Homeland: How Should Things End for Carrie Mathison?

The Homeland series finale is right around the corner, which has us wondering what a happy ending would be for Carrie Mathison… and can she really achieve it?

Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in Homeland
Photo: Showtime

This article contains major spoilers for the first 10 episodes of Homeland Season 8.

If you’re up-to-date on Homeland, then you’re likely as on edge as Carrie Mathison. The CIA analyst who’s given everything for her proverbial homeland hasn’t set foot there in over a year. After she sacrificed her freedom and, as it turned out, months of her mental health to expose a Russian plot against the U.S., she spent more months still recovering in Germany before being tossed into the deep end of Afghanistan. American embassies and U.S. air bases notwithstanding, she’s given everything for American soil which is now welcoming her back in handcuffs.

This is the grim new dynamic as we go into Homeland’s endgame. She’s under arrest and about to be railroaded as a scapegoat her for the dead President Warner. Worse still, she is only going home at all in order to help the Russians, yet again, in a last bid Hail Mary to prevent war—a Hail Mary that comes in the form of betraying her last friend in the world. So all of this has us thinking: How exactly will things end for Carrie Mathison?

For nine years we’ve watched Carrie grow, and Claire Danes give her electric and often agonizing life. More times than not Carrie’s been right, yet her hunches from Nicholas Brody being compromised to the importance of a downed U.S. helicopter’s black box has put her further and further down the path to isolation and despair. It’s a credit to Danes’ tenacity that we still think there could be a happy ending for Carrie, although not necessarily the one you expect. Here is our breakdown of the varying ways Homeland could end for Carrie.

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The Jack Bauer Sendoff

It’s no secret that Homeland is often times viewed as the complement, or sobering counterpoint, to 24. Executive producers Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon were two of the creative forces behind the 2000s network drama and are the creators of Homeland. But whereas 24 was an often sensationalistic and enthusiastic about the War on Terror during the Bush Years (some might even say jingoistic in its depiction of torture and insta-results), Homeland was a more measured and self-reflective series, beginning during a new decade and a new presidential administration that saw the death of Osama bin Laden and a desire to move on.

Considering Homeland is now ending where it began, with the scars of disastrous Middle East foreign policy following Carrie Mathison home, it seems in some ways a repudiation of Jack Bauer’s superhero antics on 24. Be that as it may, the last time we saw Jack, he had turned himself in as a prisoner of Russia due to a previous rampage at the United Nations left many Russian nationals in body bags. Essentially black bagged, Jack was to be transferred to Moscow and parts unknown to answer for his crimes.

Could Homeland mirror this? It’s quite possible, in a way, that Carrie winds up a prisoner by the end of the series. However, this does not mean she would be sent to Russia like Jack. Nay her version would she’s scapegoated for President Warner’s death and winds up behind bars in America, even after saving the country. Unlike 24, Carrie doesn’t a network of allies beyond Saul Berenson at the CIA or in the White House. Instead she gives more and more to the CIA and time and again, they leave her with nothing but maybe a slap on the back.

Considering at the midpoint of season 8, Carrie was being recognized as an American hero by President Warner, it would be ironic to an operatic degree if her story ends with a lifetime prison sentence for his murder—or at least aiding Russians in order to prove Warner wasn’t murdered. This pessimistic ending would be in line with Carrie’s continued sacrifice for country. In season 1, she seemed to lose her career and grip on reality due to Brody’s lies, but even when she recovered in season 2, she still lost Brody, the father of her child. In season 4, she lost her love of spy games, and in season 7 she gave up Franny and her freedom. Perhaps she will now be asked to give her last full measure, or at least her future, in order to prevent a war with Pakistan?

To Russia with Love

All of that is possible… but I find it too bleak and redundant. She allowed herself to be imprisoned by the Russians in season 7’s finale. Repeating that narrative beat for the series finale, except now it’s her own country that wants to throw away the key, seems needlessly cynical. However, Homeland could still echo 24 by having Carrie sent to Russia, but not as a punishment; it could be an unofficial clemency.

It would almost be a happy ending if Saul, facing obsolescence anyway, sacrifices his career by making a “deal” where Carrie is given to the Russians in return for the black box. What pretext this would pivot on I cannot guess, but it would again echo Jack Bauer’s fate except Carrie would be going to a country that might treat her as a political asset. Think Edward Snowden who some Americans will call a traitor and others a hero, but in Russia he’s a highly valuable and protected prop.

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Homeland could even present this as a bittersweet happy ending where she loses her literal homeland in order to save it from another 20 years of post-9/11 MidEast tragedy, but in return she gets to be with Yevgeny who is strangely being presented as a new romantic mystery man in her life…

She is Absolved and Gets Her Career Back

However, I am honestly creeped out by ever enigmatic Yevgeny Gromav and his relationship with Carrie. He is not the spy who came in from the cold that Carrie found a kindred spirit in. He is the man who orchestrated the destabilization of American democracy and ruined a president in Elizabeth Keane whom Carrie once admired. He also tortured Carrie by denying her vital medication. If there was ever a true romance, physical or otherwise, during Carrie’s dark period of seven months, it was an abusive one in which a captor manipulated a captive.

And he’s manipulated her again by taking her to the frontier long enough to find something of interest for Russian intelligence. It’s a wonder he didn’t shout jackpot when she revealed she’s looking for a flight recorder that would prove Warner’s death was an accident. So any happy ending of Carrie finding a new pseudo-Brody in Yevgeny simply reads as false at best and insidiously gross at worst.

For that reason, I imagine Saul will save Carrie from imprisonment, here or there, through some other career-sacrificing maneuver … but only after she extracts a secret about his Moscow contact that burns a bridge between them forever. In such a scenario, television logic could even see her unbelievably getting security clearance again and winding up back at the CIA. But is that a happy ending or tragedy?

The Real Happy Ending

I honestly expect Carrie will end up in a better place than Jack Bauer did. But that is not her getting back in the thick of Central Intelligence leadership. While she forsook Franny to go to Russia in season 7 in service of Saul and the agency, she never was happy there. It’s why she fled it in season 4 and gave maternity a real shot.

I believe Carrie when she told Saul in season 4, “This is not who we are, this is not who you are… no more dying. I want to go home.” She was over spy games before they ensnared her again, and even though she chose going to Russia over Franny, she was picking her passion for finding morality in foreign policy over domesticity.

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I do not think there is a version of the ending where Carrie is a mother to Franny again. She tried that and it wasn’t her. Maybe she ends up living with her sister and daughter, but a more hopeful ending is Carrie returning to what she was doing before Elizabeth Keane’s autocratic tendencies and Russian propaganda dragged her back down: working as an advocate for better transparency in intelligence communities, and therefore better intelligence gathering. She gets out again but doesn’t go “home” as imagined by her sister’s house; she makes her own home away from the agency and all the aforementioned broken dreams.

Of course that is only one theory for ending Carrie’s story. What’s yours?