Note: Do not read on if you have not yet seen Season 2 "Homeland" finale (Episode 12),
titled "The Choice."
It's fitting that tonight's Season 2 finale of "Homeland" was titled "The Choice," because I'm pretty sure many viewers approached it wondering whether they would choose to return for Season 3 or decide it's time to break up with the series.
For the first half of the episode, I was leaning in the direction of an amicable split. There we were, back at the cabin with Carrie and Brody. Unfortunately, this visit was a lot less successful, dramatically, than the one in Season 1. There is something creepy about Carrie and Brody when they play nice, and while we'd all like to believe that there's something interesting going on under the surface -- that Brody's crooked smile couldn't really be that goofy unless he were hiding something -- the truth is they just aren't that much fun to be around when they're enjoying themselves.
I can't be the only one who wanted to crawl under the sofa when Brody made that crack about keeping "the lady of the house stimulated -- intellectually." And that cheeseball exchange about the croissants? "In that case, get out of here!" Barf. In fairness, though, the writers for this show don't get much practice writing dialogue for happy people. And it was pretty obvious that this idyll wasn't going to last long, what with Quinn watching Carrie and Brody's every move through a telescope from the next property over.
"Homeland" also enjoys playing with our suspicions of Brody. As soon as Carrie leaves on her pastry run, he skulks out the door and heads into the woods. Is he fleeing, as Estes warned he would? Planning some kind of attack? Looking for a nice patch of grass to commit suicide on? No, he's off to do his morning prayers. And here comes Quinn, his breath presumably reeking of canned tuna, playing Hamlet to Brody's Claudius. "Now might I do it pat, now he is praying," you can see Quinn thinking to himself -- and, as we shall see, he, like Shakespeare's vacillating prince, decides not to move in for the kill.
Because when Carrie comes back, Brody's still sitting there on the porch. Quinn, it seems, has made his "Choice," and now, it's Carrie's turn. You see, even though most of us wouldn't trust Brody to take the recycling to the curb without, like, accidentally murdering the neighbor's puppy or something, she's thinking about giving up her ultra-promising career as the CIA agent who took down the world's biggest terrorist to hang out with his PTSD-riddled ass for the rest of her life. That is, if he can put up with her annoying psychological issues, which drove her mother to extend a quick visit to CVS by twenty-some years and counting. Brody says he'll understand, whatever she chooses, but he's bullish on their chances of finding happiness. In the meantime, he's going to focus on being a good person.
Apparently, he's already convinced Quinn, who turns up in Estes' bedroom to inform the deputy director of intelligence that he's decided to abort the mission: "We got Nazir because of him. As for Carrie, I have never seen a better intelligence officer." [Pause for unintended laughs.] "Killing Brody would kill her ... The collateral damage will be to wreck a woman you already wrecked once before, and I ain't doing that." At first, Estes thinks he can just find someone else to do the job, but Quinn closes that door too: "Nothing happens to Brody, or you'll find me back in this bedroom one night. Right back in that chair. Because I'm a guy that kills bad guys." I love this guy!
What else happened? There are a bunch of scenes of Jess tossing Brody's old socks on the floor and braiding Dana's hair while everyone looks sad. Brody meets Mike at some pool hall in the middle of the afternoon and gives him permission to start fucking his soon-to-be-ex-wife. (Brody's trying to be a good person, remember?) Brody and Dana have a heartwarming father-daughter chat in which she finally puts two and two together and figures out that he almost suicide-bombed a room full of government officials. (The devastated look on Morgan Saylor's face when dear old dad confirms as much is almost enough to retrieve my #TeamDana T-shirt from the rag drawer.)
Oh, and Saul finally gets released from the cell where he's been positively drilling packaged food items for the past three days. Now that he knows he has Estes by the short hairs, he decides to arrange things so Carrie can become the youngest station chief in CIA history. (He does not specify which station she will be chiefing.) She's flattered, but her love for Brody makes it impossible to accept. That brings out Angry Saul, my favorite new character in the series. Except he doesn't appear right away. First, we get Logical Saul: "He's a man who put on a suicide vest, Carrie. That's who he is. That's who he always will be." Then we get Disappointed Saul: "So you're choosing him over us?" Only then, after a brief appearance by Snippy Saul (Carrie wants other things? "Like a terrorist in your bed?") do we get Angry Saul: "You're the smartest and the dumbest fucking person I've ever known!"
