For reasons that are probably pretty obvious, Homeland has changed the title of episode 11 to ‘In Memoriam’ – which, though far more generic sounding, was arguably the right choice for more than fear of ruffling a few feathers. The title actually works well, as the episode wound up being a good reminder of the emotional history so many characters have been burdened with since the series began.

While the penultimate episode of season 2 still has to bat cleanup, spending the better part of the first half completing the less-than-great plot elements of last week’s ‘Broken Hearts‘ (but, as mentioned in that review, there are plenty of superb character moments from the actors that can help carry the audience through – it manages to right itself and build to a surprising and welcome emotional climax after the death of Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban). Before that, however, ‘In Memoriam’ still has to wind down from the cliffhanger last week ended with.

That means throwing in a few silly potboiler moments like Carrie (Claire Danes) chasing a shadowy figure through a darkened mill with a pipe, and later being chased by the terrorist (slasher movie style) after he kills the soldier who helps uncover Nazir’s secret nest. Still, it’s balanced out by a few fantastic moments like the botched interrogation of Roya (Zuleikha Robinson), where the former journalist hooks Carrie with an all too familiar story, only to explode with rage and illustrate just how little anyone knows of her true motivations. Then there is Carrie acting against Quinn’s (Rupert Friend) orders on a hunch, only to find out she was right about Nazir still being in the mill.

What it all builds up to is something far more satisfying than simply the death of the bad guy. Nazir being killed allows Homeland the opportunity to move forward, and it gives the characters a chance to focus on what the show does best – which is illustrate the emotional impact all this searching and killing and lying has on these characters. This is made especially clear by how effective the scenes of the still-sequestered Brody clan are, which are highlighted by the sad, but brutally straightforward outburst from Dana (Morgan Saylor). But much of the Nazir plot was summed up best by Brody’s (Damian Lewis) tearful reaction to the news of Nazir’s demise – which we can only imagine is a bittersweet combination of relief and sorrow, and a whole host of other emotions.

Most importantly, though, the death of Nazir works best in tandem with the death of Walden (Jamey Sheridan). In effect, it delivers Brody from his would-be puppet masters. As the immediate ordeal appears to be winding down, Brody’s given the chance to address how messed up he really is with the one person he should have addressed it with from the get go. Watching Brody and Jessica (Morena Baccarin) come to a quiet end of their marriage, and seeing as they acknowledge it was probably headed there prior to his 8 years in captivity, may be one of the dramatic highlights of season 2. Especially as Brody comes within seconds of revealing his involvement in a terrorist plot, and Jessica cuts him off, telling her soon-to-be ex that it simply isn’t her job to want to know these details any longer. Besides, there’s someone out there who knows everything about Brody, and accepts these things about him, which is why he “must really love her. It’s as heavy and tragic a line as has ever been spoken on the show.

It seems as though Homeland has effectively managed to strip away the characters it no longer has use for, which makes the question of Brody’s survival in the season finale seem all the more intriguing. While the writers haven’t completely closed the door on Jessica, Chris (Jackson Pace), Dana and Mike (Diego Klattenhoff), it’s easy to see the series moving ahead without any of them or even Brody for that matter. Estes (David Harewood) makes it clear to Quinn that the assassination of Brody is still on, but it certainly won’t be that straightforward, will it? It’s an interesting and exciting thought, but we’ll have to wait until next week to find out.

Various other items:

  • Saul (Mandy Patinkin) vs. the polygraph tech and Saul vs. Estes (David Harewood) are some the best scenes in the episode. Estes’ plan to get Saul out of the CIA is a cunning maneuver that uses the death of Aileen Morgan (Marin Ireland) in a smart, satisfying way.
  • During the polygraph, Saul’s response to the question of his nickname being “The Bear” is hilarious.
  • Poor Danny Galvez (Hrach Titizian) miraculously comes back from being shot, only to have Carrie briefly believe him to be Nazir’s wheelman.

Homeland will conclude season 2 next Sunday with ‘The Choice’ @10pm on Showtime. Take a look at a preview for the episode below: