The end of Homeland's fantastic first season
The FANTASTIC (yes, all caps) first season of Homeland finished up with a double-episode last night on TV3, giving us a few scenes it had pretty much committed itself to, but ending the story in a place that I don't think anyone really expected it to end. Well, I wasn't expecting it - and while the show was FANTASTIC, that end point has me a little concerned. A few more thoughts, right after this elaborate spoiler warning.
(Warning: MAJOR spoilers follow from last night's finale, and the entire first season, of Homeland.)
Let's start by being completely honest: did anyone really believe that Brody was going to end up splattered all over the walls of that little bunker, along with everyone else in the room?* I know I didn't.
As far back as last week, it became clear that exploding a collection of dignitaries was Brody's evil master plan, but it also seemed highly unlikely that it would actually happen. Sure, that's mostly because of expectations (aside from the odd show like Game Of Thrones, lead actors just don't get killed off without plenty of fanfare). However, it did mean that the story wasn't just whether Brody would pull off his plan, but how he'd eventually be thwarted.
It also meant that the focus expanded from the actions of just one guy ("oh no, will Brody do it?!") to the actions of a wider group of characters (Carrie, Saul, and David especially) that we've come to know and love over the last few months - and in that way, it's a subtle stroke of genius on the part of producers Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon.
Gansa and Gordon have done a wonderful job of using the small details - the minutiae of the story they're telling - to great effect. Small moments like Walker cutting a hole in a window then setting up that poor woman's dining table, or the clever way Walker and Brody beat the security detail at the entrance, have turned the broader strokes of Homeland into a more complete story, and in many ways kept us on the edge of our seat as we got to this end point.
The pair have also done a great job with fashioning the characters and relationships at the centre of this tale.
As other reviewers have pointed out, Carrie is the only person who knows the truth of what Brody was trying to do, while Brody is the only person who knows that Carrie was right (and, by using Brody's daughter Dana, she managed to stop Brody from going through with his attack). And that complication adds another twisted layer to their relationship, one that should provide some intrigue heading into a second season.
The relationship between our two leads has been the magic at the core of the series so far, so keeping that magic through the finale, and presumably on into next year, is the best way forward. Of course it helps that Claire Danes and Damian Lewis turned in the performances of their lives. It's safe to say they're probably the best 1-2 on all of television right now, with quality support from Mandy Patinkin, Monica Baccarin and David Harewood.
We also leave Brody at a really interesting place in his story. It seemed a little convenient that Brody was able to convince Abu Nazir of his new plan to infiltrate the government (even if I have been manipulated to think it was a better plan to blow himself and a good portion of the American government into smithereens), but seeing that unfold should provide an interesting basis for a second season.
Plus, Brody's personal life is under threat, even if he has joined the inner sanctum of soon-to-be president William Walden (played by Jamey "Randall Flagg" Sheridan). How will Dana respond to the revelation that her dad was in cahoots with a known terrorist? What does Jess make of everything that just happened? Those are intriguing wrinkles, and I hope they pan out.
Less convincing is the position we leave Carrie in and what part she'll play going forward. Carrie's personal, emotional unravelling over the last few weeks has been riveting to watch (with Danes rising to the occasion**), but electro-shock therapy - and the short-term memory loss that goes with it - is going to leave her at a disadvantage when we come back to this story. We can only hope that her therapy doesn't do too much damage.
But for right now, we can look back at a near perfect season of television, regardless of whatever lingering questions we might have going forward. Homeland (and TV3) just gave us 12 episodes of truly engrossing television, featuring one of the most interesting stories around, with performances from one of the greatest ensembles put together on a single show. I loved it, and I can't wait for more.
What did you think of the first season of Homeland? Did you love it as much as I did? How do you feel about the finale - do you think it did a good job of wrapping up the season? And are you excited for more?
(*) Or, to use a visual from earlier in the season, that his head would be the only part that survived the explosion?
(**) This seems like a good place to say that we should give Claire Danes ALL THE AWARDS.