The fifth season has received widespread critical acclaim. On Rotten Tomatoes, it received a 95% approval rating with an average score of 9.09 out of 10 based on 37 reviews, with a critics consensus of: “In its penultimate season, The Americans brings long-simmering storylines to a boil while heightening the spy-thriller stakes and deepening the domestic drama—all brought vividly to life by superb performances from its veteran cast.” On Metacritic, the season has a score of 94 out of 100 based on 19 reviews, indicating “universal acclaim”. Matthew Gilbert of The Boston Globe gave it a highly positive review and wrote, “The drama remains as tense as ever, with strong, careful writing and an abundance of fine performances”. Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter also lauded the series, “It’s extremely well-constructed, with slow-burning storylines that are paying off in superb dramatic depth” and praised its “top-tier acting” and “artfully crafted visuals”.
In regards to the premiere, some criticisms came from Todd VanDerWerff of Vox who noted that the symbolism of “spending a long time digging a hole so deep that you probably can’t escape it—while knowing you’ll lose friends along the way—is a little on-the-nose”, while Mike Hale of The New York Times was not very excited with the first episode’s “grainy montage set to martial music that began with images of collectivist agricultural might before seguing to blighted fields and long lines outside stores.” Libby Nelson of Vox thought that “the agriculture plot was the weakest link” in the second episode.
The fifth season was criticized for becoming too slow, turning the show from “slow burn” into just “warm embers”. According to Fields and Weisberg, they wanted the fifth season “to feel different as it unspooled”, harvesting the story pieces created in the fourth season. The fifth season was not meant as a set-up for the sixth season. With pacing of the fifth season slowed down intentionally, Weisberg and Fields admitted that they did not expect “this much of a backlash” for “hitting the brakes too hard”. They were upset by criticism, but suggested waiting until the series is over, hoping for the response to become more muted in context of the sixth and final season.