The Americans Showrunners Explain The Series Finale Ending The Way It Did

the americans philip elizabeth series finale fx
(Image credit: Image courtesy of FX)

Warning: major spoilers ahead for the series finale of The Americans on FX.

The Americans has officially ended its intense six-year run on FX with a finale that twisted and turned in some directions even the most diehard fans may not have been able to predict. The very last scene of the series ended not with death or destruction or any kind of huge cathartic twist. No, the episode ended with Philip and Elizabeth back in Russia, having escaped the United States before they could be captured by authorities, although they had a close call with Stan. Their ending wasn't exactly happy, as both Henry and Paige were left behind in the U.S., and the scene was rather bleak as they stood in the snow, gazing at a city that no longer truly felt like home.

Notably, the finale ended without revealing what was in the future for Philip and Elizabeth, and fans were left without answers to all the questions they likely had after the episode. Showrunners Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields spoke with press outlets in a conference call ahead of the finale, and Weisberg said this about why the finale ended on an ambiguous note:

You know, we want to walk a, sort of, fine line there, because we're very reluctant to impose too much of our thought process on a moment like that, where we really want to let the scene speak for itself. And the audience, sort of, have their own moment with it. Because we think everybody's going to, sort of, view that difference. You know, the other day somebody told us something about what they were feeling in that scene that was profoundly different anything we ever felt about it. But it's still not our place to quash that or get in between somebody and their experience of the scene. But it's probably, I don't know. I wouldn't say that we felt that there was an inner dialogue that was so different from the outer dialogue exactly. Certainly a lot of very profound feelings going on for both of them and I think it's really nice what you said. That they were looking at their future as they looked off toward that city that, you know, was almost a strange, almost a foreign city to them after coming back after all these years. And both trying obviously to grapple with and process this terrible, terrible tragic loss of their children. Something they never ever would have been able to imagine even really a few days ago.

The ambiguity of the final scene allows viewers to come up with their own interpretation of what happened, what was going to happen, and what was going on in Philip and Elizabeth's minds at the end of this particular long journey. There were specific subjects that they absolutely had to be thinking about -- ranging from the loss of their children to the tense confrontation with Stan to perhaps even the final moment in the McDonald's -- but viewers had the freedom to decide what they believed would happen next.

While having a shortage of hard answers at the end of a six-season run might be difficult for some fans, The Americans delivered an emotional episode that supplied closure on one distinct chapter of all of these characters' lives without giving the sense that their stories are over. The Americans probably isn't coming back for a revival or launching a spinoff based on Henry or Stan (and Renee) or Paige, but there was the sense that their lives will go on.

Paige had a poignant final scene, even if she did leave her parents behind at a train station, choosing to stay in the U.S. rather than retreat to Russia. She was last seen drinking Claudia's vodka in her apartment. Joel Fields revealed this about that scene for Paige:

Unfortunately, I think that's another one where the intent is really to put it into the hands of the viewers and to the hearts of the viewers. There's no - and it's not because we're hiding something there, but it's because that moment's not a moment about plot. That's a moment about where she's at personally.

Paige's fate is one of the most open-ended as of the end of The Americans. She's not safe from the authorities with her parents in Russia and she's not free to wander around the U.S., certainly not after she explicitly told Stan that she's known the truth about Philip and Elizabeth since she was 16 years old. Henry stands a better chance of leading a normal life, and Stan will probably do what he can to keep him safe. After all, Henry is innocent, and Stan's friendship with Philip was genuine on a certain level.

Possibly the most unexpected twist of the entire finale is the fact that nobody died. Series finales often kill off major characters, and fans likely went into the episode on the edges of their seats, waiting with bated breath to see which of their favorites would be brutally killed off before the final credits. Joe Weisberg spoke about why the showrunners chose not to go with the expectations and kill somebody off, saying this:

You know, we don't do it for that reason. What we usually - what usually guides us in this type of story decision is asking ourselves what feels most likely to really happen? What feels most true? And then that's not the only step. That's where we start. And then sometimes, you know, some - that's not with all our stories. We know some of our stories are a little more farfetched and wild than that. But when we're getting to something really big and really emotional, then we want that to ring as true as possible. So we start with what do we think the characters would really do? And if that ends up with something like hey, nobody gets killed, we're aware of the fact that that's not the most normal way to end one of these stories. And it's probably going to not, you know, defy the expectations of what this genre usually presents at the end? And in all fairness, I think, we consider that a plus. That it's, you know, going to surprise people. We were also aware it may disappoint some people. But as long as it rings true and feels emotion to us, we're happy.

Sadly, The Americans is now done, and we can't hold out hope for more questions being answered. That said, there's plenty open to interpretation that can keep fans talking and speculating for the foreseeable future. For what you can watch sooner rather than later now that The Americans is over, check out our summer TV premiere guide and our 2018 Netflix premiere schedule.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).