“The Americans” finally broke through at the Emmys with a Best Drama Series nomination for its fourth season, but the Cold War thriller is back to being the underdog two years later, as it gears up to contend for its final season, which premieres March 28 on FX.
By the time that “The Americans” received its Best Drama Series nomination, it had amassed 12 nominations from the Television Critics Assn. — more for its first four seasons of any show ever, except “The Sopranos.” “The Americans” then fell out of the Emmys’ Best Drama Series lineup last year for its fifth season. For the first time, “The Americans” received only one nomination from the TCA, no Critics’ Choice Award nominations and it was not listed among the annual American Film Institute’s Top 10 Programs.
Based on the first three episodes of the 10-episode sixth season, “The Americans” is continuing with its more intimate pace. These episodes are light on watercooler developments, so no plot points are embargoed from mention in advance reviews. For the most part, both KGB operative Philip Jennings (2016/2017 Best Drama Actor nominee Matthew Rhys) and FBI agent Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich) are out of the spy game, leaving Keri Russell (2016/2017 Best Drama Actress nominee) with the meatiest acting material, as her character — KGB operative Elizabeth Jennings — trains her and Philip’s daughter Paige (Holly Taylor) under KGB handler Claudia (2015/2016 Best Drama Guest Actress winner Margo Martindale).
“The Americans” is positioned well for Emmys nominations by virtue of this being its last chance. The Emmys are infamously stingy when it comes to awarding final seasons, but continually give “goodbye hugs” at the nominations stage. The finale of “The Good Wife” was divisive at best, but earned the show its first Best Drama Writing nomination in six years, since its pilot. The final season of “Downton Abbey” that same year got the show back into the same category for the first time in three years. Maggie Smith also won Best Drama Supporting Actress, having been snubbed altogether the year before for the first time in the role, which had previously won her two Emmys.
Like Smith, Margo Martindale of “The Americans” was nominated for each of the first four seasons, including two wins, then was snubbed for the penultimate season. That Martindale has finally joined the main credits sequence this season suggests that she will have more material than ever before.
If “The Americans” adds a first-time nomination this year, it might be Noah Emmerich, who scored a Critics’ Choice nomination as Best Drama Supporting Actor for the first season. The Emmys continually nominate performances for final seasons that they had wholly ignored prior, including Becky Ann Baker (“Girls”), Ann Dowd (“The Leftovers”) and Laurie Metcalf (“Getting On”) in the past two years.