That... that was pretty good. It doesn't totally make up for Season 3's earlier problems—in fact it sort of threw them in our face—and it still featured a few of Homeland's typical logical leaps, but "The Star" was probably about as strong of a finale the show could've delivered given the circumstances, and I don't mean that as a bad thing. There was a lot of baggage hanging over this season, for the show, for the creative team, and for us at home. I said last week that it was time for the show to move on. This is how you move on and still manage to give the departing character a few final powerful moments.
The strongest thing about "The Star" (other than the acting, which we'll get to) was how well it not only tied some of the primary stories together but sort of emphasized that this was the only way everything could've played out, and even if Carrie and Saul wanted different outcomes, they ultimately completed their mission. It's hard to see it that way since Brody ended up hanged for murdering Akbari* and Saul ended being canned by Lockhart, who took over about a half-dozen hours earlier than he was supposed to just to make sure that Javadi's cover stayed true in Iran. But everything Saul and Carrie set into motion way back in the season premiere, from Carrie checking into the clinic to Saul trusting Javadi to stick to his word once he flipped against Iran, came to fruition here, and then some. Javadi had to take Brody out to keep his chances of real power in Iran alive and even though Saul didn't want to do it because of various reasons (loyalty to Carrie, his "old school" mentality), it was probably the right play if we're thinking on an international scale.
*Okay, seriously. Brody drags the body into the back of the room, wipes up the blood, and sets the pillow back down on the couch, reverse side up like he's some 11-year old kid who spilled Mountain Dew Code Red while playing Halo. AND THEN he just walks out of the building, because Akbari's assistant is on a smoke break or something. That's amazing. I appreciate that the show gave us one last Unbelievable Nicholas Brody (Murder) Escape Plan.
Those moments leading up to and right after Brody's capture showed what we already knew: Carrie and Saul were too wrapped up in other things to see that it was the right play. Carrie, obviously and perhaps rightly, was too concerned with getting Brody out of Iran, saving his life, and starting some sort of life with him. And Saul was too focused on proving that his methods worked, that Lockhart was a dumbass politician in a cheap suit, and that there's still value in saving people's lives along with successfully executing the mission. What's funny is that the people closest to both Carrie and Saul knew that the plan wasn't going to work out how they wanted. Brody knew it was probably over for him, whether he stayed in Iran or made his way back to the States, and Dar, however self-interested he may be, realized that it was time to make all of Saul and Carrie's efforts matter. I've mentioned this before, but one of the things Alex Gansa talked a lot about before and during the early part of the season was that this run of episodes was really going to underscore the impact of the lengths the characters go to as CIA agents. That's an easy thing to say, and really, that's what this show is. But I think "The Star" did a great job of making that point come to life. Carrie earned her recognition from Saul when Brody pulled off the Akbari murder, and Saul got his once Javadi made the right things happen in Iran four months later. Unfortunately, there was a price, as there always is.
Speaking of a price, what a fine farewell for Brody. It's funny how all of a show's problems can go away when it puts its two amazing actors with great chemistry in a room together and just lets them talk. The sequence in the safehouse wasn't quite as good as some of the interactions we saw from Brody and Carrie in Seasons 1 and 2, but it was certainly one of the stronger moments of this entire season. In that scene, all of the weight on Brody's shoulders, and all of the flip-flopping, was very visible on Damian Lewis's face. This was a man who recognized all of the terrible things he'd done, and also recognized that he couldn't let anyone, not even Carrie, tell him he'd found redemption. There was nowhere to go, no real life to re-discover. Even in the moment that Carrie convinced him they could make something work once they'd returned to the U.S., you got the sense Brody knew better. That's why he didn't put up a fight once Javadi and company captured him. He didn't want to be a cockroach any longer. And what a way to go out, huh? Not with a literal bang, but with a quiet, basically silent, death as Carrie shouted off in the distance.
The second half of the episode was also really, really nice. Not only was it a button on the last wild episode of an always wild show, but it also felt like a denouement for the whole series up to this point. It was also kind of amusing, because suddenly Carrie realized that the baby was an awful idea, and that she was clinging to it just because it gave her one last bit of Brody. Meredith Stiehm is back on Homeland as a writer as of this episode, and she's always had the best line on Carrie as a character. You could see that in this episode, and especially in that "four months later" coda. That was a Carrie who knew everything she had been through, but also had the self-awareness to understand that with her job and with her issues, raising a baby—in Istanbul, no less—would probably be an awful idea. And armed with what at least felt like better writing, it was really great to see Claire Danes play the version of Carrie I recognize from previous seasons. The character has been worn down by a lot, and that's the point, but she needed to find a way to move on. Hopefully this is the start of that.
Meanwhile, Saul got to take a little pleasure in knowing that he was ultimately right. The scene he shared with Dar at the diner was about as chipper and fun as the show has been all season, and it pointed to a world where Homeland isn't strapped down by Brody and can give other characters like Dar more to do while playing off Saul or Carrie. Even Lockhart, bless him, got a final little moment to be a rationale sorta asshole. He awarded Carrie a cool promotion, gave Saul his props, acknowledged that Brody did right by them in the end, but wasn't willing to honor Brody at the Star ceremony. The show figured out how to use Lockhart as the season progressed, and despite his position as an obvious foil for Carrie, Saul, and the ever-pissed Quinn, he was never fully wrong with his assertions about how to do the job. He's a politician, sure, and he does things differently, but he's not a full-on villain.
It was one hell of a rocky ride, but ultimately, Homeland ended Season 3 about exactly where it probably should have all along, and it did so in a very, very satisfying manner. The slate is mostly clean; the show could literally go anywhere now, and that's a good thing. To say that these dozen episodes have tried our patience is probably an understatement, but you get the sense that Homeland wouldn't have it any other way.
– Carrie putting the Sharpie star on the wall was about damn near perfect. She never, ever lets stuff go.
– At this point, Quinn apparently spends his time just pacing around in the parking lot waiting for Carrie. He's obviously going to be her #1 draft pick for the Istanbul gig, right?
– I would have liked to see Homeland reveal how the CIA explained Brody in Iran and his death to the American press. Clearly, Javadi being able to take credit for capturing Brody helped his cause in Iran, but did the U.S. government reveal Brody's role in Akbari's murder? Was his name cleared for the CIA bombing? I'm guessing not, but would love to hear what you folks think.
– Another loose thread: Paul Franklin and the murder of the "real" CIA bomber. Is that just done?
– This is probably the end of the road for the Brody family as well. News broke on Friday that Morgan Saylor (Dana) and Morena Baccarin (Jessica) will not return as series regulars in Season 4, and after the events of this finale, it seems there's no real need to drudge their stories up again. They'll go down as Season 3's worst, and rightfully so, but Saylor and Baccarin did their best. We'll also never learn anything more about Chris Brody's karate, which breaks my heart.
– Thanks for having me during the second half of the season. I really enjoyed the challenge of writing about the show, especially mid-crisis, just as I enjoyed your comments. I appreciate it.
What'd you think of the finale? Did it redeem Season 3 for you?
AIRED ON 11/29/2015
Season 5 : Episode 9
AIRS ON 12/6/2015
Season 5 : Episode 10