That’s it? Not to sound too disappointed — since, really, the episode was pretty solid — but up until the Season 4 finale, “Homeland” has been a show built on its remarkable ability to keep stacking twist on top of twist without bottoming out. Yet tonight’s episode featured only a handful of very small… maneuvers. They were too rationalized and slowly-developed to be considered twists, even if they still set the show on a new course for Season 5. Quinn, after physically expressing his oh-so-obvious feelings for Carrie with a kiss portrayed as utterly irresistible, is on an “open-ended” mission into Syria. Saul has accepted a deal made between Dar Adal and Haqqani in order to get back in the game. Meanwhile, Carrie is again set adrift, abandoned by the man who claims to love her and again at odds with a mentor she just fought tooth and nail to save (after attempting to kill him in a fit of justified rage). Considering the season’s first few episodes were spent reprising many previous thematic elements and plot devices in “Homeland” — Carrie as a stone-cold killer; Carrie sleeping with a source — the season finale’s mimicking of past resolutions can be seen in one of two ways: a ripoff treading over well-soiled ground, or a poetic consideration of character priorities. I, for one, am siding with the latter.
Best Classic “Homeland” Twist:
The biggest twist of “Long Time Coming” was there was no twist. Not really. As mentioned above, there were a few developments that should set up a compelling Season 5, but none are notable enough to be considered “classic.” Quinn and Carrie’s kiss was probably the most viscerally-engaging moment of the 53-minute episode, though the writers have been building up to it all season. It would be a shame to see Quinn’s character sacrificed as a way to push Carrie deeper into the CIA’s grasp — as they’ve implied with Carrie’s name on top of the stack of letters handed to the team member staying home from the dangerous overseas incursion — but we’ve also seen her try to fight her way out for a man before. What they’ll do next year with the ill-fated relationship — from a writer’s standpoint, not the characters’ — will be of the utmost importance for the series’ longevity.
Other minor “twists” included Quinn showing up for Carrie’s father’s funeral (yay!), the emergence of Carrie’s long-lost mother (boo!), and Saul’s acceptance of Dar Adal’s deal (meh). Quinn won major points for not just his appearance, but for bringing booze and bonding with Carrie’s baby (thankfully, not in that order). Rupert Friend’s character has truly emerged as an admirable second-in-command, so here’s hoping he’s not next on Howard Gordon’s kill list. We’ll get to Carrie’s mother shortly, but as for Saul, it’s hard to muster up much enthusiasm either way. We want him back in power. We want him in the CIA with Carrie. We want them to work together as a team. But has the deal he’s made aiming for those goals corrupted them? Maybe, but we’re betting Carrie comes around in Season 5.
Crazy Carrie Level: 2/10
Carrie was pretty damn sane in the season finale, and part of me wanted to give her a negative number on the “crazy” schedule considering how calm she remained for most of the season finale, a time when Carrie is typically maxing out our scale. Eventually, I settled on the above score considering a) the way she flipped upon seeing her mother for the first time in 15 years (an appropriate but still emotion-filled moment), and b) that anyone who drove from D.C. to Missouri in one night without sleeping has to be a little crazy (and originally thought she should take her baby on said excursion).
Carrie’s mother played a somewhat manipulative role in the episode, emerging from nowhere to provide Carrie with hope, of all things. It makes sense for Frank’s ex-wife to come back for his funeral, but the way she carried herself rubbed me the wrong way. There was an odd air of mystery surrounding the rarely-mentioned woman, and it all stemmed from how she spoke to her daughters. None of it seemed like plain, real dialogue, leading me to side with Carrie when she exclaimed, “I don’t get it!” after her mom did a terrible job of explaining how Tim came about. Eventually we got to the bottom of it, but for all the drama involved between the two family members, it felt like those scenes could have been restructured to provide more a punch, rather than relying on broken up exposition to create confusion.
Still, the progress made for Carrie as a mother was as surprisingly relevant as it was entirely justified. Losing one parent and coming to terms with another should adjust any parent’s own attitude toward their child, and Carrie stepped up to the plate in a big way. At her Dad’s funeral, she recommitted to Franny, saying “I don’t think Frannie will remember him, but I’m taking over now, Dad. And I’ll remember for her.” It was a touching moment, and one I don’t expect Carrie to walk back. That means next year will be when we really see Carrie balance her family and her work, a cliched concept made intriguing for this specific character.
MVP (Most Valuable Performer):
I would absolutely give this to Quinn under normal circumstance. (Seriously: his smile when holding that baby? What a charmer.) But Clare Danes earned the MVP award for Season 4. Heading into the season premiere, not many thought the show could hold itself together as a one-woman operation. It may not have without Danes. Her gripping, layered performance was again pushed to the extremes, only this time she had no one to help carry the load. Rupert Friend and Mandy Patinkin were terrific, as usual (especially Friend this year), but they weren’t written as the co-leads. This was a one-name-above-the-title show in Season 4, and Danes made the most of her time in the spotlight — and then some.
Quote of the Night:
“Let’s face it. Not every choice we make is blessed with moral clarity. What’s that line? We are the no men of no man’s land.” – Dar Adal
With these words, Dar Adal convinced Saul to accept a deal made by the man who’d just tortured him for days on end. Adal didn’t convince him to come back to the CIA — no, Saul was already sold on that idea, telling his wife he had to go back in order to “set things right.” Saul still clearly feels an incredible burden over his life being traded for captive terrorists, but is it possible he’s become the new Carrie? When we entered Season 4, Carrie was hellbent on doing her job. She was ready to protect and serve by killing as many people on the list as she could, without question and without doubt. Saul had doubts. He had even gotten out of the CIA, albeit not entirely of his own desires (his wife played a big part in that). Now, though, he appears willing to do whatever it takes to square things up with his conscience. Will he be able to, or is he already like Adal, a man without an identity unto himself? I guess we’ll find out in Season 5.