Homeland's Season 2 Finale: Into the Unknown

By Tim Surette

Dec 17, 2012

Homeland S02E12: "The Choice"

Unlike other shows, Homeland works best for me when I have no fucking idea what is going on. During its glory days of Season 1, the simplest of answers that should form the backbone of the series (is Brody playing for the bad guys?) were murky, leaving us all paranoid and unsure of just about everything.

The biggest problem I've had with the most recent episodes of Homeland aren't the obvious questions of plausibility (a killer hack into a Wi-fi-enabled pacemaker? Nazir taking Carrie prisoner to work Brody over? Nazir materializing out of warehouse fog like something out of Aliens?), it's the obviousness of the threat. As soon as Abu Nazir showed up stateside and was in our faces, so much of Homeland's mystery disappeared. The scariest part of The War On Terror is not knowing whether the terror is coming from some desert mountain cave in Afghanistan or if its coming from your neighbor's house. When there's an obvious target, like a Nazir or an Osama Bin Laden, the focus becomes narrow. It simplifies things down to, "He's our guy, let's hunt the pig down and kill him." When the threat is unknown, everyone, even those we think we know, can be a suspect.

Homeland moved back towards what made it so great in Season 1 with tonight's Season 2 finale "The Choice," a satisfying, jarring, and uneasy hour of television. And I'm not just saying that because the horrible opening credits weren't included. But omitting the free jazz, pagan masks, and brain-cramping symbolism of the credits signals a greater goal for the episode other than avoiding starting off on the wrong foot. To me, the new feel of the beginning and end of the episode was a sign that the show is ready to redefine itself for Season 3 and leave the past behind.

I actually really enjoyed the first half of "The Choice" as a mellow epilogue to the season and the death of Nazir, though I'm assuming most of you found it achingly boring. It may have mostly been Brody and Carrie having those new-relationship chats that we hope we never get caught in public doing (juggling, Brody? That's funny to you?), but it was a glimpse of an optimal future free of naysayers telling them to keep their hands off each other and served as the foundation of things to come in the second half of the episode. Quinn spying on the lovebirds provided ample tension, and seeing the humanity creep across his face while he ate tuna fish (or was it cat food?) straight out of the can on a stakeout was a fantastic preamble to his version of Breaking Bad's "I'm the one who knocks" speech with Estes. Saul was held captive by Estes and had to have the proper daily allowance of milk snuck in, Brody gave Mike the okay to bang his wife over some crappy beer, Carrie had to choose between a career that would make her life hell and a boyfriend that would probably make her life hell, and Dana got a confession from Brody that somehow later made her convinced that he wouldn't be capable of blowing people up. This first half was the healing process after the Nazir nightmare and a glimpse of what things could be now that things were back to normal again. It was also the beginning of a series heading into one of the most boring third seasons in TV history.

But even with all the justified talk of ridiculousness in recent episodes, Homeland has been anything but boring and we all knew Season 2 would not go quietly into the night and set up the next season of Brody and Carrie sneaking around like horny teenagers. However, I didn't think it would be that! A bomb tore through the CIA headquarters at Langley, shredding more than 200 people to bits–including Estes, Finn Walden, and Momma Walden (R.I.P. you guys!)–and kicking us all in the groin again when we least expected it. Most importantly, it dumped a whole bucket of metaphorical gasoline over the metaphorical flame of uncertainty and paranoia that makes Homeland so damn good.

Did Brody know the bomb was going off? (I say no.) And is that why he pulled Carrie out of Walden's CIA memorial? (Again, no.) Did Brody's reasoning that Nazir set this all up a long time ago make any sense, or was this more pillow talk and he was actually instrumental in the bombing? (It sounds like a stretch to me.) Did these cuts to Saul looking slightly menacing with evil music in the background point to him as a participant in the act of terror? (They were meant to plant a seed of doubt for sure, and the show has gone out of its way to try to make that a possible option, but I have to say no.) Heck, some people even think Saul's wife could be part of this. (No way.) Were the terrorists who claimed responsibility for the explosion actually responsible for the explosion, or were they just stealing credit? (I'm thinking they were responsible, and have a perfect person to set up as part of it in Brody.) Who moved Brody's car? (I dunno!) Who leaked his confession tape to the news networks? (Probably the terrorists, but if you're one of the nutjobs clinging onto the idea that Saul could be involved, then it could have been him.)

We've selfishly settled into a cycle of television watching where we demand answers to questions that series raise, but Homeland is never stronger than when we don't know the answers. Terrorists leave people cowering because the fear they propagate comes from the unknown. Just when we thought the threat had been neutralized when Nazir ate lead (okay, none of us really thought the threat was gone), "The Choice" gave us another unknown. When Homeland isn't about star-crossed lovers, it's about the destructive mentality caused by terrorism, not the terrorists themselves. I don't want Homeland to be about chasing a bad guy, I want Homeland to be about everyone clamoring for answers and so damn scared that they can't even trust their closest friends. "The Choice" accomplished that in just about every single way.

