Homeland Season Finale: The Star Review

Tonight, we say pay our respects to Sgt. Nicholas Brody, and find a fitting end for the character, plus a desperately needed new beginning.

Tonight, on December 15, 2013 at approximately 9:38pm EST, Sgt. Nicholas Brody is dead. How do we feel? In perhaps the longest goodbye in television history, the third season of Homeland culminated in what in retrospect amounts to a 12-episode salute for the most indecisive warrior in pop culture history. And yet, despite all the obvious build-up over the last several weeks—anyone who reads enough spy fiction knows a story about the CIA featuring a chapter called “The Star” is not ending happily—it still hurt to see him go. That is because Brody is one of the best protagonists in television history. Introduced in Season 1 of Homeland as a mystery box for audiences to unwrap with Carrie in constant, immediate danger, Brody remained an enigma all his life to everyone around him, including his own soul. Even audiences never quite knew what to expect from Brody, including last week when he initially went rogue and became a posterboy for the Iranian government. As Javadi remarked this evening, “Who Brody is…that’s for Allah to know.” Whether Brody was truly a good guy or a bad guy depends almost entirely on the episode of Homeland that you are watching. But beyond the crushing weights of absolutist shackles, Brody was something more: imminently watchable. Through Nicholas Brody, the rather simplistic definitions of hero and villain, or solider and terrorist, were blurred as we saw a victim of both sides. A creature created by the American legacy of the soldier’s family and nationalistic pride, and a victim of an increasingly foreign power relying on autonomous killing machines reigning hellfire from the sky onto his neighborhood’s homes, businesses…and schools. Beaten, smashed into pieces and rebuilt by his enemies, Brody was perhaps the most humane character on TV, played like a bundle of exposed nerves by Damian Lewis at the top of his game. Nonetheless, the con ended in Season 2. Those nerves, always ready to pop, were smashed with a hammer and laid bare by the minions of a late Abu Nazir. What was left behind was a man who could not carry a TV show, at least one like Homeland, considering how he had become the most wanted fugitive in the world. But as the second star of the show, he persisted until tonight.  The episode itself is exceedingly simple: Brody miraculously manages to escape the IRGC HQ and even walks around in broad daylight, down busy streets and without any hat or sunglasses to hide his ginger hair. Yet, in only TV logic, he and Carrie find each other and reach the safe house. In D.C., Saul enjoys his last day on the job ending early when Lockhart and the POTUS push him out to nip Brody in the bud. Despite conclusively finishing out his mission, the decision is reached upstairs that it would be cleaner for everyone if Javadi cemented his position by successfully spearheading the capture of Brody. Brody is betrayed for the last time by the U.S. government and finds his neck in a noose. Flash forward to four months later. What was crucial is what happened in between those scenes. In Carrie’s care, Brody’s entire life is contextualized as the murky gray he always lived in. What is he? As Brody points out he is not a marine. How can killing one more man redeem his killing another? And who else’s death is he referring to? The vice president? The Gettysburg contact? Tom Walker or his victims? It is a question without an easy answer, even in as reassuring a tale of CIA necessity as Homeland. Sure, he murdered a man who lined kids up to die as mine fodder in Iran’s war with Iraq, but what about the buzzwords Carrie and her ilk use to convince their own young men to line many a cemetery? “Is that what you tell yourself…wind us up and point us in a direction?” Brody demands of her. Brody felt he should serve his country because that is what his father did and his father before that. He ended up in a land that he did not need to be in and this entire TV series of broken lives is the result. But should the result have gotten this far? I am inclined to say no. Brody making it to the end of Season 3 seems built on an excessively gentle approach to allowing the character, Carrie and the audience to find peace in a graceful exit…as least by the standards of expected for a perpetual traitor. Carrie reveals that she is pregnant and that they can have a life past this point, and Brody congratulates her, but it is all for naught. Soon they are betrayed by their superiors, and it’s game over for Brody. Generally, it should have been game over a long time ago. Perhaps in the wreckage of Langley? Despite being in less than half the 12 episodes of Season 3, Brody’s shadow loomed over it all, as it was Brody, the father of Carrie’s unborn child, for whom all her actions were motivated. It was Brody for whom Saul penned all the hopes of his operation, and it ultimately became less a murky drama about spies than a melodrama of the lives they lead. That factor still haunts this episode when in the worst scene Carrie, and presumably the audience, are lectured by Javadi about why Brody must die. For a man who should fight tooth and nail being an asset for his greatest enemy, and a fellow who we’d seen previously murder his own ex-wife with a broken bottle, he spoke with eloquent absurdity and compassion for Carrie’s predicament. “It was always about him,” he says. The “only thing you care about” to