Follow TV Tropes


YMMV / The Americans

Go To

  • Alternative Character Interpretation: In season 4 episode 5, "Clark's Place," is Arkady's reaction to Nina's execution a callous and self-centered expression of victim blaming, or a desperate attempt to reconcile his belief in Soviet justice with his knowledge that Nina, a person he was fond of, did not truly deserve to die? Based on his chilly response, Oleg thinks it's the former...
  • Anti-Climax Boss: Considering how great of a villain character that Larrick was, many viewers felt that the final confrontation between him and the Jennings was anticlimactic.
  • Advertisement:
  • Author's Saving Throw: The creators said in podcasts that they painted themselves into a corner with Clark. They hadn't thought through all the ways Martha could tell he was wearing a wig. So after they marry, she says she knows it’s a wig but she thinks it’s nice he wants to look good for her, and she loves him however he looks.
  • Award Snub:
    • Although it earned quite a few precursor nods (including recognition from the Critics Choice Awards and TCA), the show's first season was almost completely bypassed by the Emmys in 2013, with no nominations for Series, Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys or Noah Emmerich. Margo Martindale managed to earn a Guest nomination for her work as Claudia, though that could be attributed less to the show and more to good will for her following her win for Justified just a few years prior.
    • Advertisement:
    • The same thing happened in Season 2 - Martindale received a Guest nomination, but the show was completely ignored otherwise. The show was largely snubbed for Season 3 as well, except this time Martindale won.
    • Martindale's win for Season 3 was seen by this as some, given how her only appearance in the entire season was opposite Frank Langella's Gabriel in a single scene at a diner. Several fans thought that the true standout guest star of the season was Lois Smith in "Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?" and that Martindale won more due to her being a familiar name to Emmy voters.
    • The same thing happened in Season 4, only now Martindale won for a grand total of two scenes opposite Langella. Once again, many people did not care for this.
    • Finally averted on the whole with Season 4, which earned the show its first Emmy nominations for Drama Series, Lead Actor for Matthew Rhys, and Lead Actress for Keri Russell. The show also earned nominations for Writing and Margo Martindale once again. There were still the unfortunate omissions of Alison Wright, Holly Taylor, Frank Langella, and Noah Emmerich in the supporting categories, but many fans were nonetheless satisfied that the show had finally caught on with the TV Academy in a big way.
    • Advertisement:
    • Averted even further for the final season when Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg finally won an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series and Matthew Rhys won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. Many were disappointed that Keri Russell didn't win for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series alongside them, though it was acknowledged that the winner, Claire Foy for The Crown (also on her final season of that show), gave a very worthwhile performance.
    • Noah Emmerich was never nominated for an Emmy for his consistently excellent portrayal of Stan, angering many fans. Especially bad is his omission for the final season, which many believe was worthy of a win, much less a nomination.
    • Frank Langella's always cool, charismatic, and extremely memorable work as Gabriel managed to be entirely ignored by the Emmys. Especially bad when you remember Gabriel's counterpart Claudia's actress won twice for extremely minor appearances.
    • Annet Mahendru's always wonderful work as Nina was sadly never recognized come Emmy time. Many would argue that she was more deserving of a guest actress bid than eventual winner and costar Margo Martindale's cameos that year.
  • Awesome Music:
    • Can be found in the pilot, with its use of "Tusk" by Fleetwood Mac. What was previously known as a quirky little jungly-sounding song has now been rendered as an amazingly intense bit of soundtrack.
    • Also, Peter Gabriel's "Games Without Frontiers" during the montage that closes the first season finale. Other montages in the series use "I Have The Touch" and "Here Comes The Flood".
    • Another great use of a Fleetwood Mac classic song "Chain", at the end of "Walter Taffet" when Phillip and Elizabeth kidnap the son of a South African politician at a diner.
    • The series finale, relying on two powerful songs "Brothers In Arms" by Dire Straits and especially "With or Without You" by U2.
  • Base-Breaking Character: Paige, whose reaction to learning her parents' secret is either unconscionably whiny and careless or totally understandable, given her age and the magnitude of what happened.
  • Broken Base: Season 5, which was entirely too slow and espionage-free for some fans, though others appreciated the focus on the characters' interior lives. Most agreed it wasn't quite up to the standards of seasons 3 and 4, though.
