The Americans Season Finale Review: Friend and Enemy Paradox

at . Comments

The Americans exists in an overly insular environment where friends and enemies may be determined by the country of their birth, but from a people perspective the lines become much more blurred.

In "The Colonel," the FBI Agent Stan shot Elizabeth while he pursing the evil Soviet illegals that threatened his country's freedoms. It was one side against the other in a real life or death situation. Even though Philip knew that it was Stan that shot his wife, when he wanted to sit by her side as she recovered, he called Stan to look after his kids. Philip trusted the rival who shot his wife to make sure his kids were okay. Crazy, right?. 

A Dangerous Meet

Throughout The Americans season 1, a continual theme has been to question the actions of both sides. Neither country's actions have been entirely right or wrong. The same is true of the individual spies that were fighting the Cold War.

Stan initially forced Nina into turning on her country because she was an easy target and he had no qualms about it. She was the enemy and deserved whatever happened to her. As they got closer, she became a person with feelings, a family, and he started to care and ... lust about her. They shifted from enemies to two individual people with interests, feelings, and love for each other. That may have continued, except when the Cold War became personal for Nina. With Vlad's death, the stakes heightened and Nina began to feel guilt over what she was doing.

Despite any feelings she had for Stan, his complicity in Vlad's death was too much for them to overcome. She felt responsible and came clean to Arkady about spying for the Americans. Given her relationship with Stan, it only made sense that the Soviets would use her to collect intel from the FBI agent.

Seemingly harmless comments are enough to start or end a fight. Stan is headed down a dangerous path now that he has provided intel to both the Jennings and now Nina. How long before leaks are traced back to him? Though, that would also put Nina and the Jennings at risk.

In addition to watching the individual interactions from both sides, the relationship between Elizabeth and Philip has been touching to see grow. After so many years together, they finally fell in love with each other only to be pulled apart. When it came down to it, they would both do what was necessary to keep their kids safe, even if that meant running away.

Philip was not going to let his wife and love walk into a trap. Even though she refused his offer to take the meet with the Colonel, he went anyway. It was heartening to see that he wrote that he loved her in the note. He was there again for her when he realized it was her mission that was compromised. When she said, "Come home," in Russian, their future together was sealed. All it took was being shot for her to finally be honest with Philip about her desire to be with him too.

As Philip and Elizabeth's relationship strengthened through the ordeal, Stan's life was crumbing. His wife pushed him away and refused to go on vacation with him. At the same time, he felt that he let down Nina by getting her hopes up for a new life to have the taken away when the bust went bad. Of course, the twist being that Nina is responsible for that.

The montage at the end while the song "Games without Frontiers" by Peter Gabriel played summed up the end of the season well. Stanford broke, Nina turned on Stan, the Jennings were back together, Martha was in love with her absent husband, and Paige looked in the laundry room to check on her mother. As a teenager, she's sure to become more suspicious of her parents' odd activities. I look forward to her becoming more inquisitive about them in season 2.

The meeting with the Colonel provided important intelligence for the Soviets. Will they believe that Star Wars is a fraud? It could be a game changer for the Cold War.

The Americans season 1 played like a well-paced 13-episode film. It had everything you want in an outstanding drama: tension, thrills, emotion, love, trust, betrayal, action, and more. It will be a long wait for next season.

Odds and Ends

  • The interactions between Elizabeth and Claudia were some of the best on the show. Their disdain for each other is well-played. 
  • Claudia: I know you better than you know yourself. And, you don't know me at all. | permalink
  • What will Stanford's information mean for the Americans? The meet with the Colonel has gone down, but he knows what Elizabeth looks like. A new threat for season 2?
  • Will Claudia killing the American assassin re-ignite the killings between the two sides? She sure knows how to torture a guy while killing him. 
  • Claudia proved her loyalty to the Jennings and her country in the end. Will she end up sticking around? Or, will she still be sent back to the homeland? She better keep her 27 pages of answers for if she has to fill out the form again.
  • Arkady: If you are wrong, we'd be giving up the biggest intelligence success since the atom bomb.
    Claudia: That's what they always say right before our people die for nothing. The next thing they always say, "It was so obvious." | permalink
  • Elizabeth listening to the tape from her mother brought tears to my eyes. I was surprised she was allowed to have any contact with her family, but it was nice for her to have that connection still with her mother.
  • The car chase was awesome! 1980s cars, wheels screeching, no video surveillance or helicopters. Classic and wonderful!
Which relationship did you enjoy the most? Any guesses about the aftermath of meeting with the Colonel? The failed capture of the Illegal Couple? 


Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
  • 4.8 / 5.0
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
User Rating:

Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 (53 Votes)

Carla Day is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter and on Google+.


