[This is a review of Homeland season 3, episode 12. There will be SPOILERS.]
No matter how this season of Homeland is thought of as a whole, the one thing that cannot be taken away from season 3 is that, despite all the rough starts and sometimes meandering plot threads that failed to take the audience to a place as dramatically astonishing as seasons past (or were simply started and forgotten during the course of the season), the show managed to craft a rather potent finale that, for a brief moment, helped make the inevitable and the necessary (i.e., overdue) narrative progression of the series feel like a breath of fresh air – even when it was obscuring some of the more contrived aspects the program had adopted in order to keep this storyline going.
Ultimately, as an episode, ‘The Star’ was about seeing Nicholas Brody achieve some semblance of redemption for everything he’d done, which, in this case meant he had to “redeem one murder by committing another.” Aside from sounding like an assessment of Homeland season 3 as a whole, that meant first watching while he scrambled to cover up his assassination of Akbari in such a way that no one would notice until he was out of the building. We’ve seen this kind of thrilling panic from Brody before; only this time it carried with it a certain sense of self-awareness from the character, as if the words from the doctor in Caracas about him being like a “cockroach” were reverberating in his head the whole time. And to its credit, the episode even manages to broach the subject during the brief interlude where it seemed possible that he and Carrie might actually get out of Iran alive and together.
Of course, that would not be the case, as the only thing more fleeting than their reunion is the time between Brody’s capture and his execution. Before it all goes down, Javadi explains to Carrie that Brody’s pending death was not something that could ever be stopped, but he hopes that she might seek some solace in the fact that everyone (Saul, Dar, and maybe Lockhart?) now sees Brody the way she saw him, and he essentially tells her that would have to be enough. There’s some suggestion that Javadi might mean “everyone” in a larger sense, but since ‘The Star’ never goes into any great detail of how the people of Iran or America perceive this dramatic turn of events, it’s unclear just how far that new vision of Brody really goes – and that question ties in to just what effect the idea of his redemption actually has on the overall storyline. At any rate, the implication is that this idea is going to have to be enough to get Carrie through to the next chapter in her life.
And that’s a sacrifice ‘The Star’ is willing to make in order to get to where it’s going. Of course, there’re a lot of details that are ostensibly glossed over so that Brody can be publicly executed so swiftly; but since the series had been boiled down to the idea that it was all about the true love between these star-crossed lovers, cutting to the chase in that regard was not entirely unexpected. And to their credit, writers Alex Gansa and returning writer Meredith Stiehm (who had left to co-run FX’s The Bridge) manage to generate a great deal of power from the unpleasant spectacle of Brody’s death – which in turn earned some heft from his earlier statement regarding his cockroach-like qualities and by simply stating: “I want it to be over.”
There was still power in his death because Brody was a great character, but the thing is: whatever anyone in the audience felt for him, his continued presence meant that Homeland was always going to be stuck going around the same increasingly smaller narrative circle it had been for these three seasons. As we saw in season 3, what was once a far-reaching program about the limits and efficacy of the intelligence community in an increasingly paranoid and vulnerable global landscape, had largely turned into a doomed romance with a gradually narrowing vision for its characters and the sometimes-terrifying setting they found themselves in. But it’s more than just the narrative that was bound to suffer; Carrie had become frustratingly myopic in her quest to be with Brody because, as she told him moments before he was dragged away, “I believe one of the reasons I was put on this Earth was for our paths to cross.” That statement makes it clear how Brody would carry on as the impetus for almost every inclination (good or bad – but mostly bad) Carrie would continue to have down the line should he continue to be an active part of the story. While the idea that he and Carrie could go on on and raise an inexplicably healthy daughter is certainly idyllic and charming, it should at least be plain to see how that would not only bad for both their characters, but bad for the series’ continuation as well.
In the end, the Brody storyline had clearly run its course, and as an extension of that, if the show was to have a future, it would have to position Carrie somewhere other than between being not great at her job and being consistently insubordinate before questions of how she still had a job at all became impossible to overcome. In that sense, the fact that Carrie had to be shot in order to keep her from completely ruining an ongoing investigation makes one wonder how it is that, four months later, Lockhart, a guy who seemed flabbergasted at her continued presence in the CIA, would be asking her to take on a high-profile assignment in Istanbul, while Saul was essentially tossed out into the private sector. But again, these leaps in logic are sacrifices that apparently needed to be made to give the show its new starting point.
Overall, this feels like the new beginning Homeland seemed poised to undertake at the end of season 2, but with a more definitive closure for the character who needed it most. From that standpoint, ‘The Star’ certainly succeeded in sending Damian Lewis off in an emotionally affecting manner, which will be a great way to remember his contribution to the series. The question now is whether or not the idea of a new beginning will be the shot in the arm that sets the Homeland on a more compelling path, especially after a season that so often felt like it was struggling just to find any path at all. But with a major storyline now resolved, there’s definitely hope for and curiosity about the future .
Homeland will return for season 4 in the fall of 2014 on Showtime.