Written by Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon and Chip Johannessen
Directed by Michael Cuesta
Airs Sundays at 10pm ET on Showtime
There are only two questions left over after the first season finale of Homeland. “Who is the mole?” and, “How can they hope to deliver a second season that lives up to this first one?” There’s no way to answer the first question, but considering many of us had been asking a variation on the second question all season long it seems the only answer is to trust the writers. They have earned that trust, and that couldn’t be clearer in light of the spectacular season finale.
The plot of the series didn’t advance in any huge ways, but it didn’t need to. Homeland has announced itself over and over again to be a show focused on its characters above the larger plot. Brody didn’t blow himself up in that room full of top ranking government officials, but that scene explored all the facets of his character and nearly gave the audience a heart attack in the process. It was also an incredibly emotional scene, one in which Brody was torn between duty to a cause and love for his family. Credit needs to be given to Morgan Saylor, whose performance as Dana Brody has developed from slightly annoying at the start to wonderfully nuanced by the end. Damien Lewis is about as great as always when he gets the phone call from Dana, but it’s Saylor who makes the scene work as brilliantly as it does. She brought the emotional complexity and made the room more than a little dusty in the process.
That’s where the strength of the series lies. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what the terrorist plot is or whether it will work. That’s tangential to the story of these characters. When Homeland premiered it was easily compared to The Manchurian Candidate, but it’s clear now that was a mistake. Sure, it takes elements from that great conspiracy film, but as it turns out, the conspiracy in Homeland is just a means to an end. The “end” being scenes like that phone call from Dana to her father, pleading for him to come home. Scene like that are not only where the show excels, but also where the show actually makes its biggest advances in character and plot.
Brody didn’t blow himself up, thus screwing up the terrorist plan, but he has opened the door for a new, potentially more elaborate plan. There isn’t much indication as to where this plan might lead next season, but that’s not important right now. No, what’s important is that Brody is at home. He made a choice between his mission and his family. That choice is incredibly significant. It highlights Brody’s ultimate priorities.
Carrie also went through some harsh lessons in the finale. She has come to understand the raw destructive force that is her personality. She realizes that even when she is on the right track, her behavior undermines her noble efforts. And let’s not forget that her efforts truly are noble, and though she may not know it, her lunatic ramblings at the Brody household actually caused Dana to make that phone call and stop Brody from detonating. That hardly matters from her position, though. Even when Saul tries to talk her out of electroshock therapy by telling her she was right about the gap in Nazir’s timeline, she accepts that she was right but still decides to go through with the treatment. Like Brody, Carrie takes stock of her situation and decides where her priorities lie. Brody chose his family; Carrie chose her sanity.
These are big steps in the progress of both characters. They are choices that will define their actions for the near future at least, and possibly for the rest of the series. Carrie no longer works at the CIA, and it would be a massive cop out for the show to pull a 24 and find a way to get her working for them again. That doesn’t mean her obsession will stop, and now that she has taken measures to deal with her mental state, maybe she can finally work with Saul on stopping Nazir, even without CIA clearance. Saul certainly seems game for that kind of partnership given the fact that he is now at odds with Estes over the cover-up of the drone strike that killed 82 children including Nazir’s youngest son.
Homeland’s finale was not the big explosive game changer many of us expected or even hoped for. Instead it was a game changer in another, more subtle way. The show kept its eye fixed on the characters we have grown to care about and found ways for them to provide the change. Where it’s all headed is pure speculation at this point, but wherever it’s headed, if this season has been any indication, it seems reasonable to trust the writers and feel secure in the knowledge that have plenty more great TV coming our way next season.
Sound off on your thoughts about Homeland’s season finale in the comments!