'The Americans' season finale: Showrunners talk the Jennings' next moves
WARNING: Spoilers for the fourth season of The Americans follow. Read at your own risk!
Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) are in trouble. (What else is new?) In the season 4 finale of The Americans, Gabriel (Frank Langella) warns them that because William (Dylan Baker) has been captured by the FBI, they’ve become more vulnerable than ever — which means it’s time for the Jennings to return to the motherland. But, as he points out, it’s up to them.
Even so, is their biggest threat really the FBI, or is it coming from within their family? Paige (Holly Taylor) continues to tread a fine line, trying to do what she thinks is right while putting herself in more danger now that she’s become involved with Stan’s (Noah Emmerich) son, Matthew (Danny Flaherty). Her efforts may have worked to protect Pastor Tim (Kelly AuCoin) — he survived the season — but can she protect the Jennings? Below, executive producers Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields talk ending season 4 on another pivotal Paige moment, the major deaths this season, and what to expect as the Cold War spy series ends.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start with Paige. You’ve ended every season with major questions about her status. Season 1 saw Paige poking around the laundry room, season 2 posed the possibility of recruiting her into the KGB, season 3 ended with her spilling her parents’ secret to Pastor Tim, and this season concludes with her making moves on Matthew and getting reprimanded by Philip. What does this final scene mean for her? Has she chosen family over faith?
JOE WEISBERG: I have a three-word answer: We don’t know.
JOEL FIELDS: I can do it in two words: Good questions! [Laughs]
Oh, come on. Seriously?
WEISBERG: I answered!
Well then, how about this: Should we still be worried about her and Pastor Tim, or about Pastor Tim at all?
WEISBERG: Well, there’s a stalemate with him. It’d be almost impossible to do away with him because Paige would be destroyed, and that’s all been made clear, so you’re not going to see [them taking down Pastor Tim]. He’ll become less threatening than when he first found out. We see that they reconcile to a certain degree, so the boil has gone down. It’s not even simmering anymore. It’s just a bit of a warm pot.
Elizabeth’s had a turbulent season, too. At the end of last season, she listened to Reagan talking about Russia as the “evil empire” and this season, she felt guilt over upending a genuine friendship with Young-Hee (Ruthie Ann Miles). Is she finally starting to have major doubts about what she does?
FIELDS: I don’t think so. I think she’s going through her own growth and change, and clearly it’s at a slower rate than Philip’s, but I don’t think she’s anywhere near questioning her mission. I don’t think she’s exactly where she was before.
WEISBERG: I mean, she’s changed a little bit. She’s been through some very intense family experiences and gotten closer to her daughter and lost her mother, and her marriage is at a better state than it’s ever been, so she’s evolving as a person, but it’s not going in the same direction as Philip. You can easily describe Philip’s evolution as one towards self-awareness, but it’s harder to describe the way she‘s changing. I think when she’s looking out of that window, she’s worried.
In this episode, William’s story came to a close in what felt like a little three-act play between him and Stan and Aderholt (Brandon J. Dirden). He mentions the Jennings with his dying words — what are the consequences of that?
WEISBERG: We can’t give anything away, but we just want to point out that he’s also half out of his mind. It’s not like he wanted to screw [the Jennings] or anything. He was delirious. But, those are good clues for Stan and Aderholt to get as they try to unravel this mystery.
Speaking of William, all of the deaths this season have happened when the characters came so close to living happily ever after. This was going to be William’s last mission, Nina (Annet Mahendru) almost got released, and Agent Gaad (Richard Thomas) was on vacation. Are we meant to draw parallels with their deaths? What should we take away from the fact that they all couldn’t reach a happy ending when they could have?
WEISBERG: That sounds so depressing when you say it that way. I never thought of those deaths in those terms. I think we just wrote it that way… Now it’s just extra sad. [Laughs]
FIELDS: But that’s what we were going for! We’re going for extra sad.
In the finale, we also meet Philip’s son, Misha, for the first time. Why bring him into the fold now?
WEISBERG: Well, you know, this goes all the way back to season 1, when the possibility of that character’s existence came up. We didn’t know [at the time] whether he really existed… But later, when [Philip] learns of his move to Afghanistan, we leaned toward making him real, so in our heads, we tracked that as something that’s in Philip’s heart, that he has a son out there he could never do anything about. It just occurred to us as a potentially very emotional storyline, to have this character surface and see what we can do with him.
This pretty much means that Philip and Elizabeth can’t leave the U.S., right? Misha’s on his way there!
WEISBERG: Yeah, that would suck, can you imagine? It would be so ironic. There’s a knock on their door…
FIELDS: And Gabriel says, “You just missed ’em!” [Laughs]
WEISBERG: Oh no, your dad’s right now looking for you!
We know there will be two final seasons to wrap everything up. What are the big questions we should be asking while we wait for seasons 5 and 6, and what are the two of you pondering as you move forward?
FIELDS: The questions we ask are the character questions. What’s going to happen to these people? What’s going to happen to their souls? How are they going to emerge from the trials that they’re in as humans?
One last thing: The episode title is “Persona Non Grata,” meaning a person who’s not welcome, who doesn’t belong. Who are you referring to? Is it everyone? Is it Arkady, who’s told to leave the country? Is it Stan, who walks in on Paige and Matthew? Is it Mail Robot, for being bugged?
WEISBERG: [Laughs] I kind of hate to admit it, but I was being literal on that one. It was Arkady being the persona non grata. Joel, were you more metaphorical in your mind on that?
FIELDS: What I liked about it was it worked for all of them. Although, I have to confess that this is the first time that Mail Robot has been brought up [as a candidate].
WEISBERG:So that would be “robot non grata”?
FIELDS: Yeah! I want to go back and reshoot the finale so we can do a little tweak on that.
The Americans returns to FX in 2017.