Sunday, December 16, 2012

'Homeland' Finale Review - 2.12 The Choice

        On the season finale of Showtime's Homeland, Carrie is faced with a pivotal decision; Brody meets with Mike to contemplate the future of his family; Saul undertakes a secret assignment; and Quinn has a decision to make that may prove to be a game-changer.

        Throughout Homeland's first season and the beginning of its second, fans and critics have been pleading for show creators Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa not to screw things up. This entire series is a high wire act that keeps building up great situations and relationships that make us question just how long can the series keep sustaining itself at this level. Unfortunately the past two episodes in particular have seen a sharp turn in the criticism with most people being outraged by the twists and turns happening that didn't feel plausible in this reality. Season one's "Crossfire" episode where we flashed back to seeing Brody's relationship with Issa also met this same criticism. Yet, after the season one finale, it was made abundantly clear why that episode was necessary to the overall arc of that season. Likewise, the events that occurred here in the finale make the inconsistances of the past episodes make much more sense.
        Mandy Patinkin absolutely dominated this hour. If he is not nominated and win for his work in this episode at next year's Emmys, then there is something truly wrong with this world. The gambit of emotions that Saul is put through in this hour were, by far, the most engaging and compelling material going on. His paternal talking down to Carrie, his initial reaction to seeing the destruction in front of him, his conversation with his wife and how this is how the two of them will come back together, his hopefulness of leaving that message for Carrie and his smile at the end upon seeing her alive were all breath-taking. The dynamic between him and Carrie is now the driving force of this series. That dynamic has always been there and yet for a lot of the second season it was downplayed and Saul was usually off doing something else. The two episodes previous to the finale he was pent up in one room or another and started this hour there as well. Perhaps that is why his scenes here are so predominately moving and touching unlike anything else that has happened - we were not overexposed to it as this season progressed. It leads to a great starting off point for the third season as now Saul is in root for a much more authoritative role which should make his scenes and relationships to the others much more powerful and prominent.
        In season one, it was the insane chemistry between Carrie and Brody that was the main pull and that dynamic for the most part paid off realistically over the course of the show. However, the series could not sustain the mystery and intrigue of these two characters being together but can't trust each other. In fact here, the potential of the two of them actually having a serious and grounded relationship was quite dull. Part of what made their pairing so phenomenal was all the mystery and pain and secrets and the whole trying to fool the other. Season one Carrie and Brody was two people bonding over shared experiences that no one else could understand. Season two Carrie and Brody was both declaring and professing their unrequited love to each other. With the deaths of both Nazir and Walden, Brody has nothing to hide or lie about which makes him not that interesting to watch. Carrie will forever be damaged and delusional but at this point in time, Brody's story really has met a creative stopping point. Many fans were crying out for his death in the finale as that would truly be a huge game-changer as well as a fitting and finite end to this once great character. It also would have shown that the creative team is on the same wavelength as the audience. At the end of the first season it was easy to justify his continued presence on the series but now it is less clear if he is what makes Homeland, Homeland. And yet, the producers are very hesitant to write Brody off for good because Damian Lewis is such a terrific actor and grab for them as a series. For season three, it would be great if they sidelined Brody for a bit and perhaps only give the character sporadic little cameos. That would feel organic to the ever-changing narrative but I'm really unsure if the producers see it that same way or if they want to use Lewis as much as possible.
        The finale really kicked off around its midpoint when Brody's car exploded. I'm not saying the first half was bad. It was just more slow and refectory of what had previously happened or the characters trying to create an impossible future. There were still some fantastic scenes - the aforementioned confrontation between Carrie and Saul and Brody's confession to Dana about the vest. Those scenes were to be expected and yet they were handled so well . But again, the finale really kicked into high gear as soon as that explosion happened. It scattered all of these pieces yet again as well as clouding up the possibilities of where the series could possible go next season. Homeland may not have had the most consistant season - with the first two thirds being dynamite and the last more lacking. But it still remains as the show that I'm most anxious to see each week as well as most eager to articulate my thoughts about. It still is able to push the creative boundaries of the genre and I'm eager for what season three will hold.

So what did everyone think of the finale? Should Brody be a prominent piece of season three? What about the Brody family? Or would you rather just see Carrie and Saul trying to rebuild the CIA while also fighting terrorism? Curious on Quinn's reaction to the bombing and the planting of guilt on Brody? Share your thoughts in the comments.