[SPOILERS for The Americans series finale.]
The Americans co-showrunners Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields offer up their take on Stan Beeman’s fateful decision that will define the finale. Now that the series has come to a close after six seasons, with a tense finale that wrapped up the story of Philip and Elizabeth Jennings in emotionally brutal fashion, there’s time to look at some of the biggest moments from the finale, with the help of the guys behind the series.
The final episode found the Jennings family on the run from the FBI, trying to collect Paige, and having to say a heartbreaking good bye to Henry (who remained blissfully unaware the truth about his parents) before high-tailing it back to Soviet Russia. It wouldn’t be a finale without best friends sayings a fond farewell in a parking garage at gunpoint, at least that’s how Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich) does things after confirming his suspicions about his neighbors and the odd hours they keep at, of all things, a travel agency.
Ahead of the finale, Weisberg and Fields participated in a conference call where they discussed The Americans’ series finale and touched on some of the major dramatic moments in the episode. Stan’s confrontation with Philip, Elizabeth, and Paige is perhaps the most anxiety-inducing moment of the (extended) hour. It’s a fraught few minutes where it seems as though violence might erupt at any moment. Curiously, it does not, and Stan lets a pair of deep cover Soviet agents leave. It’s a surprising and satisfying twist that’s going to have people talking. And while Weisberg and Fields want there to be some ambiguity as to what Stan’s thought process really was, leaving it up to the audience to decide for themselves why he did what he did, they do have some thoughts as to what was driving him.
“... at the end of the day, [Stan and Philip's] friendship was a real friendship. And there's no question about it through all the layers of bullshit and lying and manipulation and everything else, it's hard to argue that these two men didn't love each other. And, you know, that scene becomes an exploration of six seasons' worth -- or however many years it actually was -- you know, six seasons' worth of a real relationship and a real friendship and all the shit that went into it and all the shit that is now coming to come out of it. And one of the challenges in writing that scene was taking everything, particularly [what] these two men would have to say to each other and figuring out which of those things would have to come out and in what order?
And every -- one of the reasons we went through so many drafts of that scene was because every time we had it in the wrong order. Every time we got what they would say even slightly off, the scene rang false and didn't work. And it was only when we really ultimately figured out who would bring up what in what felt like exactly the true time, what their first concern would be. Second concern, third concern, exactly when we believed that would well up from their heart, that's when the scene started to feel real and believable. I know that's not an exact answer … but it may be a little bit of a roundabout one about a human interaction between two people.”
Watching the scene, what Weisberg says rings true. Given that the exchange is primarily between Stand and Philip makes the FBI agent’s decision not just believable, but also understandable. It’s an emotional choice driven by extreme circumstances. At any rate, it’s a complicated scene that’s worth revisiting again (if you haven’t already), if for nothing else than to try an pinpoint the moment Philip’s emotional appeal gets through to his (former?) best friend.
The Americans seasons 1 - 5 are available to stream on Amazon Prime, season 6 is available to stream with the FX Now app.