The Killing, unlike Homeland, alienated viewers completely at the end of the first season when it failed to say who'd actually killed Rosie Larsen, which is awkward when "Who Killed Rosie Larsen?" is the tagline of your elaborate and extensive marketing campaign. Homeland, by contrast, let us know fairly soon towards the end of the first season that Brody was actually working towards an attack on the United States with Abu Nazir and then left us with a season finale so cruel, so unusual, that it was hard to think of Brody as anything other than a vicious lump of foul deformity whose hair was only red because he'd spent so much time playing Hearts in hell with Satan.
After such an ending, it was hard to imagine Carrie and Brody getting back together like the star-crossed lovers Homeland apparently wants us to see them as. So a second season finale which relies pretty much entirely on our interest in the future prospects of their relationship doesn't have quite the urgency of, say, someone trying to blow up a room full of politicians in a bunker underneath the State Department. In the same way that we wanted to care who killed Rosie in the casino, we didn't, and while we also wanted to wonder whether Abu Nazir might succeed in blowing up 300 returning heroes at a naval base, the storyline just just didn't have the same bite to it.
Like The Killing, Homeland has also spent an entire second season spinning off the plot of its first, when all the exciting stuff (Brody being evil or not, Rosie Larsen dying) has already happened. Homeland has also taken the dubious step of throwing red herrings at us, in the manner of Danny Galvez (whose healing powers are only rivaled in magnitude by the grudge he's probably going to bear against Carrie now), Aileen, and that minor CIA agent in Gettysburg who also happened to play a lead role in The Wire. Add in some ridiculously absurd breaks from reality (cosy Skype calls with terrorists, Abu Nazir's driving skills) and the fact that we've almost entirely forgotten about what may prove to be a pivotal plot point (ie, who the mole is) along with an unnecessarily long and distracting subplot about a hit-and-run, and you're on the road to Seattle-like levels of foggy but improbable mystery.
Luckily, Homeland is saved by virtue of never being boring, as proven by tonight's episode. Did anyone not suspect Nazir was going to get deaded tonight? Or that Carrie's super-spidey-spy-sense would be his undoing? Yes, it was a little ridiculous that she busted into the warehouse to chase him with her loud iron bar, then dropped it on the ground, then lost him altogether. And yes, it was annoying that even though the CIA and FBI SWAT teams had apparently combed the place top to bottom in broad daylight, none of them were able to see the hidden room behind the transparent wire box that Carrie's eagle-eyes spotted. (Although given how bug-eyed she was for 90 percent of this episode, maybe that's her secret.) But nevertheless, Nazir is dead, and Carrie's response to finally being able to acknowledge this fact—looking sad and happy and crazy at the same time—seemed pretty perfect.
And yet Brody's response to the news—shoving a fist in his mouth and gasping, before magically smiling and composing himself—was as inscrutable as ever. Are we still supposed to think Brody may be lying, as Emily Nussbaum suggested last week? Are we supposed to think we'll ever be able to tell? Even when Brody's alone, his face is impossible to read. Out on the balcony, when Carrie told him there was no way Nazir would be able to escape this time, Brody looked vaguely crestfallen (but not as much as Jess did when she guessed who he'd been talking to). And when Brody sat in the car after dropping off his family at home, he seemed to figure out something for the first time, but whether that's the fact that he's about to be executed by the CIA or the fact that there was a whole other gallon of milk in the condo fridge all along is beyond me.
Homeland loves to toy with our emotions when it comes to characters, but never so much as with Estes, who can be charming (like when he's actually concerned about Carrie's welfare/playing with his kids/getting drunk in a bar), but who's pretty much proved this season to be an A-grade doucher. Bringing back James Urbaniak as Larry the Polygraph Guy only to give him a grand total of four lines, sorry, set him on Saul? Blame the writers for that one, but it's entirely fitting of a career opportunist like Estes to tie up any loose ends that might affect his ascent, whether it's assassinating a congressman or miring Saul in tribunals about glasses and supermax prisons for the rest of his professional life. Estes has been almost perpetually awful this season, so if something goes awry with his life now Walden, his grand protector, is out of the picture, there won't be too many tears shed over it. Although I'd still like to know what happened at Cafe Milano with Roya that night.
