[Editor’s Note: The following article contains spoilers for “The Americans” series finale.]
“The Americans” finale is chock full of ambiguity. There’s the question of what happens to the Jennings once the USSR dissolves. There’s the question of why Stan (Noah Emmerich) lets his neighbors walk away (or drive away, really). There’s a bunch of questions surrounding Paige (Holly Taylor), including why she gets off the train and what she does after pounding that vodka.
But one question reigns supreme: Is Renee (Laurie Holden) a Russian spy or just a good wife who’s interested in being closer to her husband?
Last week, before a screening of the series finale held for Emmys voters, IndieWire caught up to the cast to ask them that very question, and during the panel, they actually asked the crowd the same question. Creator Joe Weisberg estimated about “80 percent” of the crowd believed she was a spy, and most of the cast agrees. A few are certain of it. But the holdouts may surprise you, and the creators’ insistence on keeping things up in the air is expected to last years.
Keidrich Sellati (Henry)
At the end of the series, the closest thing Henry had to a dad was Stan, which would make Renee his step-mom (or whatnot). So it’s understandable Sellati would have a passionate reaction to the question:
“Oh yeah!” he said. “No doubt, no doubt. […] 100 percent she’s a spy. There’s no way she’s not.”
Furthermore, Sellati is so obsessed with the question, he thinks it demands a follow-up season.
“When they broke it to Stan that she could be, I was like, ‘Oh my God. I wonder how that’s going to work out.’ […] But we’re really not going to conclude this? We’re just going to go with: ‘Eh. All right.’? That’s one of the [reasons] I’m angry the show doesn’t have another season: I want to know about that now!”
Holly Taylor (Paige)
The actress playing his sister agrees — on both counts.
“There’s gotta be another season,” Taylor said. “You can’t just end it like that, right?”
She’s also adamant that Renee is hiding something.
“Oh yeah, for sure,” Taylor said. “[Writers Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg] wouldn’t ever tell me — they won’t tell anybody — but she’s gotta be. She’s just got all the skills.”
Margo Martindale (Claudia)
In a way, if any character on the show knew the truth about Renee, it would be Claudia. She was in charge of operatives in the D.C. area. She knew about every assignment, even the ones agents didn’t think she knew about (like Elizabeth’s meetings in Mexico). So does the actress who played her think Renee is a spy?
“Absolutely!” Martindale said. “And I always thought she was a spy — because she works for me.”
There you have it.
Noah Emmerich (Stan)
Emmerich is closer to the situation than any character, as Stan had to choose whether or not to stay with Renee after being warned about her by an unsure Philip. As such, the actor is a little cautious about the subject.
“I think there’s a really good possibility,” Emmerich said with a sly smile. He didn’t elaborate, but did comment on the writers’ refusal to explain further.
“There’s nothing for them to tell,” he said. “It’s up to us [the viewers] now.”
Keri Russell (Elizabeth)
Russell, too, was a bit iffy on the subject, but leaned toward Renee being a spy.
“I think maybe she is,” Russell said. “She seems fishy to me. She just turns up and wants to work with him in the FBI? That seems weird.”
In a conference call held before the FYC event, she elaborated a bit more on Renee.
“She seems pretty creepy to me,” she said with a laugh. “But that’s just my take on it. How crazy, right? At the end, [Philip’s] line — ‘Oh, by the way, I don’t know yes or no but look out for it,’ — what do you do with that? It’s so crazy.”
Matthew Rhys (Philip)
And here lies the holdout. In a separate conference call, Rhys went against popular thinking and then elaborated on what Philip meant when he warned Stan about his wife.
“No, I don’t [think so],” Rhys said about Renee being a spy. “There was talk of this [warning being taken as a] final parting shot from Phillip, whether it’s good or bad […] and, you know, I said ultimately I think Phillip and Stan in another world would have loved having [each other] as a best friend. […] Stan was the only friend he’d ever had […] so there’s genuine concern for [Stan] there that I just think he couldn’t leave it unsaid.”
On the red carpet, Rhys explained why he never thought of Renee as a Russian.
“There was nothing concrete that said to me she was. […] I never saw anything that made me go, ‘Oh right she is,'” he said.
Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg (co-showrunners)
As for the writers of the scene, they kept their answer brief.
“It’s what Philip said. She might be one of them, but he’s not sure.”
And neither are they — or, at least, that’s what they’re saying. Below, IndieWire TV Editor Liz Shannon Miller and TV Critic Ben Travers discuss the Renee of it all, as well as everything else about “The Americans.” Can the FX drama earn the Emmys it deserves for the final season? What are the odds TV Academy members are tuning in and responding to the series in a positive way? And what does the TV landscape look like now that one of its true greats has moved on?
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