Carrie and Brody are back at the lakeside cabin – incidentally, she, like Jess, calls him “Brody”; perhaps he should look for a lover who calls him by his first name? They talk, and it’s noticeable that of the two of them Carrie, trained spy and CIA high-flyer, is apparently the most guileless and open, while Brody, soldier, is more guarded. What they don’t know is that they’ve been followed by Quinn, who waits until Brody’s alone, trains a gun on him… and then doesn’t shoot. The reason he gives to Estes is, in essence, that he, Quinn, shoots the bad guys, and Brody is no longer a bad guy; Estes, on the other hand, might well be. Presumably chilled by this, Estes releases Saul, who gets on with the business of assisting with Abu Nazir’s funeral at sea.
Brody makes his peace with Jess and Mike, basically telling them it’s OK to get together if they want, and Carrie has to choose between her career and Brody (episode title ‘The Choice’); Saul advises her not to be so stupid. “You’re the smartest and the dumbest fucking person I’ve ever known!” he bellows at her. How you view this advice depends on how you see Saul by the end, I suppose. The first half of this episode unfolds at a measured and well-judged pace, but there’s no mistaking the sustained, humming bass note of portent in the background; something’s about to happen.
And, just after Carrie’s made her choice – Brody receives this news with an odd expression on his face – something monumental happens, when a SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERTS at the SPOILER ALERT. By which I mean, of course, that a massive bomb in Brody’s car explodes at the CIA memorial service for VP Walden, killing 200 people ballpark, including Walden mère et fils, Estes, lots of others. In a sense, it’s what Homeland has been building to for two seasons, and it’s what Abu Nazir was about all along.
Carrie thinks Brody’s behind it, but he persuades him that he isn’t – she didn’t take too much persuading, as it happens – and the two of them go on the run, although after a while even Carrie realises how insane this is, and helps Brody to leave, promising that she’ll clear his name. She returns to a makeshift morgue and to Saul, who has returned from Abu Nazir’s burial at sea and who, one assumes, had given Carrie up for dead.
Which still leaves open the possibility that Brody might be behind the bombing – it was in his car, after all, and that strange look on his face when Carrie told him that she wanted to be with him was never adequately explained. On the other hand, why did he draw attention to his car being moved? More conclusively, the media getting hold of his “suicide tape” – which, of course, applied to another incident entirely – suggests that it was an inside job. And Dana, who has generally been close to the moral pulse of the show, still believes in her father.
How about Saul or Quinn, then? Saul, notably, was a long way away from the action, and reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish for the victims, as he did at the end, wouldn’t necessarily exclude the possibility that, were he to be the baddie, he regards their death as regretful but necessary. From the writers’ point of view, they might feel as if they can get round any accusations of being anti-Islamic by having someone Jewish at the heart of the conspiracy. And, of course, he failed the polygraph in season 1. Anyway, it turns out that there’s more than one way to secure a promotion; as of now, Saul’s in charge.
Quinn, meantime, seems to have dropped off the radar after his confrontation with Estes. Let’s just say it was Quinn, and he needed a patsy. Presumably he might think twice about shooting the most obvious fall-guy outside a lakeside cabin? As for Estes, presumably he can be removed from the list of suspects, by virtue of being dead. Or can he?
Taken on its own, this was an excellent episode, and it rounded off a season which has had more plusses than minuses, even if the show we’ve got – an action drama with a Romeo and Juliet romance – isn’t the one we thought we were getting. By the end of this episode, in fact, I’d come to the rather startling realisation that I might well have enjoyed this season, all in all, a little more than the first one. I felt as if season 1 started and ended well, but had something of a dip in the middle. More fundamentally, I just didn’t buy Brody’s apparent motivation for his season 1 actions, which cast a bit of a shadow over the whole thing.
Season 2 has been up-and-down as well, for sure, but it burned through a lot of plot this year; perhaps I’m just more comfortable, on a personal level, with shows that I don’t need to find plausible. And this season has had more viewers than the first: while the received wisdom is that there’s no longer much point in taking Homeland too seriously, all you need to do is have a look at the social media of your choice to see just how much analysis and discussion is provoked by every episode. For better or worse Homeland exerts a grip on the imagination of its viewers like no other show out there just now, and I’m prepared to bet that we’ll all be back for season 3.