“The Star,” the season three finale of “Homeland,” feels much more like a series finale. Damien Lewis’ performance as Nicholas Brody has been so central to the show that it feels like “Homeland” cannot continue now that he has died. A fourth season has already been confirmed, and there will probably be a fifth, sixth, and seventh after that, but the Brody chapter of “Homeland” is firmly closed.
The first two-thirds of “The Star” is grim and nerve-wracking. The episode gets immediately to the dilemma of Brody completing his mission, standing over a dead body, with no opening credits or “previously on…” Brody has no chance of escaping Tehran so it’s just a matter of when and where he will die. Even Brody knows it. “I never thought I would make it this far,” he tells Carrie, during a lovely scene between the two of them at a safe house. Damien Lewis sells Brody’s confusion and eventual peace perfectly, as we knew he would. Claire Danes manages to keep her crying face under control for the whole episode, even when Brody is strung up and publicly executed.
“He’s at peace, in his cell…a special kind of peace.”
The first forty minutes of “The Star” are so grim that is feels abrupt when the episode jumps ahead four months for an extended epilogue. Everything is still very heavy, even when Saul is smiling at his success and living out a happy ending with Mira, and when Carrie is assigned to be station chief in Istanbul. The one thing that does jive with what came before is that everything works out perfectly. Aside from Brody’s death, everyone gets what they wanted, and the only loose end is a minor one (the mole within the CIA, which has been in the background since season one).
Everything works out too perfectly. After all of the roadblocks she has put up, Carrie is still assigned to be station chief, the youngest one the CIA has ever had. Over and over again “Homeland” has emphasized Carrie’s instability, which is something that isn’t going to just go away in fourth months. It feels like the writers are hitting the reset button on her character arc in preparation for next season, and it rings false to me.
“It’s sick, I know, but I can’t.”
Instead of her having to deal with her and Brody’s child, and face the consequences of her recklessness, her father decides that he will take care of the baby after giving a lot of anti-abortion talk. A lot of people talk about how much of a miracle the baby will be, and how great of a mother Carrie will be, which just feels like mainstream televisions inability to consider abortion, or talk about abortion in a meaningful way. It’s a very strange thing to have in the last twenty minutes of the episode, and it took me out of the drama completely.
All of season three has been filled with moments like this, ones that stopped me from investing in “Homeland.” Moments like when Carrie returns to Saul and we realized the first four episode were a big sham, and when Carrie’s pregnancy was revealed, were slapdash attempts at twists that revealed how unsteady the overarching plot was. A show like “Homeland” lives and dies by its overarching plot, and the big play to change politics in the Middle East was a poor one. There are too many plot holes to count, and far too much time was wasted. Though these last three episodes have been pretty good, they still can’t repair the damage done.
The best part of season three has been Saul, as he goes down the well-trod path to becoming a CIA director who has lost his humanity, and isn’t worried about killing people. Mandy Patinkin’s performance was very subtle all season, and he was the only character I really cared about, even as he used and abused Carrie to fit his big scheme. In “The Star” we see a more content Saul now that he doesn’t have to worry about the agency anymore, and it feels like he has been reset as well.
“No matter when or where they served, no matter if their names are known to the world or only to us, each cherished colleague remains a constant source of inspiration and courage.”
There were enough individual moments in this season that really worked, usually ones not related to the silly main plot. Quinn had some interesting stuff to do, and Senator Lockhart became a much more interesting character as the season progressed. Unfortunately nothing ever cohered properly this season, leaving us with nine poor episodes and three great ones right at the end. I have no idea where “Homeland” will go from here, but I pray that the writers learned their lesson from this helter-skelter and silly season.