final chapter of this televised novel we may finally appreciate one of the best shows we've ever seen."
James Poniewozik of The New York Times characterized the fourth season as melancholy "catalog of loss", which adds "a note of gloom even to the tensest moments in this drama". He found similarities between The Americans and Breaking Bad, but ultimately concluded that "maybe The Americans is neither Breaking Bad nor a traditional spy story. Maybe it's a teenage horror movie, the kind where the biggest danger, in the end, is already inside your own house", referring to coming-of-age Paige becoming disillusioned, discovering secrets about her parents.
On Rotten Tomatoes, season five received a 94% approval rating with an average score of 9.03 out of 10 based on 39 reviews, with a critics' consensus of: "In its penultimate season, The Americans brings long-simmering storylines to a boil while heightening the spy-thriller stakes and deepening the domestic drama—all brought vividly to life by superb performances from its veteran cast." On Metacritic, the season has a score of 94 out of 100 based on 19 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim". Matthew Gilbert of The Boston Globe gave it a highly positive review and wrote, "The drama remains as tense as ever, with strong, careful writing and an abundance of fine performances." Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter also lauded the series, "It's extremely well-constructed, with slow-burning storylines that are paying off in superb dramatic depth" and praised its "top-tier acting" and "artfully crafted visuals". Prior to the premiere of this season, The Playlist wrote about how the show would end up standing with The Wire and Breaking Bad as one of the best TV dramas ever made.
Some critics expected the fifth season to culminate in a "disastrous eruption". But, as the season progressed, some criticized it for turning "slow burn" into just "warm embers", morphing into a season about "people staring off into the distance, stirring tea, keeping their thoughts to themselves and worrying quite a lot about grain supply". According to Fields and Weisberg, they wanted the fifth season "to feel different as it unspooled", harvesting the story pieces created in the fourth season. Pacing of the fifth season was slowed down intentionally, but was not meant as a set-up for the sixth season. Weisberg and Fields admitted that they did not expect "this much of a backlash" for "hitting the brakes too hard". They were upset by criticism, but suggested waiting until the series is over, hoping for the response to become more muted in context of the sixth and the final season.
After the series ended, many reconsidered the fifth season. Travis Clark of Business Insider said the end of the series made him reconsider what he initially thought was the weakest and most disappointing season of the show. Particularly, he thought that the garage scene from the series finale would have not been as effective without the groundwork done in the fifth season in terms of Philip's character development.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the sixth season received a 99% approval rating with an average score of 9.26 out of 10 based on 32 reviews, with a critics consensus of: "The Americans' powerful final season pumps up the volume on an already intense show, concluding the complex series arc with epic familial conflict ... and a high body count." On Metacritic, the season has a score of 92 out of 100 based on 18 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".
Vox's Emily VanDerWerff named it one of the best final seasons ever made. Matt Brennan from Paste echoed the sentiment: "The Americans to its most consequential moment, and in the midst of a final season that so far deserves consideration alongside Breaking Bad's, The Sopranos', and a handful of others' as the medium's all-time best."
The series finale, "START", was critically acclaimed as one of the best finales of all time.
Over the course of the series, The Americans received 18 Emmy nominations. For its fourth and sixth seasons, the series was nominated for Outstanding Drama Series. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys were each nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress and Actor in a Drama Series, respectively, for the fourth, fifth, and sixth seasons. Rhys won the award for the sixth season. The prior omissions that the show had received at the Emmys were considered to be snubs by the Emmys in the drama and acting categories by critics. Margo Martindale was nominated four times and won twice for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series, and Alison Wright received a nomination in the same category for the fifth season. The show received four nominations for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series, for "Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?" written by Joshua Brand; and Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg were nominated for the award three consecutive years for the fourth, fifth, and sixth-season finales. Fields and Weisberg won the award for the series finale, "START". Nathan Barr also received a nomination for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music for the first season.
The Americans was strongly praised for its writing. The series was nominated for four Writers Guild of America Award for Television: Dramatic Series awards, and won in both 2016 and 2018. The Americans won a rare second Peabody Award, "for ending one of TV's best dramas with one of the television's best series finales", becoming the first drama series since Breaking Bad to win two Peabody Awards during its run.
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- For the first season, see "The Americans: Season One Ratings". TV Series Finale. May 2, 2013. Retrieved September 22, 2017.
For the second season, see "The Americans: Season Two Ratings". TV Series Finale. May 23, 2014. Retrieved September 22, 2017.
For the third season, see "The Americans: Season Three Ratings". TV Series Finale. April 24, 2015. Retrieved September 22, 2017.
For the fourth season, see "The Americans: Season Four Ratings". TV Series Finale. June 9, 2016. Retrieved September 22, 2017.
For the fifth season, see "The Americans: Season Five Ratings". TV Series Finale. June 1, 2017. Retrieved September 22, 2017.
For the sixth season, see "The Americans: Season Six Ratings". TV Series Finale. May 31, 2018. Retrieved May 31, 2017.
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