Why do you watch Homeland? I ask because it’s relevant.
The pitch of the show — the promise of the show — was always about trust. Is Carrie Mathison a trustworthy protagonist? Is Nicholas Brody a terrorist, or just a soldier temporarily warped by his treatment at the hands of Abu Nazir? Does David Estes have the best interest of his country at heart, or is he merely covering his own ass?
I’ve been watching with these questions in mind, hoping — and assuming — that we’d get some answers or at least move in the direction of answers. But more and more this season, and particularly in the finale, it seems like the show is not being written for me, or for people with an investment in the espionage/homeland security angle. The show is being written for the Carrie/Brody “shippers,” that is, the fans who are watching just to see Carrie and Brody shack up at a cabin in the woods and/or live happily ever after.
And so we come to last night’s finale. I don’t feel like I need to actually recap this one, strangely — not an awful lot happens. As mentioned here previously, and as noted by my friends and colleagues who watch the show, nobody was really sure what to expect this week. The thrust of the season’s plot was resolved in the previous episode, with only the tantalizing prospect of Brody’s death to pull us through the end of the season.
What actually happened in the finale? A bomb went off. That’s more or less the only event worth mentioning within the universe of the show.
Outside of that universe, the repercussions of the bomb are stronger — and sadly more dire. Brody’s car bomb killed Estes, Finn Walden and his mom, and in doing so erased most of what this season has been about. What was the point of it all? To convince Carrie that Brody is actually a bad guy? Well, no — she’s still wrapped around his finger tighter than that wedding ring she used to take to bars when she was an interesting character to watch.
What about the whole Quinn/Dar Adul subplot? Yeah, that didn’t matter at all either, since Quinn decided to let Brody live at the last possible moment. Is it just me, or does anyone else feel like watching Brody pray while muttering in Arabic by a lakeside should have cemented Quinn’s feelings that yes, Brody is a bad guy and must be eliminated?
Inexplicably, Quinn decides the opposite, opting instead to hang out in Estes’ bedroom with a gun out for no reason. Most irritatingly, Quinn then disappears for the rest of the episode. Quinn, who has ultimately contributed nothing to the story except the rumor of the possibility of betrayal, vanishes completely at the moment when I most wanted to be watching him: how did Quinn react when Brody’s car took out a room full of people? Did he have second thoughts, perhaps, about his decision to let Brody live? Who knows! This detail was not deemed sufficiently important to include in the finale.
What we get instead are long, uncomfortable minutes of Brody and Carrie trying to Make it Work™ romantically. There’s nothing that could occur on Homeland that I would care about less than this — up to and including the arrival of the Real Housewives of Atlanta as a bumbling, stilettoed death squad out for blood, which when I type it out actually sounds like a lot of fun!
All of which brings me back to the question at hand: why do you watch Homeland? What do you want out of it? Has it delivered?
For me, the answer is no. I am massively unconcerned with whether Carrie and Brody wind up together, and the fact that it’s Carrie herself who releases him into the wild, presumably so she and Saul and Quinn can spend another season or two hunting him down, brings the show to a place that I’m just not sure I care about.
I will, of course, like the rest of you, be tuning in next season. I’m not sure for how long, though. I’ve said before that I have high hopes for season three of Homeland: my assumption has been that the writers will go back to what worked in the first season, having taken home a bag of Emmys for their work.
But ultimately this comes back to trust: can we trust these storytellers to take us somewhere intentional? Somewhere they’ve been planning to go all along? Can we trust them not to waste twelve hours of our lives only to have a bomb out of left field blow up their work and our investment in one fell swoop?
The answer, it would seem, is no.