  • Cant Unhear It: A lot of fans on the internet say they can't listen to U2's "With or Without You" the same way after its use in the finale.
  • Cargo Ship: Frank Gaad and the Mail Robot.
  • California Doubling:
    • New York doubling. Shot after shot after shot featuring present-day New York City parking restriction signs, New York City traffic lights, MTA bus stops, bodegas, etc. An obvious Long Island Rail Road train station. A scene set on the Market-Frankford Line in Philadelphia clearly shot somewhere along the IRT Flushing Line in Queens. The list goes on and on.
    • Quite obvious in some of the later episodes of Season 2, supposedly taking place in DC and Virginia in March and April, but featuring snow everywhere due to the brutal winter of 2013-2014 in NYC.
  • Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: The sheer amount of times the KGB has gotten away with murdering innocent people in this show (or just plain ruining peoples' lives) has caused some people to lose all sympathy for the main protagonists. Many people continue to watch the show because they want to see Philip and especially Elizabeth finally get some comeuppance.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Nina.
    • Claudia has become quite popular with fans of the show. Especially following the season one finale.
    • Oleg.
    • Larrick, because he's a grade-A badass who is intelligent enough and deadly enough to be a credible threat to the Jennings. Even Claudia, who fought in the Battle of Stalingrad and has decades of experience as a KGB agent, is scared shitless of him. Some people have compared Larrick to Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men due to the fact that he's an intelligent, resourceful, relentless killer.
    • Paige.
    • The Mail Robot. It even has its own Twitter page.
    • Gabriel's certainly got his fair share of fans due to being a cool, grandfather like figure to the Jennings, in addition to being highly competent at what he does. That fact that he's played by Frank Langella is just icing on the cake.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: In the season 3 finale, Paige asks Elizabeth if the latter would ever leave her and say goodbye forever. Elizabeth tells Paige that she would never have to do anything like that. In the series finale, Paige decides against joining her fleeing parents at the last second, essentially cutting ties with them and abandoning them forever, with only a glimpse of her standing on the train platform as a "goodbye."
  • Ho Yay: It's been hinted that Fred and Emmet might have been more than just comrades. At the very least, Fred seems a lot more upset about Emmet's death than most KGB assets are about their handlers.
  • Jerkass Woobie:
    • Philip can definitely be this at times. He's a highly-trained KGB operative who lies, manipulates, blackmails, and murders throughout the show. Still, it's hard not to feel sorry for him when he finds out that Gregory and Elizabeth have been having an affair for years, and then again when he and Elizabeth separate and he isn't living with his children anymore. Oh, and just for that extra kick in the crotch, he learns that his assignment has taken him away from a son he didn't know existed and has missed out completely on his life. For added woobie-ness, season 3 shows flashbacks to his past - it turns out that the Centre pushed him into training as a Honey Trap, starting when he was a teenager. Said training consisted of compelling him to sleep with other operatives, many of whom were older and few of whom had any concern for his well-being. No wonder he's a lot more ambivalent about his loyalty to the Centre than Elizabeth is.
      • This also explains why he goes ballistic at the idea of Paige joining and when she brings up sleeping with someone for information.
    • Stan also counts. He's reprehensible in some respects, but years of undercover work have left him emotionally distant and broken. Worse, he's got no idea how to fix it.
  • Memetic Mutation: What are the two things that this show is famous for? Wigs and sex scenes.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Stan starts off as a Hero Antagonist, going after Soviet spies in a legal manner and just trying to protect his country. Then he murders Vlad in cold blood in revenge for Amador's murder. Although he doesn't do anything as bad after that, he can never be the hero after such a heinous act. To his credit, he finds it abhorrent himself and is still haunted by the deed even as much time goes by.
  • Narm:
    • The Reveal of who killed Emmett and Leanne in "Echo". While shocking that it was their son Jared it is funny that he has a Deathbed Confession that lasts a long time, all while bleeding from a gunshot wound to the neck. He has time to tell Philip and Elizabeth (and the viewers) everything to wrap up the mystery including that he had been recruited by the Center and had had an affair with Kate, his handler.
    • Some of the Jenning's diguises, specially the wigs, are so obviously fake that they stick out like sore thumb.
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • Chris Sullivan's affable, dangerously competent assassin in Season 1.
