‘Homeland’ Review: “The Star”
Tonight brings the season 3 finale of 'Homeland,' with Saul and Carrie racing to try and save Brody after that daring, intense bit of action in the final minutes of last week's episode, "Big Man in Tehran." We've been wondering all season if Brody will make it past season 3, and tonight's episode gives us the answer. Showtime has been fond of Damian Lewis (and he's an immense talent), but plenty of critics who've felt unhappy with the show's direction this season seem keen for him to go -- how will "The Star" set things up for season 4? Read on for our review of the 'Homeland' season 3 finale!
'Homeland' has beautifully (mostly) turned itself around in the final stretch, and "Big Man in Tehran" and "The Star" represent what I hope is the start of a return to form for the series. But even saying "a return to form" doesn't have much truth to it, now that the show hardly resembles what it was in the first season. It's lost some of the more mature touches in its editing, style, and even in character, that set it apart from its network brethren. But the last two weeks have given us some gut-churning moments, the kind of visceral stuff in between moments of lesser dialogue and character interactions that proves that 'Homeland' is still capable of taking us by surprise, of finding a pulse and helping us find it, too.
From the moment that Javadi informs Saul that he has to sacrifice Brody in order to take control of Iran until Brody takes his final breath, we're kind of waiting for Saul to swoop in with a cape on or some Navy SEALs to drop in and cut Brody down because honestly, that's the kind of show 'Homeland' has become. Even Brody refers to the "almighty Saul," who has become something of an omnipotent character. But this is one problem even Saul can't fix. And it's poetic, sure -- Brody served his country, was tortured for it, made to serve a new master, and has been volleyed between two god-like forces ever since. He's been, as he says, wound up like a toy soldier and sent off to kill and destroy for whichever belief system he's been trained to understand is right and just. And in the end, there's only one way out: in a body bag, or in a coffin, but either way, it's death.
And in some way, Brody's death comes as a relief to the show -- an inevitable conclusion both from a narrative and from a character standpoint. If he didn't die now, he would soon because human nature is cyclical; and television narratives are, too, which is why to keep him alive would be to see him set up in another dangerous mission where his loyalties are tested again and again, and we have to watch this tragic love story between Brody and Carrie play out for eternity. This began as a show about Carrie, not about Brody (though some could argue otherwise). And while Damian Lewis is an incredibly talented actor and his journey as Nicholas Brody has been fascinating to watch, there's just not much more road for him to travel. His sendoff tonight was fitting: heartbreaking, tragic, gut-wrenching stuff. I especially loved Carrie using a Sharpie marker to scribble a star on the CIA memorial wall for him after the ceremony because Lockhart refused to acknowledge his service.
As much as I think tonight's finale has some gorgeous, mournful moments, there were still some problems. I was apprehensive about Carrie and Brody spending some time alone together at the lake house, which provided some dialogue that was a little too on the nose. It was punctuated with the force and grace of these two great actors carrying the weight of some ungraceful writing, like when Carrie asks Brody, "What next?" and he responds, "I never thought I'd make it this far. I never really thought about it." It's the kind of writing that makes me wonder if the writers are working out their own issues via the characters -- on top of that, like so much of the dialogue tonight (and for much of this season), it's incredibly simplistic and stilted. If it weren't for the immensely talented cast, sometimes I think 'Homeland' would have no trouble being a successful Fox drama. It would run for nine seasons.
We also discover that, of course, the baby is Brody's, which provides plenty more of that eyeroll-inducing teenage love melodrama. I almost prefer Dana and her boyfriend (yeah, remember that?!). And finally, now that she's eight months pregnant, Carrie realizes what the writers have been telegraphing all season: she's pregnant. She literally has a conversation with Quinn in which she seemingly realizes that A. She is pregnant and B. She would make a horrible mother. Also, Lockhart is sending her to Istanbul, and it's no big deal because her father will take care of her baby while she's there, and it seems like Quinn will probably go wherever she is going.
The baby is quite possibly the worst writing this show has ever done, and the final 15 minutes of this show, which struggles to set up season 4, isn't much better. There's a lot in the first three-fourths of this episode that works, even when the dialogue isn't that graceful and even when Lockhart acts like a cartoon villain -- at least the acting is so superb and the emotions so genuine that 'Homeland' really sells the power of Brody's death and what it means to Carrie and Saul and the agency. But damn, the last 15 minutes are almost laughable, especially when Carrie is approached by someone saying, "Carrie, there's a situation. The director is asking for you." It's like a Batman movie setting us up for another sequel over here.