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WashingTelevision: Homeland Recap, Season Two Finale, "The Choice"

Things came to an explosive head in the final episode of the year.

Something tells us Brody will never be ready for the closeup he's about to get. Photograph by Kent Smith for Showtime.

One thing the producers and writers have done with grace, if not quite subtlety, this season of Homeland is show how nicely the two institutions of the CIA and Al Qaeda (or whatever Abu Nazir’s people-killing group is called) mirror each other. Those parallels were spelled out quite brilliantly in tonight’s episode, as we saw an imam prepare Abu Nazir’s body for his burial at sea (“seems to be the method of choice these days,” jokes Saul, in a not-so-subtle reference to Bin Laden) interspersed with scenes of CIA head honchos assembling to bid farewell to Vice President Walden.

Does it make sense that a VP would have his memorial at Langley? In no way whatsoever. Would an intelligence agency really want all those people traipsing around when there’s a perfectly good National Cathedral a few miles away? I’m guessing not. But as with the rest of this season of Homeland, plausibility was sacrificed in the name of plot, and for once it actually worked. Abu Nazir came back from the dead, if not literally then at least in spirit, to kill over 200 people, most of whom were from the intelligence agency Nazir had spent his terrorist career targeting.

We’ve seen the ties that bind the CIA and Nazir before, back in the first episode of season two when Brody was out rootling through Estes’ office for encryption codes while Carrie was tracking bad guys in Beirut. But there are other parallels to be drawn as well from tonight’s episode—mainly that it was almost a carbon copy of the first season finale. Peter Quinn’s itchy trigger finger while Brody prayed was almost identical to Brody’s shaky hand on the switch of his suicide vest, and while last season ended with Carrie completely and unfairly betrayed, this time it was Brody who seemed to be utterly shafted. That’s if you believe he was innocent and honestly didn’t conspire with Nazir to plan the attack at Langley, of course, and there are plenty of reasons to doubt him. But if this time he really was telling the truth, then Brody’s now condemned to live as a fugitive forever in the country once described by Robin Williams as “the loft apartment over a really great party.”

One thing that really set this episode aside in terms of quality from the rest of the season was its exquisite pacing (and another was seeing Peter Quinn do his best James Bond and break into his boss’s house, but that’s for later). Carrie and Brody’s time together at the cabin, from him juggling red potatoes to her gazing into his eyes by the fire was taken extraordinarily slowly, so we had time to connect with the characters again, as well as time to appreciate how Peter, like Saul, eats plenty of lonely and nutritionally negligent meals in darkness. Compared to the frenetic pace of the rest of the season it felt like a relief, and it gave all the actors involved a chance to shine. Although, really, Brody? You think you could be a builder? No offense, but all we’ve ever seen you do in that garage full of tools is pray and hurt your children’s feelings.

Amid the birdsong, the crickets, and the gentle lapping of the water, it was easy to see why Carrie and Brody were both put in a contemplative state, and why Brody felt compared to pray while Carrie went out for croissants. It didn’t resemble his usual form of prayer, so make of that what you will. But Peter’s decision not to do the deed and execute him seems to have been based entirely on his respect for Carrie. Estes might have rejected it as “squishy bullshit,” but to a man like Peter, whose career is only justified if he really does believe that he’s doing the right thing in offing bad guys, integrity is important. And Estes’ only motivation in offing Brody was his pride, which to Peter wasn’t enough for something that would wreck Carrie, when she’s already been wrecked so many times before. (Although when he said that he’d “never seen a better intelligence officer” than her, it was hard not to raise an eyebrow or two, given her brazen flouting of all his orders the whole season long.)

Saul, meanwhile, who’d been held sort-of-prisoner in a conference room for three days living on peanut butter, milk, and crackers, was forgiven by Estes just like that after Estes got his little moonlight visit from Peter, which wrapped up the Saul-might-be-fired storyline in a way that felt way too convenient. Saul did get a snappy one-liner in though, saying “Well, if it isn’t Javert,” as Estes walked into his new office home. But it wasn’t sassy enough to justify his completely bonkers decision to assign Carrie to be station chief of somewhere, given that she is (a) crazy, (b) in love with a terrorist, and (c) crazy. To be fair, even Carrie looked surprised, before yelling at him when he questioned her devotion to ol’ ginger snaps. “You’re the smartest and the dumbest fu**in’ person I’ve ever known,” was his response.

