Homeland season finale recap: Kaboom

Carrie's fateful choice about Brody sets the stage for season 3, and whether you'll want to keep watching the show
Ep. 12 | Aired Dec 16, 2012

WHO IS NICHOLAS BRODY? DO WE CARE ANYMORE? The biggest problem with Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) is that until the season finale, the show had effectively answered all the major mysteries about him. Instead of continuing his story based on who is and what he wants, however, the writers chose to manufacture a brand new mystery — was Brody responsible for the bombing? — to hold our interest. Granted, as mysteries go, it's a humdinger; I anticipate some pointed debates with fellow Homeland obsessives in the following months. But I don't know if it makes Brody himself all that much more compelling of a character.

Kent Smith/Showtime

If Carrie had been on the fence before, that seemed to push her over the edge. At Walden's funeral, she couldn't take her eyes off of Brody as he walked a Xanax'd-up Cynthia Walden to her seat. (Me? I just kept thinking, "This feels weird. Brody killed her husband. And now he's shaking Finn's hand? Weird weird weird.") At Estes invocation of the CIA drone program, Carrie clocked Brody's bubbling ire and shot him a "You wanna get outta here" look that Brody gladly reciprocated. (Let me just pause here and say that Homeland's decision to incorporate Osama bin Laden's death into the show makes for an uneasy marriage with our current reality. I suppose Walden was always meant to be a sinister hybrid of Dick Cheney, George H.W. Bush, and Joe Biden, but since Homeland barely refers to the president, and never by name, I can only conclude that Barack Obama is president in this show's reality too. Again: Weird weird weird.)

Brody followed Carrie up into what I think was Saul's office, where she declared herself for him with a massive smile, and fell into his arms. "What made you change your mind?" Brody asked. "You did," Carrie said. And then Damian Lewis had maybe the biggest acting challenge of the entire episode. His face turned suddenly somber, almost guilty. His head turned to the window for a brief second. Carrie asked him what was wrong, why the sad look. "Nothing," Brody whispered. "Not sad. The opposite."

There are two ways to interpret this exchange, and Lewis had the unenviable task of playing both of them at the same time. One, faced with the reality of Carrie's choice, Brody felt suddenly guilty for taking Carrie away from the only life she's known, undeserving of the ardor of such a formidable woman — which really does make perfect sense. After all Carrie's been through because of him, to have her choose him anyway would be incredibly humbling.

But then there's the second explanation: Brody does have real feelings for Carrie, but he always expected her to choose the job over him, which made the fact that his car was about to explode a lot more difficult. This also makes sense, to a point. Sure, I'd feel guilty too if I was a terrorist who had been part of Abu Nazir's ingenious plan to lure the CIA into a false sense of security by taking part in a massive charade that resulted in the arrest of Nazir's U.S. network, the fake capture of my sorta CIA girlfriend, and the death of Nazir himself — and then that sorta CIA girlfriend announced she was choosing to spend her life with me riiiiiight as that plan was about to hit its climax. But Brody wasn't the one who suggested they leave the funeral; Carrie was. And the show made an explicit point of showing Brody park his car in Lot C, so at the very least, Brody would need an accomplice with access to the CIA parking lot to move his car.

In any event, at that very moment, Brody saw his car parked at the entrance, and said to Carrie, "Somebody moved my car." All Carrie had time to say was "Oh f---," and then...

ACT 3: KABOOM

The entire sequence leading up to the explosion was a masterful example of building suspense and paying it off — especially since I hadn't the first clue what was about to happen until seconds before it did. By cross-cutting between Abu Nazir's funeral and Carrie and Brody's clandestine excursion away from the funeral, I knew something awful was about to happen — I just wasn't sure what it was, and I sure didn't expect it to be quite as awful as it turned out to be.

The subsequent 25 minutes, on the other hand, kept goading us on with the expectation that at any moment, Carrie was going to come to her senses and kill Brody herself — only to have her let him go instead. If you're a romantic at heart, this was likely satisfying. But if you were turned on to Homeland first and foremost because it's a crackling spy thriller, then this was the worst kind of tease. And then there are folks like me, died-in-wool romantics who love them a great crackling spy thriller. Which is to say, I found Homeland's final act of the season simultaneously frustrating and fabulous.

NEXT: "I can't see into your f---ing soul."

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