It also set up some interesting possibilities for Season 3. Saul got promoted the hard way, putting him at the head of the CIA, or what's left of it. Will he butt heads with Dar Adul and whatever sneaky shit he's up to? Brody on the run means that he might not only disappear from America, but he may also disappear from the series while Carrie tries to clear his name. But how long can Homeland go without its Emmy winning male lead? I wouldn't be surprised to see the writers pull Brody back in quickly by having him captured and maybe even put on trial while Carrie does her thing to find the real culprit. There are already a lot of theories that Damian Lewis will be used sporadically next season, but in this business, you never bench your cleanup hitter and my money's on Brody's run as a fugitive not lasting that long at all.

Overall, I dug the finale for putting Homeland back into a place where I think it's at its strongest: in uncertainty. It might not have atoned for some of the silliness that came before it, but there was an ample amount of course correcting so that we're at least back to a point of interest where the possibilities are plenty. Whether or not Season 3 brings the show back to its paranoid best or continues to move towards unbelievable 24 adventures remains to be seen. And if future episodes decide to cut out the opening credits, even better.


Mandy Patinkin was particularly fantastic in this episode, playing his role with a ton of ambiguity. While I don't honestly think Saul is involved in any terror plot, I like the show's push towards raising the question.

– Saul tells Carrie what we're all thinking: "You're the smartest and the dumbest fucking person I've known."

– Are we supposed to believe that Nazir's plan all along was to have Walden killed in a way that would set up a CIA-only memorial so that Nazir could blow the whole thing up? And that plan involved keeping Brody in the loop so that his car could be used as a bomb-delivery service? And that Nazir's death would mean the CIA's guard would be down? Because if so, that's one complex plan that's extremely difficult to pull off considering one step in it is dying before the plan is completed. It might help explain some of the craziness of the prior two episodes, but it doesn't explain them satisfactorily.

– Saul threw in a Les Miserables reference when he called Estes "Javert." Just in time to promote the big Les Mis movie coming out in a few weeks that my wife is trying to get me to go see with her. (I'm not going.)

– What's with all the milk in this series?

– Chris Brody, after seeing his dad's confession on television, can just go to sleep that night like it's no big deal.

  • Comments (231)
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  • DexterMorgan2 Jul 13, 2013

    I was very pleased with the season 2 finale.

  • phelixcapston Jun 04, 2013

    Brody could be the smartest to blow em' up. im 100% sure he did

  • delapaco Jan 25, 2013

    Tim, sometimes your thoughts are the dumbest, and sometimes the smartest ...

    All these speculations about Saul are BS. The storyline would be ridiculous if suddenly Saul turned evil. The music played was to enhance the darkness of the situation, not to make us suspicious of Saul.

    Further, to build up season 3 they had to split Carrie and Brody, and at the same time both had to survive. Which they did. Now there will start a hunt for another hidden terrorist cell, Nazirs complicated plan would have to be unraveled (and surely we have not yet seen all of it!), and Carrie will have to lie to Saul, the new Boss, about Brody and work her own objective as to clear his name.

    And btw - I really liked the old intro - a work of a genius, really creapy.

  • joiefungirl Dec 30, 2012


  • myrddinde Dec 21, 2012

    Saul gave the guard the razor
    Saul escaped the lie detector just as when he was about to get exposed
    Saul was with Nazirs Body and looked sad
    Saul needed Brody outside or the story would not have played through, hence the concern

    Or maybe it was Peter Quinn with the other Guy that Saul spoke to in the cafe

  • beppo24 Jan 06, 2013

    I think there is a mixup. Saul never evaded any lie detector test in season 1, yet I already read it here several times. Also, I think the recent hours-long lie detector test where they tried to find all buried corpses in Saul's past would have done the trick... ;-)

    Also: who moved the car? Saul couldn't have. There must be at least someone else.

    I do think Saul (the CIA) released Brody's tape to flush him out and make escape difficult. Saul never believed Carrie or Brody had died in the explosion.

    The one criticism I have about this episode:
    Any layman would immediately have get rid of and destroyed (so they could be presumed dead for a little longer) Carrie's and Brody's phones. Yet Carrie throws out Brody's much later out of the moving car. That way it could be easily determined that Brody definitely was not killed.
    Also, why didn't Saul assume, that Carrie had destroyed her phone and left a message he should have known nobody would ever hear?

  • myrddinde Jul 13, 2013

    He abandonded the questioning with the lie detector, exactly when he was asked if he had gived the razor. You should rewatch if you do not recall it.

  • delapaco Jan 25, 2013

    Beppo. Concerning the message left by Saul - you know there ARE other ways to listen to them, than to actually dial from your cellular i particular? =)

  • dref22 Dec 20, 2012

    Homeland season 2 was crazy amounts of fun, but was it as clever as season one? I think not.

  • Baiken Dec 20, 2012

    Battlestar Galactica ... Breaking Bad...

    and now Homeland ....

    Fascinating shows...

