Homeland, Season 4, Episode 12, “Long Time Coming”
Written by Meredith Stiehm
Directed by Lesli Linka Glatter
Airs Sundays at 9pm ET on Showtime
It’s not easy being Carrie Mathison. Not only is she faced with catching and killing terrorists while dealing with her bipolar disorder, but she also has the worst luck. Really just the worst. In the fourth season finale, she’s right when she repeatedly insists that she has a lot to deal with right now — She’s still reeling from the “mindfuck” of Islamabad, her father is being put to rest, her mother has just shown up after abandoning the family 15 years ago, Quinn has finally made a move on her, and she cares about raising her daughter now. Our girl needs a minute.
While Carrie juggles all this, Homeland offers up a quiet and slow finale that stands in stark contrast with the last few episodes this season, which has played more like 24 than the series ever has. It almost feels like the writers subtly apologizing for all the bombast, reassuring us that this show still takes the subject matter a little more seriously, when it wants to. The contemplative mood ends up benefiting the finale, not leaving us feeling muted, but instead thoughtful. It offers a chance to truly take in the previous eleven episodes, and the toll they have taken on our characters. Admittedly, it is bizarre, and one can’t help but feel as though another twist is coming, the quietness set to usher in another explosion. But ultimately, it works.
Before the juicier elements, let’s talk about Carrie and Quinn. This has been building all season (you might say its been a Long Time Coming), so it’s not surprising to finally get a liplock. It’s not so much that one is invested in the romance at this point, but this is clearly important to the writers, and both characters are likable, so maybe it will be okay. To rest the emotional crux of the episode on it, however, is less encouraging. Introducing Carrie’s mother in the finale is a bold choice, and it is mostly pulled off (largely thanks to a perfectly cast Victoria Clark). But to have it so quickly and tidily concluded with is less interesting, particularly when it seems to only exist so that Carrie can realize there is hope with Quinn. “[Dad] always said you left because of him, because he was too impossible to live with,” Carrie says, evoking the conversation she had with Quinn earlier about not being any good for him. Not true, her mother says. “I had to stop and do one right thing. So I did.” The convoluted, disappointing structure of these scenes is saved because of how engrossing they somehow end up being, particularly due to the chemistry between Claire Danes and Clark. It doesn’t completely sell the Quarrie romance (coining that now), but the bitter irony of this realization coming as Quinn ships off for who knows how long is undeniably felt.
The details of last week’s Dar Adal twist are much more impressive. It did not seem promising — A last-minute giant twist suggesting the CIA has been in with Haqqani all along? Fortunately, the explanation is far more cynical and refreshing (how tired would a mole reveal have been?). Dar Adal got into contact with Haqqani and promised to take him off the CIA’s kill list in exchange for a commitment to not harbor terrorists in Afghanistan. Haqqani even hands over the video of Saul (the only thing keeping him from being re-appointed CIA director) as a show of good faith. It can feel like an anticlimactic end to the energetic Haqqani storyline, but the way Mandy Patinkin and F. Murray Abraham sell it in their diner scene is the most electric thing all season. Saul calls it sedition, just plain wrong. “Not every choice we make,” Adal retorts, “is blessed with moral clarity. Especially in our business.” Damn.
This seems to convince Saul, who’s eyeing the CIA director position, and sets up the episode’s truly colossal ending. Carrie confronts Adal about seeing him with Haqqani after he refuses to put her into contact with Quinn, letting the shoe drop as she does, and she is shocked to find Saul sitting outside, seemingly in league with Adal. Carrie may have betrayed Saul’s trust this season, but this is something else. To use an exhausted cliché, the silence between them speaks volumes. Saul has sacrificed his morality for the sake of power. One could imagine him taking the position and letting this slide under the rug so that he can take down Haqqani anyway next season, which is possible, but Carrie can’t understand that right now. After everything she goes through this episode, she can’t even deal with a betrayal from Saul. She quietly leaves and drives away. Following an excessive season, it’s a poignant moment. See you next season.