I’m going to skate over the scene where Brody gave Mike permission to take over as head of the household, because it was annoying, and if Mike gets any more twinkly-eyed and apple pie American, he’s going to spontaneously combust into a Fourth of July firework. But when Dana came in to talk to Brody while he was dressing, JUST LIKE SHE DID LAST SEASON, it was quite terrific. “What she said about a bomb … it’s the only thing that makes sense,” Dana said, face crumpling, finally realizing all along what she’d actually known the moment she called her dad while he was down in the bunker. Brody’s attempts to convince her that he’d changed, that that was all in his errant past, fell flat by comparison.

But the scene it all came down to, and the one that vaguely made up for but didn’t totally redeem the lazy writing this season, was spectacular. When Saul got out of that helicopter, my first thought was how frigging expensive that must have been to hire, but my second was that something epic was about to go down. Because when Saul Berenson puts his pageboy cap on, you know shit’s about to get extremely real. Estes, speaking at Walden’s memorial, called the VP a “man of conviction,” and praised his career highlights, which included coining the term “fortress America” (lame) and kicking the drone program into overdrive (lame/also murderous, at least if you’re Issa). And Brody rolled his eyes at Carrie, and then motioned for her to leave, which was pretty rude. They ran into Saul’s office, ducked his row of neatly laundered shirts, and then she told him that she’d finally made her decision, and that she was going to quit the CIA to be with him. And for a while it looked like they were going to do it in Saul’s office, which would have just been extremely rude, as well as unhygienic since all the food Saul ever eats is in there.

But no, because then Brody noticed that someone had moved his car so it was idling outside the big memorial hall, and then it exploded, and as Nazir’s corpse went floating down, down, down into the ocean Estes, Cynthia Walden, and a couple of hundred other people were blown into smithereens. And of course Carrie, whose instincts about Brody are never ever wrong (which is why she’ll be such a great section chief) immediately assumed that he was responsible and held a gun to his head. “This isn’t me, Carrie,” he pleaded. “I didn’t do this.” “You can’t change your fu**king soul, Brody,” was her reply, before she swiftly gave in and chose to believe him.

Why didn’t they guess this was coming? It was, as Carrie would have said, had she not been so annoying this season, textbook Nazir. Start slow and then finish with a big fat bang, surprising everyone in the process (until you do it enough times and they start to get the pattern). Just because Nazir had six holes in his chest and is now swimming with fishies, doesn’t mean he couldn’t plan something like this to actually strike terror in the heart of America. And if Carrie had spent less time mooning over Brody in motel rooms, she might have figured it out. But maybe she was too busy planning her completely ludicrous and batshit crazy-paranoid escape plan, which involved fishing boats in Newfoundland, secret fake passports, and wad
s full of cash. It was at this point that I started rolling my eyes more than Dana at Chris’ soccer games.

Of course, Carrie was going to help Brody escape, and of course no one would think it was at all weird that the congressman now on TV screens declaring his intent to get revenge on the United States was suddenly offering his services as handyman in a small Canadian town and going under the name “John Smith.” But this is Homeland, so presumably he’ll grow a beard, put on a hat, and suddenly become completely unrecognizable. The only kicker is that his family, like everyone else in the country, thinks he’s guilty, and their lives have effectively been ruined by what he did to them.

And of course, when it came down to it, Carrie was bound to choose work over her personal life, because the Abu Nazir-shaped hole in her life has now been nicely filled by another bearded guy in a turban and camo jacket releasing videos from a hole in Pakistan, but this time he’s screwed her boyfriend, so it’s personal. And of course, when Carrie finally walked in on Saul saying the Kaddish surrounded by 200 bodies (bodies that looked even more heartbreaking after this weekend), he didn’t ask her where she’d been, or wonder how she’d managed to survive. Instead he just grinned from ear to ear, because Carrie’s always been his blind spot, and presumably will continue to be in season three.

So what now? Here are questions we have left over from this disappointing if heart rate-raising season.

1) Mera’s coming back? That’s nice.
2) Is F. Murray Abraham as Dar Adal? Because otherwise that cameo was in no way worth it.
3) What the hell is Brody going to do in Canada? I would love it if he opened a maple syrup farm, just for cliché’s sake.
4) Is Saul the head of the CIA now? We never actually met the head of the CIA, just like we never met the President, and speaking of the Pres, he can’t have liked Walden very much if he didn’t want to go to his memorial.
5) Who drove Brody’s car and planted bombs in it? Was it this mole we have all forgotten about?
6) Who’s the mole?
7) Is Peter coming back? Please come back, Peter.
8) How will Dana respond to losing her dad and Finn in one fell swoop?

What did you think of this season of Homeland? Let us know in the comments.

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