Saul, Saul, Saul! The more we see of him, the better the episode gets. He puts on his flat cap and flies out to an aircraft carrier with Nazir's body for the terrorist's very Bin Laden-esque burial at sea. Meanwhile, the cream of the defense and intelligence establishment are gathering at the CIA's George Bush building for a memorial for Vice President Walden. Did you like that parallel, kids? Both of Brody's monsters being buried at once -- and Carrie has to make the "Choice" of which one to attend. (She chooses Brody, and therefore goes to the memorial.)
But Estes' revolting talk about how Walden protected our freedoms by blowing kids to smithereens with drone strikes makes Brody and Carrie sick enough to duck out for an impromptu makeout session in an office elsewhere in the building. There, Carrie announces that she's made up her mind: She's ditching the CIA and devoting her life to making schmoopie faces with
Sergeant Congressman Nicholas Brody. That's when Brody notices something strange out the window. "That's weird. Somebody moved my car."
And then it hits Carrie. "Oh, fuck!"
Too late. The car bomb explodes. We see the flames envelope Estes and immediately know that Finn Walden and his mother will be gone, too. Carrie and Brody are close enough to be thrown to the floor, shards of glass everywhere, but far enough away to survive. There are intentional echoes of 9/11, with gnarled steel smoking in the ruins, and unforeseen echoes of the Newtown school massacre, which is awkward, to say the least (despite a violence warning before the episode aired), especially since this episode aired against President Obama's speech about the tragedy.
After that, things happen fast. Carrie grabs a gun and keeps Brody at bay, assuming at first that he's fooled her again and is responsible for the attack. He tries to persuade her into thinking he didn't do it, that it's all part of Nazir's diabolical master plan: "Nazir would have died a thousand deaths to make this day happen!" Persuaded at last, she decides to help him escape to Canada, because no one else will believe him. I, for one, would have given Brody a pat on the back and said good luck getting across the border, pal. But Carrie is a better friend than I am, with a far more advanced messiah complex.
Saul returns from the aircraft carrier to a scene of unimaginable devastation. There are 200 dead with plenty more to count and just 27 survivors, he's informed. Neither Carrie nor Brody is accounted for. Oh, and he's responsible for briefing the president, since Estes is dead and he's now the ranking officer on site. (One quirk of "Homeland" is that there appears to be about six people in the entire CIA.) Saul assumes Carrie is dead, but he leaves a voice message for her anyway. It's heartbreaking. As is the scene where Saul's wife, Mira, calls him from overseas. "I'm gonna come back," she says. His achingly simple reply: "Yes."
Meanwhile, Carrie is arranging everything for Brody: getting him a new passport, tossing his phone out the car window before he does anything stupid. She's with him when the cable news networks air the confession video he recorded for Nazir in the lead up to the thwarted suicide attack, which has now been made to look as if it had been recorded in connection with the attack on Walden's memorial service. So now it's official: Nazir outsmarted everybody, including Brody. Even Brody's family is convinced he's a mass murderer now.
Carrie drops Brody off at the entrance to a road that will take him to safety. "You're not coming, are you?" he says. "I want to. I was going to. But I can't now," she replies. Brody tells her that what they had was real love. Carrie says it's not over. She's going to clear his name. He tells her she doesn't need to, that she's already done enough for him. The Claire Danes-Damian Lewis chemistry is back. Sure, it's all absurd -- their irrational feelings for one another, their irrational behavior. But -- to echo the commenters who've taken me to task week in and week out for over-analyzing this stuff -- at the end of the day, it's a TV show. And I continue to find one aspect of this relationship believable. She knows everything about him and she still accepts him, and that's why he loves her, just like Jess said in the car last week. And the same can be said in the other direction.
Back in Virginia, Saul is standing amid dozens, maybe hundreds, of bodies in a vast holding room and reciting Kaddish, the Jewish prayer of mourning. (No, conspiracy theorists, that's not Arabic and Saul is not a secret Muslim, though I suppose there's still a chance he could be the so-called mole.) The sadness and sense of defeat is overwhelming. And then, as if in a dream, he hears a voice calling his name. Slowly, he comes to and realizes who it is. Carrie. In the flesh. She's alive, and she chose him after all.
Hell, I haven't seen Mandy Patinkin look that happy since that "Good Day New York" host's wife called to say she was going into labor.
So what's your choice, readers? Will you stick with "Homeland" when Season 3 rolls around? I know I'll be back, in hopes that we'll see fewer cheap plot twists, more intrigue and a whole lot more Angry Saul!