‘Homeland’ Season Finale Review: “The Choice”
It's the 'Homeland' finale and Carrie has to make the decision this entire season has been building to -- will it be Brody, or her career? Or will someone make the choice for her?
"Your past, my illness," Carrie says to Brody in the cabin where one of last season's best episodes took place. The first 15 minutes of this week's episode read like a generic Hollywood drama, and even the dialogue is obvious -- that said, it was a conversation that needed to happen for these two characters to move any further, and with Brody's family out of the way and Abu Nazir dead, this was the logical place where Carrie and Brody would end up. But there's also the added element of suspense, as Quinn watches the pair from a distance, waiting for the moment to assassinate Brody.
"What is all this squishy bulls---?" David Estes asks when Quinn says they shouldn't kill Brody (after Quinn watched Brody and Carrie's love for each other in the cabin all weekend), and I start to wonder if maybe Estes isn't so bad after all. And when Saul is freed and offers to promote Carrie to station chief and she refuses because she'd rather see where her relationship with Brody goes, Saul gives the line that wraps up Carrie's character better than two seasons and 26 episodes could: "You are the smartest and the dumbest f---in' person I've ever known."
I wasn't on board for the first half of this episode, with all the self-aware writing and soapy drama, and I had a hard time buying into Quinn's sudden change of heart (although hearing him say Carrie is the best intelligence officer he's ever known was sweet). We get a glimpse of what Carrie and Brody's relationship could be, and I'll be honest -- it's boring. They can never have a happily ever after ending or else we wouldn't have an interesting show. That's not to say that we can't enjoy two characters in love against all odds, and while 'Homeland' has a knack for stretching plausibility until it's tissue-thin, it's harder to buy Carrie and Brody playing house than, say, that whole debacle with the tailor.
But let's get down to the really interesting stuff, yeah? Everyone, including the Walden family and David Estes, is gathered to mourn the loss of Vice President Walden, when Brody and Carrie sneak off for a little afternoon delight -- that's when Brody notices his car has been moved closer to the building where the services are being held, and cue giant explosion that wipes out pretty much everyone at that service. (Including Finn Walden, but I doubt that he'll be missed.) At first Carrie thinks it was Brody, but he reasons with her -- this had to have been Nazir's real plan all along, and that guy played everyone. It makes enough sense for Carrie to help Brody obtain false identification and escape to yet another cabin in the woods, but she's not going with him. Nope, there was a huge terrorist attack and things are worse than before, which means Carrie and her bi-polar meds are getting back to work, and while Carrie and Brody have certainly shared some intense and wonderful moments on this show, I've always liked Carrie best when she's working and strung out.
But although the government is using Brody's old terrorist video to pin the attack on him in the media, and Al Qaeda is claiming ultimate responsibility for the bomb, we have to remember something: that day in the tailor's shop, when a group of men in heavy black special-ops gear raided the building and took out a huge crate full of explosives. We assumed those were Nazir's men, but given how hard it was for him to get into the country and his proclivity for sticking to the shadows, it's not likely that Nazir would have such a large cell of allies on US soil. He had Roya, the muscle guy, and the IT whiz, but little else.
We can't say whether those men who shot up the operation at the tailor's shop were American or Middle Eastern because they were so heavily clothed in black, but if I were placing bets, I'd say these guys are into some seriously deep government stuff, and I'm betting Dar Adul knows something about it.
Even though that Brody terrorist video seemed to have gotten almost too much play in the first half of this season, it was a nice way to bring the season full circle -- at this point so many people had seen the video that we forget that Brody's family hasn't, so watching their reactions to something that earth-shattering felt tragic, not only for their sanity, but for the way that they're finding out the truth via a lie.
But the biggest takeaway for me from this episode, and from the season as a whole, has been that Saul is, without a doubt, the beating heart and soul of this series. Watching him standing in the triage tent alone outside the site of the attack, I thought that if Carrie and Brody had really disappeared for a while, I'd be okay with watching the Saul Berenson show. Mandy Patinkin's facial expressions and the way he emotes wordlessly is chill-inducing, and his scenes talking to his estranged wife and leaving Carrie a voicemail message he isn't sure she'll ever receive were only rivaled by Carrie's reappearance in the final moment, as Saul says the Kaddish prayer over the rows of dead bodies in white sheets.
This season has been bumpy, and at times, it's tested my faith in the showrunners' ability to successfully close the deal. For a couple of weeks now I've kind of wanted Brody to die because I just couldn't see any other way of this story working out, but having him disappear for a while is an option I hadn't considered, and that's exactly why it works.