Updated May 31 with additional reviews
The Americans, Episode 610: "Start"
Original airdate: May 30, 2018 on FX
Spoiler warning: This page contains mentions of major events in the finale.
One of the most critically acclaimed shows of the past decade, FX's 1980s-set spy drama The Americans aired its 75th and final episode on Wednesday night. Below, find out what TV critics are saying about the series finale. (Click on any publication name to read the full review.) Note that while we have grouped the reviews into rough categories beginning with the most positive, scores are displayed only in those cases where a reviewer has specifically indicated a score. Those scores have been converted to a 0-100 scale when necessary for purposes of comparison.
Extremely positive reviews
They landed on a conclusion that reflects the series as a whole: Tense, understated, affecting, and one of the greats.
"The Americans" resisted any temptation to do a "cute" finale, to somehow link this Cold War-era drama to the Russian controversies of today. The result was an understated but gripping extended episode, one that brought home the price paid by these Soviet spies hiding in plain view, while testing the bonds of loyalty and friendship. ... It was ... an especially thought-provoking and poignant payoff -- one deserving of a vodka toast, and worthy of the best that this acclaimed FX drama had to offer.
The show’s final scene is a fitting close to a show that has never been predictable.
Den of Geek [US]
“START” is a perfect ending to an imperfect final season of a great show. All of the moments we knew that would come since the pilot six years ago finally come in “START,” and they arrive in satisfying, brutally sad ways.
The show's creators avoided the sort of bullet-riddled cleansing that ushered out "Breaking Bad" and "The Sopranos," which isn't to say "The Americans" lacked bloodshed in its six seasons. But the true wreckage at the end of the story was almost all emotional. Which might be why the series finale haunted me so much more than those other two narratives about fractured families.
This finale may have left more than a few balls in the air, but it still delivered a wondrous wallop that crackled with sadness [and] urgency.
This is a thoughtful, moving, and justifiably distressing goodbye to a series given the feelings culled from the audience should parallel what Elizabeth and Philip are going through. Part of them might be angry. Part of them is certainly sad. But part of them is also ready to say goodbye.
The New Yorker
Rather than provide the viewer with bright-red catharsis, “The Americans” went out, after six seasons, in gorgeous shades of asphalt gray and snow white—a dry-eyed tearjerker to the last, leaving behind a chord of moral unease.
A perfect finale, clarifying an entire series and — far more than immediately obvious — the fate of its two protagonists.
Whether or not you rank it with the series’ finest, [this episode] is by some margin its most boldly emotional; from the moment Elizabeth’s eyes search her husband’s for a crack in his façade, and we see her realize that this is the rightest of their limited options, it’s as if six seasons of coded language and terse exchanges finally burst forth in an eruption of feeling. Though no one dies in “START,” it carries the force of a funeral procession, mourning the lives the characters might’ve led, or did, before accepting the loss as irrevocable.
An incredibly pensive, intimate conclusion that is both satisfying and surprising. ... Like all good finales, the series may have reached its conclusion, but there’s more to these characters’ story.
The surprisingly spare, heart-wrenching finale made a climax out of a series of anti-climaxes. The episode was a litany of things that did not happen: Elizabeth and Phillip did not get caught. FBI agent and neighbor Stan Beeman did not turn them in. Paige did not leave the country with her parents. But each of the things that didn’t happen didn’t happen with real emotional force. In another show with similar ingredients, you could imagine this outcome being presented as a rousing escape, the charismatic but morally debased protagonists squirming away one last time. ... It took the finale to show us that the trap of their tragedy was sprung years ago, before the series even began.
Most of what needed to be said during The Americans Season 6 Episode 10 was said without words. There were the perfect musical choices that are always present during any well-directed scene on The Americans, and there was heartfelt dialogue, much of which was captured in quotes, but it was the myriad pained expressions playing across the faces of the extraordinary cast that did the most talking.
There was only one way the story of The Jennings could end, and the series finale of The Americans — which should be regarded as one of the great series-ending hours of television ever, even if it was a bummer and a half — delivered it in all its heartbreaking, soul-crushing glory. I wouldn't want it any other way.
As much as any other show since, say, “Breaking Bad,” “The Americans” needed to stick its landing, and it did so with a brio that cements it as among the defining shows of this decade.
This one definitely makes it into my list of the 10 greatest TV finales ever, not just for the consideration and care that went into the construction of it (and the final season as a whole), but for how thoroughly and almost radically it puts a bow on the series’ central preoccupation: the Jennings marriage.
It’s a tremendous finale. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. And it’s made me wonder if I ever understood anything about The Americans at all.
As both a series finale and an episode of The Americans, “START” is a terrific achievement.
Matt Zoller Seitz
This subdued finale, written by [Joe] Weisberg and [Joel] Fields and directed by Chris Long, is one of the best that I’ve seen, a terrific example of an ending that summarizes what the series was about while putting a new frame around it.
The Washington Post
A satisfying end ... “The Americans” was among my favorite shows, mainly for its linear storytelling and ability to answer just about any question that its intelligent viewers might ask. That it leaves us on a note or two of mournful ambiguity shouldn’t count as points off. Instead, it feels like the surest way out.
Sean T. Collins
Without doing something truly dramatic, like fading out as that train rolls away and leaving us in the same shock as Philip and Elizabeth, the show leaves us wanting what it had always been able to deliver until now: more.
The New York Times
Some will say the cost — losing their children and their American lives — wasn’t high enough; that’s an argument for the comments. For me, it was fitting, and the finale was tremendously satisfying, if not perfect in its details.
The neatly concluded series finale has fallen out of favor. Perhaps since the black screen that ended The Sopranos — and the subsequent cultural accusations that it was unsophisticated to find it unsatisfying — it has been understood that to leave questions unanswered is to respect your audience. Certainly, The Americans leaves plenty of questions unanswered.
It was utterly on-brand for The Americans that the most electrifying sequence of its series finale was about four people talking to each other.
But if it’s less explosive than we might have expected — or even wanted — it also feels for the most part very true to the spirit of the six seasons leading up to it. ... Could the series have ended with some combination of Jenningses killed or behind bars for life? Certainly, and it wouldn’t have rang false if it had happened. But the fact that the finale’s tragedies are all small-scale and family-related ... feels in keeping with all that we’ve seen before.
[A] beautiful and somber finale. ... The finale managed to tick off the necessary boxes without turning into fan service.
[A] silly, stunning finale ... The rare case in which the conclusion grants more meaning to the journey.
This finale wasn’t terrible, had a few moments of pure bliss. But it felt limp, unwilling to push its characters too far. There was tremendous tension, which The Americans was always good at, and disappointing follow-through, which The Americans always struggled with. The personal collided, finally, with the political, and the result was emotionally gratifying but narratively unsatisfying. It suffered, unexpectedly, from a climactic Attack of the Cutes. I cried, I groaned.
The Americans will always be one of the greatest television shows ever but tonight’s series finale was not one of its greatest moments. Lacking the tension that has defined the show from its 2013 debut up until tonight, hobbled with inconsistencies and stumbling with sentimentality over and over like a roadside sobriety test drunk, the Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg-penned end to the sixth and final season of the FX Cold War drama was lukewarm at best.
It was an often tense finale with some strong moments and others that didn't ring entirely true to the series. As is often the case, a great series got an OK (not mind-blowingly memorable) ending.
What do you think?
What did you think of the finale of The Americans, and of the entire sixth season? Let us know in the comments section below.