Spoilers below for The Americans series finale.
Looking back, The Americans couldn’t delight in ended any opposite route. By the time the closing credits rolled on the series finale, “START,” every character has suffered a main and narrate tragedy: Philip and Elizabeth Jennings abandon their son Henry and lose their daughter Paige, Oleg Burov is locked up in penal advanced as a opinion, and Stan Beeman should without a raze in sight reckon along with his decision to let the Jennings get away. (If you’re feeling specifically down about this grim farewell, trusty scrutinize on the vivid aspect: Now not lower than nobody died!) After giving ourselves a 2nd to decompress from such an intense series finale, the Vulture team got together to debate a pressing search files from: Which character on The Americans suffered the worst ending of all?
After leaving the KGB and beginning a family, Oleg got sucked abet to The usa and into Philip and Elizabeth’s lives. He mandatory to serve his country reform; he ended up getting arrested by the Americans. He didn’t cross along Philip’s warning about the Center’s build in opposition to Gorbachev, and now he faces a lifetime in jail because the KGB acquired’t exchange him out. Obvious, it's miles liable to be one thing of fulfillment that Oleg is accumulated alive — even actor Costa Ronin is taken aback about that — but it undoubtedly’s the entire more disheartening to mediate that his life got worse the more he tried to be greater. Oleg risked his ecstatic life for the sake of principle, and that severed him from his family without a raze in sight. As if that’s now not tragic sufficient, his relations are undoubtedly targets of the KGB as a consequence of his actions. Now he’s a man and not using a country, all because he determined to face up for one thing. That’s among the grim issues that can happen to a persona, and an reminder of how cruel The Americans believes the universe will be. —Jackson McHenry
Imagine if the last item you ever acknowledged to your parents became, “I’ve truly gotta atomize up, we’re in the center of a ping-pong occasion.” That’s the parable of Henry Jennings, whose world comes crumbling down when Uncle Stan interrupts hockey practice to narrate that the entire lot he notion he knew about his family and his life is a lie. Even worse, his parents delight in abandoned him. Needless to dispute, we know Philip and Elizabeth did it for his serve — but Henry doesn’t, now not truly. Unlike Paige, he became never even given a vary. Obvious, he seems poised for nominal success, what along with his ordinary New Hampshire boarding college (if Stan concurs to pay his tuition, that's) and an elite social network beefy of future MBAs. But the entire industry degrees on this planet acquired’t be in a notify to beget the outlet inside his coronary heart. I hope he acquired that ping-pong occasion. —Ray Rahman
For my money, Paige is the one who has it the worst. She signed onto her parents’ Soviet ideology because she mandatory to have an effect on the enviornment a bigger notify, but till this finale, she never completely understood the emotional costs of their job. She sees the consequences of her father’s lies advance crashing down in the parking garage with Stan. She watches her parents impact the system to abandon her brother. She listens to her parents speak trusty-bye to her brother without in actuality pronouncing trusty-bye. And then she makes the incredibly mettlesome possibility to transfer away them.
After the cease of the series, Henry will truly feel terribly betrayed, but he’ll be exonerated of any involvement and he’ll delight in Stan. Elizabeth and Philip will delight in lost their family, but they’ll accumulated delight in every other (and the sure guess that stopped the people seeking to purchase down Gorbachev). Stan will quietly endure the worst failure of his career, but now not lower than he’ll get to contend with Henry. But Paige? She has nothing left. She will be able to’t reconnect with Henry. She’s doomed to are living in apprehension that the FBI will advance after her. She became groomed to opinion for a nation that’s about to give scheme. Does she delight in any money? Where is her real passport? Her driver’s license? How will she get a job? Paige will be stuck without a raze in sight in that sad, abandoned rental, drinking vodka on my own. —Kathryn VanArendonk
“You were my most enthralling friend.” One in every of the images that can follow me from The Americans finale is Noah Emmerich’s crestfallen scrutinize when the entire lot Stan suspected is in actuality confirmed moral in that parking garage. (If most enthralling he had adopted his gut abet in the pilot!) The Americans became masterful at mixing dismay, remorse, and confusion, and Stan fully embodied these feelings in that 2nd. Worship every relationship on the purpose to, his friendship with Philip became constructed on truth and untruth: In many programs, Philip will be more himself with Stan even as he lied to him each day, which is what makes Philip’s respond — “You were mine, too” — that powerful more devastating. And then, for the final twist of the knife, Philip airs his suspicions that he thinks Renee, the girl Stan has fallen in esteem with, might well maybe additionally be a Soviet opinion. Poor, miserable Stan. —E. Alex Jung
The portion in the finale where my sobs became into wails became when Paige dumped her parents on the practice tracks, adopted by the late, sinking realization that Philip and Elizabeth will doubtless never gape their formative years as soon as more. It’s a sad pickle for both the people and formative years, but in the raze, it’s more heartbreaking to transfer making an strive a dad or mum lose a child than vice versa. Of the two parents, Elizabeth strikes me as the more tragic figure, partly because she’s been the most tragic figure all season long. Philip has spent years working on himself, and now that he’s escaped, he should purchase off his conceal as soon as and for all (and most definitely, at last, completely self-actualize). Elizabeth, meanwhile, lost now not most enthralling her formative years, but a huge portion of her identification as a opinion, all in speedy succession. She’s going thru a gargantuan amount of trauma, and the worst portion is she has to establish who she is now. —Gazelle Emami
I spent the bulk of this season mourning the life Philip might well well delight in had — a life as a hardworking, unassuming D.C.-build hockey dad/trail agent/line-dance membership current — and the scheme it became lower short when he got roped abet into the family opinion industry. (Seriously, name the happiest it's doubtless you'll well well delight in ever seen Philip Jennings in the entirety of this series. It became line-dancing, wasn’t it?) That’s why, in my mind, there’s no conclusion more devastating than that of Philip, who loses both of his formative years, his most enthralling friend, and finally ends up exiled in a country he most enthralling vaguely acknowledges anymore, all because he served a reason he barely believed in in the main notify. —Ashley Fetters
Everybody gets a sad ending, because right here's The Americans. Elizabeth and Philip should flow dwelling to a country that hasn’t been a component of their lives for decades, and are living there without their formative years, the particular pure thing of their dire, violent, ideologically driven existence. Paige and Henry delight in to launch over as, truly, orphans, abandoned by their dad and mother, supposedly for their very possess trusty. Stan ends the parable positioned as a surrogate father to an abandoned teenage boy, which might well maybe sound fancy a describe of redemption if he didn’t additionally delight in to are living with the guilt from betraying his sworn duty as an FBI agent, and the gnawing grief that his girlfriend is a opinion, too. Even the Soviet Union and the USA face their very possess sad endings: The U.S. will atomize up within four years and reconstitute itself as a kleptocracy, whereas the triumphalist U.S. will sigh “the cease of historical past” before devolving into quasi-fascist squabbling caused, some speak, by Russian meddling in the 2016 elections. The particular thing that keeps this finale from being among the depressing in tv historical past is the sheer appropriateness of the entire lot that happens in it. —Matt Zoller Seitz