be precise. And that is why Brody must go. There is no denying Carrie’s obsession with Brody was all consuming in its fury, but it also was never just about her love for this man. At least not until the backend of Season 2. Before that, once upon a time, it was also about a pathological need to protect her country. The haunting opening credits are not of star-crossed lovers, but two players in a confounding maze of international espionage, the same maze that has infested Carrie’s soul and psyche with its images of political assassinations, morose politicians, and always the falling towers. This is about the Homeland for Carrie, or at least it used to be. I understand why Carrie would love Brody, but when that is all she can be, Homeland is only half of what it used to be. Brody’s story was over; keeping him on just was bringing the whole operation down. And I’m not talking about Javadi.  So, the following morning at 4am, Brody met his maker in the cold emptiness of a Tehran public execution. It was strangely quiet and anti-climactic in its undignified manner. Abu Nazir’s widow was on hand to spit in Brody’s face, but after seeing his daughter essentially do the same to him, it probably felt like snowflakes. It was an ignominious end for a man who dreamed of being a hero, but at best was everybody’s favorite victim. In its own unique way, it was perfect. The rest of the episode followed the four-month aftermath. Despite wanting her head at the beginning of the season, and also having her boyfriend killed, CIA Director Lockhart and Carrie get along well enough now. He even gives her a promotion to Station Chief at Istanbul, setting a provocative backdrop for Season 4. However, two more pressing questions exist: 1)   What will Carrie do with the baby (due in a month)?2)   Is Saul really gone from Langley? The first is left totally vague enough for the writers to mull over in the coming months. Personally, as a character, I would like Carrie to keep the child, because I do believe it would be something she would regret for the rest of her life, even if she let her father adopt the granddaughter. Also, Peter Quinn would be a great babysitter given his own trauma over mucking up being a dad. But this is Homeland! The soapy elements that bogged down Season 3 should not continue to reach from beyond Brody’s grave into Season 4. I want to see Carrie kicking ass in Istanbul while trading jabs with KGB agents played by Robbie Coltrane, dammit! And speaking of Brody, we heard Javadi claim that Carrie achieved clearing Brody’s image in the eyes of Saul and the White House, but what of Brody’s own family and the U.S. public? God forbid we spend more than another five minutes with Dana, but the series really did leave it vague if Brody’s actions were accredited to a spy operation or if he is still viewed as a terrorist at home. In any case, the larger, most pressing issue of the night honestly is the fate of Saul. Brody’s story is over, but Saul? At this point, Mandy Patinkin IS Homeland, as he was the only one ever focused on the mission for the last six episodes. Hell, Saul is so awesome that Homeland went out of its way to credit him for the (ironically now interrupted) nuclear interim accord achieved by world powers and Iran last month in Geneva. Apparently, since being forced into retirement by Lockhart (I told you that locking him in a conference room was a helluva resignation!), everyone at Langley is still giving him appaluse for Iran opening its fist into a palm, calling it the “maestro.” Perhaps, they should consider the “epic beard” if they truly want to honor Papa Bear? However, this humorous melding of art and life still does not change the fact that Saul is gone. Or is he? Saul meets with Dar Adal in D.C. where Saul tries to get Dar to join him in the private sector in New York. Dar counters that if Lockhart graveled enough, Saul would be back in the spy games in a minute. And he will be. Unlike Brody, the door is wide open for his story to continue. I would even dare venture a step further and suggest that eventually, Carrie could find herself in the private sector with Saul, creating a new vantage point for Homeland in future seasons.  Still, this episode was all about the Star. The one who left the show, and the one who should be on the walls of Langley. Lockhart refuses to memorialize a man who attempted the murder of hundreds of Americans, but Carrie, in the darkness of night, returns to the Langley wall to put it on the marble if only for the evening until it is smeared away. And it is well-earned. We lost a star on Homeland tonight, but it was overdue. Brody’s death was not a glorious moment of heroism in a hail of gunfire, nor was it celebrated as an act of valor at home. He died as he lived, as a prop used by others in a sad, pointless affair. Only Carrie could understand. In many ways it was perfect for the character, but it was too little too late. It made for a solid finale episode for Season 3, but after such a lackluster year, it could just as well give the impression of a Series Finale with Brody dead, Saul retired and Carrie off to start a new life…Let’s hope that’s not the case. Here’s to wishing that with the albatraoss disposed of, Season 4 may fly to the promised (home)land once more. Den of Geek Rating for the Episode: 3.5 out of 5 StarsDen of Geek Rating for Homeland Season 3: 2.5 out of 5 Stars Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all news updates related to the world of geek. And Google+, if that’s your thing!


3.5 out of 5