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Americans, The: Season 6
The sixth season was the last for The Americans, the show about the married couple of Philip (Matthew Rhys, Burnt) and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell, Waitress), father and mother to two kids and oh by the way, are spies who were born and raised in Russia before moving to America as teenagers. I had been wondering how the show was going to end things for itself whether it was Season Three, Season Four or Season Five. And the genius of the show is that not that it didn't have to go out with a bang, but that it didn't have to.
Season Six finds Philip removed from his work and handling the travel agency he and Elizabeth work at, but the business is struggling and he finds himself occasionally helping Elizabeth on a mission. A summit with Mikhail Gorbachev and military opposition to the leader serves as the catalyst to the end of the show. The Jennings' neighbor who is an FBI agent named Stan (Noah Emmerich, Blood Ties) has suspicions of the couple that are confirmed over the course of the season and thus, hell starts to break loose.
Possible spoilers ahead. That said, when it comes to the actual finale of the show, it's a marvel to see how little startling events occur. You'd expect gunfire or even an explosion or two, and you don't get it. You get some over the course of the season, but not so much. It would seem that the overarching theme for The Americans would be one of choice; Philip leaves the spying business but chooses to return. The events in his life sure do paint a case for it, but when he does actually return to help, it's his decision, just as it is for Elizabeth when she declines doing a job related to the summit. There are choices made when Stan finally confronts them in the finale, and aside from being such a soft-spoken moment, Philip makes a choice, and so does Stan. Paige makes a choice that is perhaps even more irrevocable. Through it all the executions are perfect and sensible.
Rhys and Russell are phenomenal in the last season, Rhys' despair and emotional stress before returning to spydom in Season Six is so tangible, such a connection made to it. Russell has less emotional vulnerability as Elizabeth but her role is just as impressive, and in the last season to see her fate spin on such a dime and how Russell plays it is kind of next level. She only gets to realize the hurt at the end and it's remarkably tragic. Holly Taylor (as Paige) owns an arc for her character that in Season Six is admirable and more mature for her emerging college years than you'd expect and she delivers. Emmerich's performance also experiences a resurgence that is crystallized in the finale. The ensemble has been waiting for these moments and they step up to the occasion.
Similar cold war thrillers to this would probably have overdid the white knuckle nature of the character dynamic and story, and perhaps missed the emotional connections to the characters that would be established. The Americans did the inverse, establishing the emotional connection early because the inherent nature of spying is tense, and uses it in a complementary way to help heighten concerns about your favorite characters. With sterling performances throughout, it's hard to realize the show is gone, six months after the final episode aired.
The last season of The Americans arrives in 10 episodes, presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and spread over three discs. The episodes look good with solid color and flesh tone reproduction, without color push or oversaturation. Black levels are deep and present a very good onscreen contrast, and the image is devoid of haloing or edge enhancement. Given the recency of the source material and limitations of standard definition, the show looks good.
Dolby Digital 5.1 surround returns for each installment with the results sounding great. The U2 song in the finale comes through superbly, chase scenes include some immersion with channel panning and directional effects, dialogue is crisp and consistent and the dynamic range of the show's last season is darned impressive.
Similar to previous seasons, everything is on the last disc, the "First Look" previews return, two to three-minute looks at various parts of the season, a handful of deleted scenes and a five-minute gag reel that's similar to previous ones where an actor(s) get all silly to shake things out before doing a shot. The show suffers from a huge lack of ample supplements and if it ever shows up on Blu-ray, hopefully gets rectified.
Now that it's done and the holidays are approaching, you have the perfect opportunity for a binge show in The Americans. With superb acting and expert storytelling the show is one of the best in a packed field of quality television entertainment. The show looks and sounds good but the extras remain a black mark to it. Fox, someone, needs to get the whole show on Blu-ray and throw on some of the cast Q&A sessions floating around the internet, and you've got a keeper of a set. As it stands, the discs are a good rental and provide understated yet effective closure to a gem.