    • The Mossad agent in "The Deal." He is one of the very few people who survive the Jennings and get into their nerve.
    • Betty in "Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?" is perhaps the most empathetic and decent person to ever sadly run across the Jennings. Her death clearly has a major impact on Elizabeth who is usually the colder and less emotional of the two leads. Her final conversation with Elizabeth clearly got under her skin. “That’s what evil people tell themselves… when they do… evil things.”
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap:
    • Oleg, who went from a Smug Snake with family connections, to someone who genuinely came to care and love Nina. Following the death of his brother in Afghanistan, Nina's execution, and telling the Americans of the KGB's attempt to steal a biological weapon, Oleg is now considered one of the most sympathetic characters on the show.
    • Martha in season 3 once the horrific implications of what she's gotten herself wrapped up in start to play out and make her much more sympathetic.
  • Rooting for the Empire: The main characters are murderous spies aligned with a country that most viewers would see as an opponent of their own nation, so this is perfectly intentional. As a viewer, it's odd because you find yourself sort of rooting, a little bit, for the murderous Soviet spies to kill an innocent pastor just to resolve the tension you feel inside about the existential threat to your main characters.
    WEISBERG: Different people probably feel different ways, or even differently inside themselves. A part of me is rooting for that and a part of me isn’t. A part of me would be relieved, and a part of me would be devastated. That’s a rich experience.
  • Rewatch Bonus: Try to watch the scenes involving Jared after watching the season 2 finale without feeling sick in the stomach. This also goes to some extent for scenes with Kate, who isn't just the Jennings' handler.
  • The Scrappy:
    • Some fans of the show really don't like Gregory; viewing him as a Smug Snake who is openly trying to steal Elizabeth from Philip. These fans did not shed any tears when Gregory was killed.
    • Paige, whose obsession with discovering her parent's secrets quickly progresses from precocious to dangerous, her self-entitled and shortsighted actions eventually putting multiple lives in danger.
  • Squick: More than once:
    • In "Echo" we learn that Kate seduced Jared and started grooming him to be a KGB spy. Jared was about sixteen years old when the affair began.
    • In "Dimebag" the Love's Baby Soft ad Phillip sees on the TV, which equates a baby's innocence with grownup sex-appeal. Made all the more creepy by the fact that it's a real TV ad from 1975.
    • All of Philip's interactions with Kimberly in Season 3, mostly because she's 15, and Philip's disguise and behavior make him look and feel like a child-predator. Made even worse by the fact that it even disgusts Philip, and he is supremely disturbed by his own behavior during most of the season.
  • What an Idiot!: Lucia in season 2. Despite being told that Larrick is off-limits and knowing how dangerous he is, she breaks into his house and tries to kill him. This ultimately results in her own death.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Political?: The Afghanistan arc definitely feels like a commentary on America's own misadventures in The War on Terror.
  • The Woobie:
    • Sandra Beeman. Hoo boy. She is the only character in the series who doesn't have secrets, schemes, or even affairs. But what does she get in return? A workaholic husband with a mistress, a son distant as a cold fish, and neighbors who spy for enemy country. As characters go, Sandra is the only one who can claim to be an innocent civilian.
    • The surviving teenage son of Emmet and Leanne. He discovered the bodies of his father, mother and younger sister and will never know why they were murdered or that his parents were Soviet spies. Except that it turns out he knew that they were Soviet spies because the KGB wanted to recruit him too, and he's the one who killed them.
    • Paige in the episode "Martial Eagle" who gets treated badly by both of her parents for going to church and donating her money to them. This becomes worse in season 3's "Stingers" when she learns the truth about her parents and is asked to become their Secret Keeper.
    • Anton Baklanov, a Jewish Refusenik scientist who fled anti-semitic persecution in the USSR to a seemingly happily ever after ending in a much safer United States, except he is repatriated to the USSR against his will and betrayed by the Mossad agents who were protecting him in exchange for one Mossad agent and emigration rights for 1,500 Soviet Jews to Israel. His verbal assault on Philip as he is being driven to the boat back to the USSR is one of the most painful scenes in the series.
    • Martha's life is destroyed utterly in season 4. First she learns a co-worker was murdered to protect her. Then her cover gets blown anyway and she's forced to go to Russia where she doesn't speak the language and doesn't know anyone and will probably never be able to talk to anyone she knows in the US again.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: