Image credit: Kent Smith/Showtime
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.
With his family severed from him, likely for good, there was just one more person left for Brody to leave behind: Carrie. He knew before she told him that she wouldn't be coming with him — she had been ready to share a life with him, but not give it up entirely. "It can still happen, one day," Carrie said, her words sounding hollow. "I'm going to clear your name, Brody." I can understand the attraction of setting up season 3 to be the inverse of season 1 — the whole world believing Brody is a terrorist, with Carrie the only one who's certain he's innocent. But no, Carrie, no matter how much you've given up your heart this man, you cannot clear his name — not after that confession video has played on a continual loop on cable news worldwide for weeks and months on end. "Goodbye love," Brody said to Carrie before disappearing into the darkness. He was right. This is only going to end in tears.
With the Carrie/Brody storyline unraveling so haphazardly, Saul began to take center stage with a series of terrific scenes that offered the promise of a much more Saul-centric season 3. Thanks to Estes' death, Saul was the highest ranking officer left, and the one tasked with briefing the president — though it's not clear if this means the CIA Director was at the funeral and died too. Regardless, Saul learned that both Carrie and Brody's bodies were unaccounted for, but thanks to that magic Chevy, no one had seen them leave, so they were presumed dead. Still, Saul held out hope that his protégée and surrogate daughter was somehow still alive, leaving a plaintive and heartbreaking message on her voice mail: "Carrie. It's me. I'm looking for ya. Please call me back."
Instead of Carrie, though, it was Saul's wife Mira who called him — yet another unexpected and welcome return of a forgotten plot strand from last season. Throughout the episode, I fought hard from associating this fake tragedy with the all-too real tragedy in Newtown, Conn., especially since I'd watched the wrenching interfaith vigil for the Newtown victims less than an hour before Homeland began. But Saul's soft, high murmur as he spoke one-word answers to Mira's questions — his response to her question about Carrie: "Gone"; his whispered "Yes, please" when she said she was coming back — finally broke my resolve, and I could not help but get misty.
And then Saul began singing the Kaddish surrounded by the all the recovered bodies from the bombing, and the waterworks began. Man oh man, Mandy Patinkin, prepare for your Emmy next year, if for nothing else than that magnificent smile that stretched across your face upon seeing that Carrie was alive. And yet, thanks to the mournful music that played underneath, I felt the smile also carried with it the melancholy knowledge that life was only going to get harder for Carrie, both professionally and personally. She would have to account for where she had been during the bombing and the 24 hours following it, and fight alone in her struggle to make good on her promise to somehow clear Brody's name. But at least with Saul in a place of real authority, she may have an ally in the right place at the right time.
So, am I "done" with Homeland? No. This has been the most exciting and exasperating season of television since Lost's third season, and like that show, I think I'm far too hooked on these characters — especially Carrie, Saul, and, yes, Peter Quinn — to give up on them after only a few wonky episodes. Besides I don't think I could write this many words about a show I didn't want to see next season.
But how about you? What did you make of "The Choice"? Were you satisfied with how Homeland resolved the question of what to do with Nicholas Brody? Do you want to see how his family copes next season? Would you prefer reinvesting in the CIA manhunt for Brody, perhaps led by Dar Adal and a guilt-ridden Peter Quinn? Or do you think the show should move on completely, with Brody only flitting around the background if at all? And will you come back to watch season 3?
Ken Tucker's 'Homeland' season finale review: The revenge of Mandy Patinkin
'Homeland' scoop: Executive producer Alex Gansa teases season 3 -- EXCLUSIVE
Holla! The greatest Mandy Patinkin interview you will ever see -- VIDEO