Sunday, December 21, 2014

REVIEW: 'Homeland' - Carrie, Saul and Quinn Return to the States to Deal with the Emotional Fallout in 'Long Time Coming'

Showtime's Homeland - Episode 4.12 "Long Time Coming"

Back in the States, Carrie and Saul investigate what she witnessed in Islamabad.

The last handful of episodes of Homeland have been really good. It's a strong creative rebound that made me view the show as one of the better dramas on TV again. And yet, the fear was always present that the show could just as easily produce an episode that was emotionally stunted and just plain dumb. That worry was always present in the back of my mind at the end of every episode in this winning streak of episodes. If Homeland could stick the landing in its finale, then I would be confident in saying Homeland is back to being a great show. In that regard, "Long Time Coming" is certainly an ending - just not the kind of ending I was expected from the season that preceded it.

The tension between the United States and Pakistan has been the narrative drive this season. A battle of ideologies that resulted in Saul's capture and the attack on the embassy that forced US forces out of the country. What happened in Islamabad was really bad for all involved - for those who died and those who have to deal with the consequences. Now, Carrie, Saul and Quinn return to America to deal with the emotional fallout. It's all very weird. One of the weakest episodes this season was the only other time Carrie returned stateside. So, it's an odd choice to set the finale in the same environment where everyone is returning to their "normal" lives and trying to figure out what's next in life.

The setting for the finale gets even odder considering how much narrative momentum the show had in the last episode. Carrie pleading for Quinn not to detonate the bomb to kill Haqqani and then noticing Dar Adal in the same vehicle as the terrorist was quite a compelling moment. It's the spy action tension that Homeland does so well right now. To go from that moment to a little bit later with Carrie dealing with her father's funeral and other personal stuff is effective when it shows how complicated her entire life has been. And yet, it's not what I thought this season of television was building up towards.

Last week Quinn was in full Jack Bauer mode going rogue to kill the terrorist who attacked and killed his friends. And now, he's a romantic lead with angst over what to do in life. The professional side of Quinn has always been the more interesting part of that character. His back-and-forth with getting out of the business has never been that strong. And now, we are suppose to believe that he and Carrie can be a romantic pairing and can be normal people just because they kiss and are somewhat emotionally stable. At first, I respected Carrie's decision not to really pursue this new angle to their relationship because she knows how bad she can be at her worst and doesn't want anyone to have to deal with that. That was a strong moment of self reflection and realization.

And then, Carrie spends the rest of the hour dealing with her mother who pops up after 15 years for her father's funeral. The history with her mother has always been a story beat the show could explore at any moment. But it feels too rushed to pack so much of the introductory and resolution beats into the finale when Carrie's personal life hasn't been that much of a focal point this season. Moreover, her chat with her mom undercuts how much I respected that earlier decision she made about Quinn. She is dealing with so much in life right now - the mess over in Pakistan and the congressional hearings that are forthcoming as well as the death of her dad and the introduction of her mother. She doesn't need anything added to that pile. And yet, Carrie is not choosing to have a relationship with Quinn because of the things she recognizes about herself. No, she chose not to have a relationship with him because she believed people with bipolar disorder can't have healthy longterm relationships. It's a blaming of the disease instead of the character and that just left a bad taste in my mouth. After learning everything she does from her mother, she wants to have that conversation with Quinn. Unfortunately, he has once again decided to return to his professional world as a member of a special ops team.

All of this has nothing to do with the reveal about Dar Adal and his possible connection to terrorism. That is only a small sliver of this finale. It should have been a much larger plot. The events of this season have made Saul realize he wants back in to the agency while Carrie and Quinn both want out. They are allowed a moment of happiness as they (plus Lockhart) share a drink following the funeral. But for the entirety of the finale, I knew something big was coming. It ultimately was just Saul aligning with Dar because he wants his old job back and thus isolating Carrie even further. This season has always wanted us to see Carrie's actions as the right choice or at least understandable. They've both succeeded and failed at that. She was in the wrong when she slept with Aayan and almost killed her daughter. The show still wanted us to see her actions as the right ones in that particular moment in the character's life. As the season went along, it was easier to identify with Carrie's concerns and actions. She saved both Saul and Quinn's lives. That had purpose. And now, the season ends with Haqqani essentially becoming "the terrorist we know" to the CIA. After all the horrible things he has done this season, that should not sit well with Carrie or the audience. To say that Haqqani is not a terrorist is a very personal blow. Carrie is understandably upset as she drives away from Dar Adal's house. It's easy to identify with her in that moment. And yet, it's a very weird way to end this season. So much destruction happened and no one is going to deal with the consequences because Dar comes in with a new angle that can bend Saul into getting the one thing he wants right now. That must have been a tough decision for Saul to make and we don't see any of it! That makes his motivation murky especially when it comes to reading that final scene. Is this is a big betrayal or is it simply Saul being backed into a corner?

Some more thoughts:
  • "Long Time Coming" was written by Meredith Stiehm and directed by Lesli Linka Glatter.
  • Carrie is also now willing to be a great mom for Franny. After everything she has lost lately, she sees Franny as one of the best things in her life.
  • Billy was a nice stand-in for all the things that Carrie needed to hear from her father reassuring her that she will figure all of this out.
  • As much as I thought her introduction was weird, I thought Victoria Clark was great as Carrie's mother. But with the introduction of her half-brother, how important will they become in the future?
  • That's it until next fall for Season 5. Was this finale satisfying to you? Does the final scene mean that Carrie will soon abandon her family again in order to be involved in more spy missions?