Elizabeth Jennings: Television’s Greatest Hero

Credit: FX

It’s been a couple months since The Americans aired its final episode on FX, and after having the chance to really sit with this show and read just about every related piece posted online, I still find myself stuck on the words of co-showrunner Joel Fields in Vanity Fair about the antihero status of the show’s leads:

“An antihero is somebody who’s doing something out of selfish motivations or sociopathology. But these are people—we may not agree with their beliefs or with the cause to which they’ve devoted themselves, but they’ve sacrificed an enormous amount to be soldiers in this struggle for what they believe is right.”

I mulled over this quote specifically in regard to Elizabeth Jennings, who I believe was on the receiving end of most of this “antihero” labeling. On the days leading up to the finale, I had come to the same conclusion as Fields—Elizabeth is just a great hero. Contrary to those characters in television who fit the “antihero” archetype like Walter White and Tony Soprano, Elizabeth is driven by a cause that is bigger than herself. As Philip stated in the penultimate episode, “She cares about the whole world.” She is the hero of her own story, for her own side. As a viewer, seeing her ideals as staunchly wrong only perpetuates a very one-sided way of thinking instead being open to the grey areas the show so beautifully paints.

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