Tweetable Takeaway: In the season finale, how will Carrie handle her return home to the U.S. as she tries to uncover Dar Adal’s involvement with Haqqani?
Airtime: Sunday at 9PM on Showtime
By: Gregório Back, Contributor
After all the out of nowhere twists of episodes past, this particular hour, entitled “Long Time Coming,” took on an entirely different tone. Rather than keep up the madness of the past three episodes, the HOMELAND writers instead opted to slow things down. And when I say slow things down, I mean it; I’m talking snail crawl here. Now, don’t get me wrong, the episode still had its moments, but after all the intensity of recent events, I can’t help but wonder if the show misjudged its approach to the season finale. While it was good to see Carrie take a step back and attempt to embrace her home life, the whole hour felt like it never got out of first gear. For me personally, I never really allowed myself to embrace the quieter, more intimate moments of the episode, believing that they were just setups for the explosive (perhaps literally) things still to come. By the time I realized that this was indeed the entirety of the finale, I felt like I was missing a key piece to the puzzle. If the writers’ primary intentions were to completely subvert audience expectations, they certainly managed to do that, but I have to question the overall effectiveness of this particular strategy, especially in closing a season.
Now, before I delve any deeper into any potential negatives, about the episode or the show as a whole, I want to highlight what I felt was the best part of the finale: the ending (not the fact that it ended, but rather the actual last few minutes of the hour). Carrie has gone through a lot over the course of the last twelve episodes, whether it be walking the streets of Islamabad drugged out of her mind or finding her embassy overrun by the very extremist she is trying to track down. But if there is anything we’ve learned about Carrie over the course of the last four seasons, it’s that she can handle the big stuff. No matter what blows up in her face (both literally and metaphorically), Carrie has an extraordinary ability to take things in stride and move on to the next order of business. The part that she struggles with though, is the small stuff. She has a really difficult time looking inward and confronting her emotions. Early on in the season, the writers spent a lot of time trying to drive that point home (once again, the famous baby drowning attempt rears its ugly head again), but at a time when the show was essentially trying to reestablish the connection between its main character and its audience, making her more unlikable was not the way to go. Over the course of the season though, Carrie finally started looking inwards a lot more, directly confronting the various contradictions of her job, and allowing us, as an audience, to once again connect with her.
With that in mind, I found it interesting that the big climax of the episode is a quiet moment, with no words or explosions, where Carrie essentially realizes that Saul has betrayed her. Knowing the character as well as we do by now, this turn of events is unquestionably more devastating for her than any bomb or bullet could have been. After confronting Dar Adal about his negotiations with Haqqani, Carrie was absolutely certain that Saul had her back, and that he, of all people, understood that Adal’s actions went against whatever moral fiber still remains in the world of espionage. But when she realizes that Saul has now become compliant in this “deal with the devil,” Carrie is absolutely heartbroken. In that moment, Quinn leaving became entirely secondary to the realization that the one person she trusts above all else has himself become so broken that he has resorted to negotiating with terrorists. To me, this was Carrie at rock bottom. With everything that’s happened to her in the past, she always knew that she still had Saul to fall back on. At that moment though, when she saw Saul in Dar Adal’s home, she lost that crutch.
With the good stuff out of the way, there is one big negative (aside from the slow pace) that I want to touch on, focusing not only on how it affects this particular season finale, but also how it may alter the future of the show. Early on in the season, a hint was dropped that some kind of romantic storyline may emerge out of Carrie and Quinn’s relationship. Considering how the show had fallen apart under similar circumstances in the two previous seasons, I was praying that the writers would avert disaster and find a way to deviate from making a similar mistake. For much of the season, they seemed to do a pretty good job of that. Even though Carrie and Quinn interacted quiet often, cupid’s arrow always seemed to be left in the quiver, much to my delight. But, in this episode, that little flying cherub once again came to stir up some trouble. As soon as Maggie gave Carrie that wink-wink about Quinn during their father’s memorial service (was it just me, or did that service feel a lot like a party?), I knew that something was going to happen. Lo and behold, it did. And to make matters worse, the writers have now intertwined this romantic subplot with the show’s primary storyline, creating a potentially major problem going forward.
For the finale on its own, the kiss was, by far, the worst part of the episode. Considering everything else that was going on, Carrie and Quinn getting together just felt like another cheap ploy to infuse romantic undertones into the overall plot. Deep down in my heart of hearts, I was hoping that the writers would have learned their lessons from the whole Brody ordeal of seasons two and three and stayed away from the romance card. I was wrong, but even once they played it though, my hope was that it would just be a one off, that the romance would just be entirely secondary to everything else going on (once again learning their lesson from the previous seasons). And once again, I was wrong. By having Quinn go on his mission following, what he believes, is Carrie’s rejection now adds an element of romance to whatever happens to him going forward. The future course of events for both Quinn and Carrie is now inexorably intertwined with their romantic storyline. As Yogi Berra would say it, this is Déjà vu all over again. The show essentially fell apart in seasons two and three because of its incessant need to keep the Carrie/Brody romance going, and now it seems like the writers are repeating this series of unfortunate events, with Quinn now playing the part of Brody.
Going forward, I’m not really sure what to expect. Homeland built up some great momentum going into this season finale (the previous 3-4 episodes were terrific), but I was disappointed in the direction the writers went in this final episode. “Long Time Coming” had the opportunity to be a tremendously exciting and innovative hour of television that could’ve pushed the show even further away from its troubled past. But now, going into season five (despite some of the positives from this episode), I’m more worried than hopeful, fearing that the writers will be rehashing ineffective and troublesome storylines as they move forward.
Gregório is a writer, director currently living in Los Angeles. He has written and directed four short films, and is currently working on his first feature film.