I have to give credit where and when it is due! I am a huge SOA fan, and consequently feel that there is no other show on tv/cable that would be able to catch and hold my attention for a whole season. I was wrong! This show sparked my interest from the first couple of teasers for it, and I love it! I now believe that FX contains the best shows on tv/cable, seriously the character development, the writing, they really get you emotionally involved with each episode that they put out (I'm talking SOA and Americans), so much so that I'm sitting home watching this and rooting for people that are spying on us to avoid capture!!


I'd have a much tougher time watching this without Margo Matindale. She is AMAZING. Hopefully she's around for all of season 2 (if not, I think I'll follow her to whatever show she does next year).


I noticed the lack of helicopters too! What a treat that this show is set in 60's. Mad props too to Margo Martindale, who in this episode played Claudia playing an old forgetful woman. Wow can that woman act. That said, I was really suprised that we didn't lose of one of our main characters. I was sure someone was going to bite the big one. As the story progressed I thought it would be Claudia, then Philip, then I thought "nah. They wouldn't let Elizabeth go - she's the hub of the entire show". So they got rid of no one and so I thought "well they're going to let Paige find her mom's secret stash. Even that didn't happen - it only hinted at her suspicion. Great show! I'm looking forward to next season.


Let me add, I like some of the small, little things that add a great deal to the breath of this series. Example: early on --- Philip takes his daughter shopping at the mall. She is on one side of the aisle and holds up what she want, he nods yes. Then he holds up some boots, she reject them. Next, he has the boots on, and the background music gets louder (country sound) and he does a little jig. The camera shows the boots as he is dancing, people around that part of the store are watching. Really nice take. Then at the register, Philip sees this guy with a very young girl, and feels he wants any "young girl" as he made gestures to his daughter. Later, Philip, with his wig on, goes to this guys house (he had seen the guy's credit card / name) and beats him up in the backyard and tells him to stay way from . . . That is good writing. I like those kinds of inserts, in broadens the scrip and character development.


I don't think Claudia killed the assassin... wasn't that the guy who was kidnapped by the Americans only to be released? I guess so because he says to Claudia that he calls for her because he was in some troubles lately (meaning kidnapped?)


The first season was great! Loved it! Can't wait for season 2! This is one of the only shows were I like all the characters. Even Claudia redeemed herself in this episode.


I wrote a long comment, but it disappeared when I tried to submit it. Anyway, not wanting to type it all out again, let me just say that this has been on great season 1 of the series and I can't wait for it to come back on the air!


This season finale kept me literally on the edge of my seat, and I was shaking when it was all over! Fantastic job by both writers and actors to build up the suspense the way they did. I thought for sure that it was over for our favorite Russian spies, but I guess all the implied training that the Directorate S operatives go through got them out of the fix they were in. I'm glad that Elizabeth has finally been able to voice her true feelings and ask Philip to come back home. All she has to do now is recover. Ironic that Stan and his wife are looking after their kids until she gets back on her feet and Philip stays with her. Claudia turned out not to be so bad...and I like her in the series, she's a perfect foil for Elizabeth. The colonel wasn't a setup after all, but I believe his picture was in the folder that Prince passed to Gaat, so the next meeting will be a setup for sure. Can't wait for Season 2. Does anyone know when it resumes?


I’ll just say it up front – I’m very, very impressed. I thought that this was one of the strongest all-round first seasons that I've had the pleasure of watching in some time. Was it an all-time great? No. But it's rare for any show with this level of serialization to hit the ground running and go through 13 episodes without a single glaringly obvious weak link among them. I thought that The Americans achieved that feat, and managed to achieve some pretty spectacular highs along the way. Not everything tied together perfectly – the storyline about Paige and Henry hitchhiking home from the mall was never referenced again after the episode where it aired, and the constant switching back-and-forth between Phillip and Elizabeth concerning who was invested in their marriage and who was disinterested got a little old. But time and time again, the writers behind this show demonstrated their ability to craft effective dramatic tension out of a scenario where the characters involved are acting off of incomplete information while still having all said characters appear effective and competent (i.e. not making stupid, out-of-character decisions in the name of servicing/prolonging the plot). Anyone who watches a reasonable amount of TV should appreciate just how difficult that trick is pull off on a consistent basis. And I thought the finale was impeccably paced, paying off almost every storyline from Season 1 while offering great potential directions for next year. This show has become one of my favorite programs on TV, and I sincerely hope that it sticks around for a while.

Tags: ,

The Americans Season 1 Episode 13 Quotes

Arkady: If you are wrong, we'd be giving up the biggest intelligence success since the atom bomb.
Claudia: That's what they always say right before our people die for nothing. The next thing they always say, "It was so obvious."

I know you better than you know yourself. And, you don't know me at all.