Speaking of Roya, Peter and Carrie were high on bath salts if they thought she was going to break. Roya, like Brody, has been completely impossible to read ever since the first time she stepped into Brody's office and asked him if they were alone, and somehow did it without making it seem like she was hitting on him. Carrie did have a nice touch when she seemed to ask Roya what kind of future career women like them would have under Abu Nazir's fundamentalist regime, and Roya responded in kind by asking Carrie if she'd ever had someone take over her life completely, and make her do things she knew were wrong but couldn't help herself? Yes, I have, said Carrie. "I've never been that stupid. You idiot whore," was Roya's succinct reply, proving that she most likely would ingest Crayolas and garotte herself with her ponytail before she'd give them any information on Nazir.
Although when she started spitting words in Arabic at Carrie, she unwittingly revealed something. And it was a relief, because from the minute Carrie stepped out into the bright lights of the SWAT team's Humvees, something about the level of her crazyface seemed to hint that the CIA head honchos were going to think that this was all a dream, and that she hadn't been taking her little green pills again. So it was nice when no one doubted her story, or screamed at her for chasing Galvez all the way up I-95 when his stitches broke. And it was a double bonus that when she got in her car to drive home she had an epiphany instead of going back to her cold house to drink Vicodin-laced Chardonnay and stare at her reflection in mirrors. Although it did all seem too convenient that Carrie would be the one to figure out that Nazir was still in the warehouse, and that she'd also be the one to actually find him (and get kicked in the chest by him instead of getting her throat slit, which is what happened to the poor SWAT guy she took on as her lackey).
As for the Brodys, Dana managed to pull a hurricane-level pout attack and vocalize what all of us have been thinking all along, namely that they're better off with Mike—maker of huevos rancheros, watcher of basketball, fan of interior decor and sleeping in actual beds—than they are with Brody. Brody's face, when this statement was uttered, showed the final element falling into place in his 100,000-piece jigsaw puzzle that is his brain. The fact that it came along at a time when Jessica was also suggesting the end was nigh made the meltdown of the Brody marriage only too inevitable. Chris also seemed to sense this, because at one point in this episode he got up and left the room in a huff all by himself, without anyone having to direct him.
All this only leaves us with Carrie and Brody, who are supposedly now an item in perpetual bliss, which means it'll last a good ten minutes or so. Judging by next week's preview, they're going back to the cabin in the woods with lots of Yorkshire Gold to make up for lost time and awkwardly hump around Claire Danes' baby bump. And Peter Quinn is going to try to shoot Brody, but he might not because he likes and respects Carrie as a colleague and seems to have feelings, even though he's a cold-hearted assassin. But if he does, Estes will totally say "Good work" to him, because that's all Estes ever says to anyone, ever.
1) Is there a Homeland montage yet of Carrie splashing water on her face? If not, there should be.
2) Now that we're supposed to think it ISN'T Galvez, who's the mole? Galvez?
3) Why didn't we get to see any of the VP's family being sad? Are they saving it for the finale? I'm very worried about poor Finn.
4) Why did Carrie spend so much time staring at the marks on her wrists? And why is she obsessed with going gung-ho into potentially fatal situations by herself, unarmed?
5) What is going to happen to Saul now? Will he do a Bradley Manning and sell out Estes to Wikileaks? That's a show I'll watch.
6) Has anyone else missed Brody's pajama pants? I have.
7) What happened to Carrie's family? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe we've seen hide or hair of them since episode two-ish?
What did you think of last night's episode of Homeland? Let us know in the comments.