‘Homeland’ recap: A bang and a whimper

Has “Homeland” redeemed itself? It’s tempting to say that the second season finale has put the show squarely back on its feet. After the rat-tat-tat high jinks and wild terrorist plots of the last few episodes, this episode managed to balance finely tuned character moments with explosive plot twists. By the end, it seemed that “Homeland” had definitely gotten its groove back.

The first half of the episode was quiet, the dust still settling from Jess and Brody’s split. Carrie and Brody head up to the cabin where their romance first sparked, and for a while, it seems like the couple might actually work. The major decision Carrie has to make now is between staying at the CIA and giving her relationship with Brody an honest try. If you’ve been pining for another loving moment between those two characters, then this is the payoff.

The assassination plot that the show had been building up for the last few episodes even ended without much fanfare. Quinn, seeing Carrie and Brody together, decides that Brody isn’t a bad guy. It’s not the most elegant way to end things. Why wouldn’t Quinn have factored Brody’s morality into this sooner? But in any case, it gets rid of unnecessary plotting bulk.

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But of course, things can’t be quite that simple. As Saul travels to sea to bury Abu Nazir beneath the waves -- a bizarrely lovely scene, with Nazir’s shroud fluttering as his body plunges off a military boat — Carrie and Brody have Walden’s funeral to attend. The stakes of Carrie’s choice are high. Without her job, Carrie’s a husk of her self, as we saw at the beginning of the season. Mid-funeral, she ushers Brody upstairs to let him in on her choice: It’s Brody or bust.


Just then, Brody notices his car outside the window, parked in a place he doesn’t recognize. Carrie dives for cover, and that’s when everything blows up in their faces, in every sense.

The car explosive wipes out the funeral guests — Finn and Cynthia Walden and David Estes among them — and leaves Brody and Carrie presumed dead. One of the most gorgeous scenes of the episode is Saul saying a prayer for the dead, his protégé among them, as he surveys the bombed building.

Every good spy has a backup plan and Carrie, as we know, is a pretty good spy. She and Brody somehow escape the building and high-tail it to the border, compliments of the storage locker Carrie has with extra identities and a duffel bag full of cash. But a few miles away from Canada, the choice between Brody and the CIA gets made for Carrie. Rather than flee with Brody, she drops him off. The ensuing goodbye is heartbreaking, though I doubt the writers will keep Carrie and Brody apart for long.

Back in D.C., the pre-suicide bomb tape Brody made leaks to the media. This basically turns Brody from potential presidential candidate to known fugitive, a role that changes the momentum of the show completely. Can “Homeland” sustain Brody’s absence in Season 3?

The show ends on the same note that the season began. Carrie returns to the fray, just her and Saul. There’s relief there for Saul, but it’s also a sign of Carrie’s steadfast commitment to the agency. Her job has its own gravity. She’ll never really escape.

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