Now that's how you end a season, ladies and gentlemen! There were no silly curveballs and no last-minute switcheroos in tonight's "Homeland" finale. True, Brody's "wardrobe malfunction" was a bit predictable, given that the episode promo had shown him in about five different scenes that hadn't yet happened at the point in the episode when he was supposed to press the detonator. But all in all, this was a monumentally satisfying, forward-leaning episode, one that resolved many of our most burning questions while leaving plenty of room for future drama.
Let's recap what we now know, shall we?
1. Brody was indeed going to blow himself up, but not out in public where just anyone could be hurt; the plan was for Tom Walker to nearly miss Vice President Walden with a sniper bullet, forcing the inner circle, per protocol, to convene in a "safe" room. That's where Brody was going to detonate -- and would have, had his vest not malfunctioned. Actually, he fixed the vest and came thisclose to doing the deed after all, only to be interrupted by a call from Dana. (More on that later.) We know from the video Brody recorded at the beginning of the episode that Walden wasn't the only target: Brody was gunning for the whole inner circle, including Estes, because they were the ones who signed off on the drone strike that killed not just Abu Nazir's son but 81 other children -- and then covered it up.
2. The cover-up was not worse than the crime. But it's bad. And Estes is in on it. Moreover, Estes hid it from Saul, who was his boss when the strike took place. That was news to me, and this little history of bureaucratic leapfrogging definitely helps explain the barely suppressed contempt Saul has shown toward Estes all season long. We also learned that the vice president had previously been Saul's boss at the Agency. And how great was the scene where Saul tried to blackmail Walden with those interrogation tapes? Carrie's plight, and the enormity of the drone strike cover-up, seem to have revived Saul's fighting spirit, and it's becoming possible to imagine him teaming up with Brody and Carrie next season in a grand effort to bring down Walden.
3. Carrie saved the day, and even she doesn't realize it. Obama and the Dark Knight know that it's hard to get credit for averting a catastrophe, but Carrie's situation is even worse. She's living proof of Kurt Vonnegut's famous observation that "a sane person to an insane society must appear insane." Morgan Saylor, the young actress who play's Brody's daughter, had a hell of an episode, and did a great job of conveying Dana's ambivalence when confronted with Carrie's claim that Brody's working with Tom Walker: clearly, having caught him with that dodgy package and then spied him praying in Arabic in the garage, Dana was entertaining doubts about dear old Dad. And in the end, Carrie's desperate plan -- to get Dana to call him so he wouldn't pull the trigger -- actually worked! Unfortunately for Carrie, she was already en route to the pokey by the time Dana dialed the number. And what about Damian Lewis's performance as Brody? The change that came over him as Dana doggedly broke through his defenses? In those moments, we watched Brody come back to himself. He gave himself permission to choose life, to honor his family, to find another, less pyrotechnical path to justice.
4. This thing ain't over. I wondered how the writers were going to resolve the key points that needed resolving without killing the show's reason for being, but I needn't have worried. Brody is still torn between wanting to be there for his family, wanting to serve his country, and wanting to wreak revenge against Walden and his crowd. He's still trying to find a way to serve his country and Abu Nazir. Carrie is still obsessed with him -- both romantically and professionally. The last thing she sees before going under for her shock-therapy treatment (OK, that was a bit much, wasn't it?) is Brody -- scenes from their weekend getaway but also a memory that connects him to Abu Nazir. He woke up calling out Issa's name! She tells her sister not to let her forget (shock therapy tends to fry one's memory cells) and then the nurses say not to pay any attention, it's just the anesthetic. Clearly, Carrie and Brody's confrontation in front of the police station -- the one where he tells her, for the last time, to stay away from him and her family and she gives him her word that she'll do just that -- is not the end of their crazy symbiotic relationship. And then there are the other characters: Saul keeps telling Carrie there's no chance she'll get her job back but he keeps looping her in to Agency business all the same, and it's clear that he's on a collision course with Estes and Walden. Galvez is still showing up once an episode, forcing us to ask whether or not he's the mole. And after many weeks of being not that interesting, Brody's family is suddenly demanding attention, if only because Dana is clearly a lot smarter than her mom, and a lot less willing to close her eyes to her father's bizarre behavior.
Before we wrap, I'd like to say a fond farewell to Tom Walker. His ingenious method of smuggling himself into a luxury apartment overlooking the site of Walden's event, and his MacGyver-worthy transformation of all that nice furniture into a sniper's nest, just underscored how much I will miss him. I'm still not sure what to make of the fact that, after suffering so much guilt for killing Walker the first time, Brody was willing to dispatch him so summarily at Nazir's command. Honestly, I'm not sure what to make of the fact that Brody is taking commands from Nazir at all. There seemed to be something hopelessly naive about his idea that he can influence policy under Walden, and Nazir's pseudo-profound line about it being better to kill an idea than a person was just as unconvincing. But these are questions for next season.
Until "Homeland" returns, you can ward off your withdrawal symptoms by checking out Maureen Ryan's informative, wide-ranging interviews with executive producers Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon. It's the next best thing to chicken soup -- or, as Saul would have it, "the elixir of the gods."