Homeland: Season 2, Episode 12
The Choice
My mixed feelings about the final act of Homeland's second season are well documented at this point, and "The Choice," while not imploding the show completely as I feared, did not manage to salvage what has been a problematic season. At its heights (like "Q&A" and "I'll Fly Away"), it delivered easily some of the best television of 2012, and I think, over all, it justified it's high place on my Top Television shows of 2012 list. At its lows, though, it has been problematic. "The Choice" contains both elements, which means my reaction toward its best moments is somewhat muted. But overall, this is probably the best ending to the season we could have hoped for after last week, and I am reasonably satisfied with where things ended up.

I maintained that killing Brody, or leaving him around, would mean bad things for the show going forward; taking him off the board but letting us know he's out there at least solves some of the problems for the show. I worry for the future of this show without Brody, but I can hope that the show will use the fact that he is off the board well, and redeploy him at a proper interval. I have concerns, seeing that the writers of this show have not always displayed restraint with respect to the deployment of twists (rather, Homeland is known for deploying twists way earlier than conventional narratives), and if Brody shows up at Carrie's doorstep in episode two of next season, we may have problems. The writers of this show have also really committed to the Brody-Carrie relationship (more on that in a moment), and I worry that they may rely on it from the outset going forward. But for the most part, this is the most elegant possible solution to what became, over the last few weeks, the Nicholas Brody Problem, and I'm glad to see the show sidestep two potential landmines.

Look, I am a big proponent of the show's examination of the Carrie-Brody relationship. It is one of the more complex character interplays on television at the moment, and I love that the characters' uncertainty about their own feelings is mirrored in our uncertainty as viewers. But the show's decision, a few weeks back, that Brody loved Carrie as much as she loved him, apropos of really nothing, has never worked for me. I just don't buy that, out of the blue, Brody thinks he and Carrie are meant for each other and is willing to do pretty much anything for her. What I love about Brody and Carrie's relationship is the uncertainty at its root, and the idea that these two are deeply flawed people who maybe shouldn't be together at all. This is a fascinating dynamic, in that it turns me into something akin to, but very different than, a Brody-Carrie "shipper." I am not rooting for these two to end up together, and I don't follow their storylines with anticipation of cute moments or anything like it (those of you who read my Community reviews know I am capable of this). I love their interactions because of how complex they are, because of how fraught with variant agendas and psychological traumas each scene they share becomes. At its best, this show exploited that relationship for how unexpected it was, and for how uncertain everyone involved was about everyone else's agenda. It was perhaps the best way the show underlined its primary theme that you can never really know another person. Too much of the back half of this season, though, has tried to peel away the ambiguity and make these two "soul mates," tragic lovers meant to be together and torn apart again and again by circumstance. I have never had the problem buying that Carrie fell in love with Brody while surveiling him, and that her love is tied up enough in her own delusions and, ultimately, her own illness, that she has gotten caught up in the idea of them as perfect for each other. Brody, though, has always had more of a distance; he is more guarded, as a rule, than Carrie, but also he knows how unstable she is and, lately, he has the greater motive to put on airs and pretend to be more invested, because Carrie is, in so many ways, his one way out.

That's why perhaps my favorite moment of the episode, and, in fact, the moment I started to think this show might not implode at the end of season two, was that moment, right after the explosion, when we got the ambiguity back. When Carrie's first reaction to the attack was to point her gun at Brody, it was a perfect distillation of so much that the show seemed to have forgotten. On some level, Carrie will always think of Brody as a terrorist. She's a good analyst, and even though she fights back against Saul, she knows that, at base, Brody is a man who put on a suicide vest before. Too often, when Homeland put Carrie and Brody together in these last few weeks, it seemed to forget that they shouldn't be together; it seemed like the writers were as caught up as Carrie and Brody, and as convinced as them that these two were meant to be together. But in that moment its clear that, even if Carrie and Brody would never recognize it, these two do not have long term potential. There is too much doubt, too much distrust, too much latent paranoia at the core of their relationship, and in the long term, it would destroy them. Carrie and Brody may not have acknowledged the significance of that moment, and what it meant for them going forward, but it seemed, for the first time in a while, that the show remembered how troubled their union will always be.

