Much like the heartbreaking but hopeful finale, “Americans” fans are feeling a lot of mixed emotions post-Emmy nominations. On the positive side of things, the FX drama snagged key nods for Outstanding Drama Series, and its two leads — Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell — snagged their third nominations in a row, for Outstanding Actor and Actress in a Drama Series, respectively.
Co-showrunners Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg even landed a critical writing nod, but that was it. Noah Emmerich, Margo Martindale, Holly Taylor, director Chris Long, and so many others went home empty-handed, as “The Americans” snagged just four nominations in 2018; that’s the same as it pulled in a year ago, when it missed out on Outstanding Drama Series, and one nod below its highest ever (five in 2016).
Many prognosticators were predicting more. In its final year, coming off rave reviews and a buzzy series finale, some thought “The Americans” could benefit from the final season bump (and years of snubs) to see a jump from four or five nominations to nine or 10. That didn’t happen, and worse still, it has the lowest number of nominations of the series up for Best Drama: “Game of Thrones” (22), “Westworld” (21), “The Handmaid’s Tale” (20), “The Crown” (13), “Stranger Things” (12), “This Is Us” (8), “The Americans”… (4).
But fear not, comrades. Best Drama Series may be out of reach — maybe — but there’s still hope for the most important Emmy race of 2018: Keri Russell vs. the world. Ever since “The Americans” earned its first major nominations, the show has pacing with another perennial-snubee-turned-winner: “Friday Night Lights.” So if that precedent holds up, Keri Russell is walking away with the gold… and the show would take home one more trophy, too.
A quick recap: “Friday Night Lights” didn’t earn many Emmy nominations outside of casting for its first three seasons before breaking in with two lead acting nods for Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton in Season 4. The next year, its last, Chandler took home the trophy.
“The Americans” has followed a similar trajectory. Like “FNL,” it’s been the critics’ pick throughout its run, faced repeated dismissal from the Emmys, and only broke in near the end of the series. Its two leads are getting the most Emmy attention, but it’s snagged nods for writing and series like “FNL” did, as well.
If someone looked at these facts with a gendered gaze, they might think this means Matthew Rhys is set to win in 2018. After all, he’s the male lead, and so was Kyle Chandler. He also has slightly lighter competition, given the Sterling K. Brown has won two Emmys already and the “Westworld” actors should cancel each other out.
If Rhys wins, that’s great — he more than deserves it — but it’s the lead of “Friday Night Lights” who won in 2011, and if there’s one lead of “The Americans,” it’s Keri Russell. She’s been the driving force of the show, as fans waited for six seasons to see what the most dedicated Russian spy would choose in the end: family or country. Rhys’ Philip made that choice long ago. (Also, come on: Keri Russell is Keri Russell. “Brothers and Sisters” was good, but it’s no “Felicity.” Coming into the series, she was the star and still is, even if viewers have come to love Rhys equally.)
With recognition in Drama Series, writing, and acting categories, “The Americans” hasn’t been ignored by the TV Academy. They may still feel obligated to reward the series after years of snubs, and Keri Russell seems like the choice — from outsiders and insiders — if only one person is going to walk away with a trophy.
The only chink in the armor is an issue that shouldn’t be an issue — likability; specifically, the character’s likability. Kyle Chandler played a beloved father, husband, and mentor, while Russell’s Elizabeth Jennings has seen a wave of backlash over the years because of a few cold-blooded choices. Even Russell has said in the past that Elizabeth could be a tough character to love, so some voters may prefer to cast votes for an unabashed feminist icon (such as Elisabeth Moss’ role in “The Handmaid’s Tale”).
Still, Moss already got her long-awaited Emmy last year. Now it’s time to give the other neglected, out-of-this-world-great actress her due. And if Russell wins, that ups the odds for “The Americans” in one more category, too: In “Friday Night Lights'” final year, not only did Kyle Chandler win, but so did series showrunner Jason Katims. So as long as voters follow along with the “Friday Night Lights” precedent, Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg should conquer Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series and join Russell in the winners’ circle.
Have hope, comrades. The war may be lost, but battles can be won.