    I Have No Words To Describe This...

  • eddie1987 Dec 19, 2012

    This comment has been removed.

  • Varunn16 Jan 02, 2013

    You outta your mind, bro?

  • JasperVerbon Dec 20, 2012

    Best finale? Yes. The best possible finale for Homeland? I'm not so sure :/ It was too...'loud' for Homeland standards.

  • SarahOseghale1 Dec 19, 2012

    y all d hate for HOMELAND?its a damn good show, I love ittttt.

  • pierresund Dec 19, 2012

    As a European, one of the best aspects of "Homeland" is that I actually think it helps me get a better grip of the American POV - of the world and of itself. While the actual story evolving in the series IMO requires a bit TOO much suspension of disbelief, it's the first TV series I've stumbled upon that manage to explain the American mind to such an extent.
    Scenes like when the other characters (Jessica in particular) find out about Body's conversion, Brody's feelings of anguish in dealing with his identity as an American, and several of Saul's best scenes, really has been eye-openers for me. The only character that I don't really find any depth to, is Estes.
    While I couldn't stand the "Americanity" of 24, I very much appreciate "Homeland"'s version thereof. Quite often I don't agree with it, at times I honestly find it quite silly (sorry :/ ), but watching the series (and reading the reviews of episodes), really has helped me to get a grip of the US - in a way that reading the Washington Post, learning of US history, watching CNN, enjoying the general US entertainment business, or hanging out with American friends haven't done. And for that I am honestly quite grateful.

  • richardcrane7 Jun 16, 2013

    I'm glad to know that cheese eating foreigners' knowledge of America comes from improbable t.v. shows.

  • pierresund Jun 25, 2013

    It could be worse. We could take Fox News serious ;)

  • Morlunnis Dec 20, 2012

    Hey! Estes is deep! About 6 feet deep. :p

  • ElisaDiaz Dec 19, 2012

    really? Homeland more helpful than hanging out with American friends?

  • bluemorphotat Dec 21, 2012

    I'd say even mooooore interesting that hanging w USA friends LOL!

  • ElisaDiaz Dec 21, 2012

    well, I suppose "interesting" is relative. But I would have liked to know how Homeland could be more insightful about the US life (given it is fiction after all) than getting to know actual Americans, reading American newspapers or watching other TV shows.

  • pierresund Dec 22, 2012

    No prob :)
    Even though the show somewhat raises the question of who is the real terrorist, it doesn't really question the heroics of the (true) American nature. At the most, it questions how far away from the actual American values the nation has strolled. And the very fact that the mere thought of the US-of-A being involved in anything that even closely resembles terrorism just about have the entire cast of characters, including Brody, fainting is quite telling....

  • ElisaDiaz Dec 21, 2012

    LOL sorry for the harrasment! I truly didn´t understand your point and, as a non-American, I had real interest. I think I understand it now. You know, I am not sure if Homeland really represents the American collective mind from this moment or if the show is trying to affect the set up of a new collective mind with a new view on things.

    Example: do Americans realize and understand that they are also being perceived as terrorists by other countries (as the show exposes with that children's school massacre and the whole Brody revenge). Or maybe they are not, but Homeland wants to (bravely) set a basis for that way of thinking to change?

    Speaking in general, of course. I think television has a great power in building public opinion. But what we cannot know is if this view of the world is sticking among Americans or not. But hey, we can only try!

    Not sure if you are Swedish. I have lived in Sweden for 3 years, and I can tell you, after all that time, I am still not sure I can say that I know the Swedish mind LOL - Sorry to bug you so much! It's over now! :)

  • pierresund Dec 21, 2012

    Well - that was kinda my point - that no other show has been such a eye opener for me - of course it's not the show's characters themselves, but the way the show is told. Every work of fiction says a great deal of the environment it was created in. Reading and learning of Shakespeare says quite a lot of the Elizabethan England, American superhero comics and their evolvement during the 20th Century says quite a lot of the US collective mind, and the mass amount of Swedish criminal fiction of today says something of Sweden. And I find Homeland to be a great mirror into the US mentality at the beginning of the 21st Century.
    While I guess I'm flattered by you attention, I'm not sure what you attempt to get me to say here :)

    And btw - its not like I'm watching Homeland instead of traveling across the Atlantic - but I guess you can see why watching a tv show is easier to fit into one's life than arranging a oversea travel

  • ElisaDiaz Dec 21, 2012

    I know they are not all the same - and basically, those outside the US are usually a special type. But still, being around Americans is more informative than this show - the show has few characters and they are fictional. And also, you would have to admit, there are a lot of American TV shows and movies all around us, we are bombarded with information about the US. Only thing missing is, as you said, pay them a visit :)

  • pierresund Dec 21, 2012

    Simply because there is no way for anyone to tell what of the 2-3 American friends I got is "Americanity", and what is their personality. Not all Americans are the same, you know ;)
    With that said, of course it would be a more efficient to actually VISIT the US... but I haven't gotten around to that yet.

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