Most of the rest of the moments I loved during "The Choice" were those focused on Saul, a character that hasn't become muddled by the mess of the past few weeks, mostly because he spent a lot of them by himself in a room. When he is yelling at Carrie about the idiocy of her plan to leave The Company behind to be with Brody, it underscores how deeply Saul cares for her, but also how willing he is to call her on her bullshit. The show was wise to put this moment in the same episode as the attack, because it gave the scenes when Saul thought Carrie was dead an added resonance it might otherwise have lacked. When Saul is saying the Kaddish for the dead (and that establishing shot where you can see just how many bodies there are is a great one), he thinks he is saying it for Carrie, his protege. When Mira calls, she knows to ask about Carrie once she establishes Saul is ok, because it is clear how important she is to Saul. Carrie is like a daughter to him, and Mandy Patinkin plays Saul's quiet tragedy perfectly.

The show gains momentum after the bombing, both because it gives everything that follows both a jolt of tension and an aching sense of inevitability. It also manages to retroactively make Nazir's plot more logical. We know that his targets, from the start, have been the people that perpetrated the attack that killed his son, and if he planned to kill the Vice President and David Estes, this was a pretty good way to insure it got done while also creating a substantial likelihood that the attack would take out a large portion of the CIA he hated so thoroughly. The first half of the episode had too much "Carrie and Brody are meant to be" energy to it, but the bomb dispelled most of that (their final goodbye felt like it was intended to have the weight of Shakespearean tragedy, to be sure, but it also felt like a moment where the show was giving into their mindsets more than a time the show got as caught up in delusion as its characters), and also brought Saul back to the forefront in a way he hasn't been for most of this season. With one single, devastating explosion, the show was able to clean up most of the problematic elements it had introduced, and to close off a strong but troubled season on a higher note than I had feared.

I prefer the version of this show that is grounded in its characters; basically, the further this show is from 24 (a show I liked a lot, to clarify after I feel I have spent much of this season denigrating it in some way or another), the more I enjoy it. And while this finale was a better version of Homeland than I've seen since "I'll Fly Away," it still didn't fully assuage my worries about the show going into a third season. Basically, I was reasonably certain going into last night that I would be watching Homeland season three; after "The Choice" I am positive I'll be around when the show returns. This was an imperfect end to an imperfect season, but its heights were enough to allow me to gloss over its lows, and at its end, it remains one of the best television seasons to air in 2012.

Grade: B+


-While I am sure I will be watching season three, I'm less convinced the show will remain worth writing about, if it goes in any number of the directions it might. Right now, its too far off for me to state definitively whether I will cover it, but I currently plan to make a game time decision. If I hear a lot from you guys, in the comments, on twitter (@Reviewtobenamed or my personal account, @bobchanning), or via email (Reviewtobenamed@gmail.com), I am likely to listen, so if you want me to review the show next year, be sure to let me know. Otherwise, we shall see...

-"Thanks for telling me." "You're the first one."

-"My only real plan for now is to be a good person again."

-"The thing is, Brody, I also love..." "Careful." "Being with you. Is it possible?" "I don't know."

-"You're not scared of the ugly things I've done." "I am, though. You do scare me, Brody."

-"Nothing happens to Brody." "Or?" "Or you'll find me one night. Back in this bedroom. Back in that chair. 'Cause I'm the guy that kills bad guys."

-"The report is being redacted as we speak." "Why? Why David?" "Maybe I'm just giving an old guy a break."

-"Where are you going?" "To a ceremony for Finn Walden's Dad." Maybe you've heard of him, Dana? THE VICE PRESIDENT?

-"Its like you just don't know anyone..." This sort of on-the-nose underlining of themes reminded me of the broadest version of Mad Men. Its not just the tooth that's rotten...

-"Its complicated." "No. Its not. Its crystal clear."

-"You don't know a god damn thing. You're the smartest and the dumbest fucking person I've ever known."

-"You can't change your fucking soul, Brody." "Yes you can."

-Today in Chris: Little man can sleep through anything. He's all tuckered out from finding out things haven't been all raindrops and roses for, like, the last two years.

-"You're not coming, are you?"

-"This was love, you and me."
Tags: Homeland
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