The Americans brings its third season to a close tonight (at 10 PM on FX), and many big questions linger. Will Elizabeth and Paige make a trip to Russia to see Elizabeth’s dying mother? Will Paige become a spy? Will Nina gain her freedom? Will Stan get closer to the truth? Will Martha survive? Will Philip, as I’ve long-predicted, defect? Will we finally learn if the suspicious Pastor Tim has some hidden agenda? And will Henry play a new video game? (Okay, just kidding on the last one).
Capping off a thrilling third season, the finale is sure to be full of jaw-dropping plot twists. But before we get to that, let’s take a look back at the season’s most shocking moments.
On any other show this would have been a HUGE reveal. But The Americans has so much going on that learning that the Russian defector working with the FBI is actually a spy was the least shocking thing that happened this season. Now the only question is, will Stan, who has been suspicious almost from the start, figure it out before the season ends?
Oleg started off the season wanting to kill Stan, but then the two unlikely allies realized they have one very important thing in common—they both love Nina and want to see her live. Stan hatches a plan, believing that if Oleg can learn the truth about Zinaida Preobrazhenskaya, the government can make a trade for Nina. A disguised Oleg tries to get Zinaida to show her hand, and Stan gets beaten up in the process, but Zinaida doesn’t budge. If only the two men knew that Nina doesn’t really need saving after all.
The fact that Nina remained a character this season was shocking in and of itself. In the Season Two finale, Stan chose his country over Nina, and she was sent back to Russia, where I assumed she faced certain death. But that Nina, she is a survivor. She’s an expert deceiver, willing to become whatever her mark needs her to be. She easily gets a confession out of her cellmate Evi (Evi screaming, “Nina what did you do?” continues to haunt me) and is rewarded with a succulent meal, and an even bigger trade. If she can get Anton Baklanov to trust her and learn what exactly is going on with his research, she’ll be a free woman. I have no doubt Nina will be able to pull this off.
It’s not that I had forgotten that Martha placed a bug in Agent Gaad’s office back in Season One, but it certainly wasn’t in the forefront of my mind. Suddenly the bug is discovered and Martha’s world comes crashing down around her. Agent Walter Taffet works for the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility—the very office Clark claims as his employer. Martha, to her horror, realizes there’s no way Clark can be who he says he is.
It’s not like we had any illusions about the nasty work Elizabeth and Philip partake in on a daily basis. But the realization that Philip will most likely sleep with 15-year-old Kimmy is stomach-turning and horrifying. “Dimebag” ends with the pair listening to Yaz, as we see Philip struggling with what he must do. By the next episode, he’s completely morphed into who Kimmy needs him to be, and the pair are giggling and eating Rocky Road ice cream and Jiffy Pop together. Kimmy is vulnerable and in desperate need of love and attention. She’s the perfect mark. Philip has managed to stave off her advances all season, but one wonders if Kimmy will be back for the finale. Or if having to sleep with Kimmy is the thing that will finally send Philip over the edge.
Injured in the season premiere, Elizabeth is in a lot of pain. She cannot go to the dentist of course. So with a shot of vodka and some fairly dirty-looking pliers, Philip removes the tooth from Elizabeth’s mouth. It was horrible to watch, and yet you just couldn’t look away. In a scene with no dialogue, Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys said so much with their eyes—pain, sorrow, love, devotion, determination. And we all promise never to complain about a dentist appointment again.
Have you recovered from this scene yet? No, we didn’t think so. This season, The Americans seemed more determined than ever to show viewers the awful things Philip and Elizabeth do in the name of love for their country (and perhaps to remind us just how awful it would be for Paige if she became a spy too). But breaking Annelise’s body, and stuffing it into a suitcase has to be the absolute worst thing we’ve ever seen on this series.
As the walls close in on Martha, she understandably begins to panic. A suspicious Stan has made an unannounced visit to her house. She’s been questioned multiple times by Walter Taffet. She decides she’s going to stay with her parents for a while. But Clark can’t let her do that. So, in what appears to be a last-ditch effort to secure her trust, he removes his glasses and his elaborate toupée, and becomes Philip before her very eyes. Philip certainly appears to want to protect Martha, so hopefully this wasn’t a move to show her his true self before killing her. Because frankly the fact that Martha is still alive may be the most shocking thing of all.
To me there were two directions the show could have gone in after Philip told Martha a version of the truth in “Divestment.” Martha would be killed, or she would go to Agent Gaad, confess, and be arrested for treason. A possible third option is that she would go to Gaad and then work with him to trap Philip. It never, ever occurred to me that Martha would double down on treason. But there she was, making Clark a nice Italian dinner and dropping hints that the mail robot is out for repairs. What exactly does Martha think is going on? Who does she think Clark really works for? Why hasn’t it occurred to her that if Clark lied about who he works for, their marriage might be a lie too? There’s a reason #PoorMartha is a very popular hashtag this season.
There are shocking TV moments that are forever etched into our memories. I can personally remember hysterically screaming at my husband, “It’s a flash back, not a flash forward!” during the “we have to go back” episode of Lost. And I’ll never forget my utter denial when Will died last year on The Good Wife. Even when we saw his corpse, I still thought, there’s no way the show would kill off his character. To these iconic moments, I can now add Paige discovering the truth. This entire season was centered on the battle for Paige. The Centre wants her to become a second generation spy, and Elizabeth is ready for that. Philip wants no part of it. The parents battle back and forth about what to do about their eldest daughter as Elizabeth begins her subtle recruitment process. But in the end, it is Paige who forces the issue, demanding that her parents tell her the truth. Of course, all her guesses (they’re in witness protection, they’re aliens, etc.) pale in comparison to the reality. Paige’s entire life has been a lie. The fallout from this reveal has been devastating. And Paige and the show will never be the same.
What do you think were the most shocking moments this season on The Americans? Talk about it below.
Amy Amatangelo is a Boston-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to Paste. You can follow her on Twitter or her blog.