[This is a review for Homeland season 4, episode 12. There will be SPOILERS.]
As far as the finale goes, its title, 'Long Time Coming', could easily be a comment on Carrie and Quinn's frank relationship talk, or perhaps it has something to do with the passionate post-funeral kiss they engaged in. It might even be in relation to the sudden appearance of Carrie's mother, and the inevitable confrontation between the two. Then again, it might have more to do with the time frame for when answers to the episode's many questions might be delivered. Essentially, we can all rest assured that it will be a long time before any answers will be coming.
That's not to say Homeland's season 4 finale was a disappointment. In fact, watching Carrie drive off in silence after unsuccessfully attempting to strong-arm Dar Adal was a very Homeland way to end a moderately successful season/reboot of a series that's still trying to figure out what it wants to be in the wake of Brody's death. The thing is, the finale tosses in so many new and seemingly disparate threads, in lieu of decisively wrapping up the Haissam Haqqani/Islamabad storyline, that no one is any closer to knowing what the show will look like moving forward. And oddly enough, leaving things with such a sense of uncertainly feels like Homeland did the right thing.
After all, the show couldn't even make it a full season without bringing Brody back – even if it was just for a brief moment – so how could it possibly be ready to settle into a conclusive storyline? So Haqqani goes free and Dar Adal negotiates with a terrorist for the video that would have stymied any hope Saul had of rejoining the CIA. Frankly, when you look at the likely alternative, painting Adal as the underhanded savior of Saul's career almost looks like a stroke of genius. For a series that briefly flirted with delivering the full 24 treatment with last week's 'Krieg Nicht Lieb', the step back to a the kind of morally questionable position Adal alludes to when he says, "You have to adapt to the terrain," reads more like Homeland is making a fairly accurate assessment of itself.
In fact, it's hard to tell whether the finale will be known more for the many big swings it took, or for its nonchalance regarding how many of those swings will have to wait until season 5 before anyone knows whether they made contact or not.
But that sense of uncertainty seemed like it was a central part of the finale from the get-go. After the events of last week, it was something a surprise to find Carrie back in the U.S., dealing with her father's funeral instead of chasing down Haqqani with the help of Quinn and Kahn. Actually, it was downright disorienting at first, and that ultimately worked to the episode's benefit. With Carrie back home, it was unclear whether or not the narrative's resolution had already occurred, or if it was still waiting to happen. And with her being so far from Islamabad, there was little to go on in terms of what that resolution might actually look like. That gave 'Long Time Coming' plenty of time to get its ducks in a row, and to become the weird jumble of a finale it would eventually become.
Let's face it, if anyone guessed that Carrie's estranged mother would play a significant role in the season's climax, then that person should definitely be buying lotto tickets right now. But that's not even the weirdest thing to happen in an episode where a day spent tending to a funeral is referred to as "fun," and Lockhart's only appearance consists of him standing in front of the cool kids' table, sheepishly holding a lasagna his wife made before pining for a beer. The episode was so scattershot at times, the two key moments of action are a toss up between Carrie driving to Missouri and Dar Adal asking a waitress if he and Saul could have another minute before ordering some waffles.
And yet it was okay, because of what Adal revealed he was up to in Islamabad, and what it means for Saul. After everything he went through over the course of the season, Saul was bound and determined to get back to a position of doing something...anything, really. Clearly the twist here is: Saul wouldn't be poised to assume that position in the CIA were it not for the actions of the man who was also the catalyst for his decision to return. It's unclear whether the significance of the situation will prove to be more than just a twisted fluke, but if it returns Saul to a place where he can once again effect change in the storyline, instead of simply act as a prop for it, then it will be for the best.
As for Carrie's mother, and the discovery that she and Maggie have a half-brother, well, it seems like an awful lot of effort just to steer Carrie to the realization that people suffering from bi-polar disorder can have a functional relationship. Perhaps because James Rebhorn sadly passed, and Carrie is ostensibly without a parental figure – considering it looks like she and Saul are on the outs (again) – mom and the half-brother may potentially serve some larger purpose down the road, but right now, they only seem to be tools to bring Carrie and Quinn's relationship to the forefront. Hopefully, something more significant will happen with them in season 5.
Ultimately, 'Long Time Coming' does a lot of shifting of characters and priorities, in order to give season 5 some semblance of shape. And from what it looks like, that shape may end up looking an awful lot like the last few minutes of a romantic comedy, where Carrie, finally aware of what she wants, chases Quinn down in Syria or Iraq, and they kiss passionately.
Maybe that's how it will go down and maybe it's not. But if this episode demonstrates anything, it's that Homeland is as committed to the idea that this show has a central romance as it ever was. And by making a reunion between Carrie and Quinn its goal, the show at least has some idea of what it wants to be in the future. For right now, perhaps knowing that will be enough.
Homeland season 5 will air on Showtime in 2015.