“The Americans” ends its first season with equal parts whimper and bang

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The seasonal structure of the cable drama dictates that the finale close the season out with a definitive bang, be it a question mark or an exclamation point. “The Americans” opted to end its debut season on an ellipsis, leaving several balls in the air and plenty of loose ends to be tugged at next year.

While the season finale tied off several of the season’s storylines, particularly the bug in Weinberger’s office leading to the near-capture of our Soviet heroes and Russian mole Nina declaring her allegiance to her motherland by betraying FBI agent Stan, it didn’t feel like a culmination of everything that had come before. Nonetheless, it was another strong episode in a spectacular debut season, aptly demonstrating the show’s penchant for building tension.

Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys have been giving subtle, multi-faceted performances as KGB spies Elizabeth and Phillip Jennings, especially in their debates about which one of them would stay with their kids in the event of their mission going horribly wrong. Elizabeth’s tortured expression as Phillip tearfully proclaims that Paige and Henry should stay with their mother was perfectly deployed, and made the moment where she asks him in Russian to come home an emotionally satisfying payoff to an occasionally frustrating plotline.

“The Americans” may not have wrapped things up with a cliffhanger, but the show’s pervasive sense of dread is better-suited by ending on Paige’s budding suspicions of her parents. FX shows tend to follow up a solid first season with a fantastic sophomore effort, and if “The Americans” keeps operating at the same level of intensity and quality it maintained this year, next season should be excellent.