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Cult Recap

'Homeland' finale recap: 'The Choice'

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Season 2, episode 12 | Aired Sunday, Dec 23 2012 at 21:00 GMT on Channel 4

The second season of Homeland began with 'The Smile' - Carrie's half-maniacal grin as she gets back into the swing of things at the CIA - and ended, this week, with another smile. Mandy Patinkin, while we've never doubted his brilliance, was so flat-out gut-wrenching in this episode that he outshone regular show-stealers Danes and Lewis, and his face upon seeing Carrie alive and well was a sweet, uplifting note on which to end a very dark finale.

As ever, there were logical leaps aplenty (we're pretty sure, for instance, that you can't just park outside a CIA building in which a high-profile memorial is being held without having your car searched first) but unlike in the past few weeks, it really didn't matter. This was a return to form in the best way possible, taking Homeland back to its old formula in which the character writing is so compelling that the holey plots barely register.

Homeland S02E12: 'The Choice'

© Showtime



So, Estes is dead, the Waldens are dead, and more than 200 other people are dead thanks to a long-con plot masterminded by Nazir. We love this revelation, not only because the explosion and its aftermath were so beautifully handled, but because it justifies so much of the weird plotting and seemingly nonsensical character twists from the past few weeks.

Nazir's uncharacteristically low-key assassination of Walden was just laying the groundwork for this much grander, much more public act. His letting Carrie go in 'Broken Hearts' makes sense because as far as he was concerned, she'd be killed along with Estes at the memorial soon enough anyway. His weird horror movie shenanigans in the tunnel last week make sense because he needed to ensure the agents would have no choice but to shoot him. And by the looks of it, Nazir never really forgave Brody for turning on him, but has been plotting to frame and murder him ever since.

So while it's theoretically still possible that Brody is playing Carrie, has been working with Nazir since their handshake in 'Two Hats', and was behind the bombing in this episode, it would diminish what's otherwise a pretty redemptive piece of writing. And we just can't think of a good reason why Brody would draw Carrie's attention to his car like he did, if he were really responsible.

That scene was pure adrenalin - first the illicit, vaguely twisted thrill of Carrie sneaking out to kiss Brody during the memorial service for a man they both know he killed, then the brilliantly sudden shock of the explosion itself, and the 180-degree turn of Carrie holding Brody at gunpoint, refusing to believe him, desperately wanting to, and gradually comprehending the logic of what he was saying.

Homeland S02E12: 'The Choice'

© Showtime



We're sure there'll be plenty of viewers who found the extended Carrie/Brody cabin lovefest a little dull, but we've got a hopeless romantic streak when it comes to these two. There was perhaps one scene too many of the two of them staring into each other's eyes and discussing their theoretical future, but they really are so natural and sweet together at this point, which is remarkable considering just how dark and emotionally violent their relationship's been. But he wants to be her full-time cabin boy! And while we were suspicious at the time, in retrospect it looks as though he really meant it when he said: "My only real plan for now is to be a good person again."

So now, following their grandiose and really sort of gorgeous farewell on the roadside (it was a very shrewd choice not to use any music in that scene), Brody's a fugitive and has been cast in a completely new role on the show. Having been the dangerous loose cannon up to this point, he's now the wrongly-accused outcast fighting to clear his name. In fact, this episode was packed full of role reversals that should make for a fascinating third season. After struggling for so long to prove that Brody was a terrorist, Carrie will now be hell-bent on proving that he isn't.

And Saul was put in the position Carrie was in last season, being told "You sound a little nutty," when he tries to warn a colleague about the Brody assassination plot. Carrie and Saul's relationship hasn't been touched on much since the very early episodes of this season, so for it to become just as much of a focal point as Carrie/Brody here was really satisfying.

Carrie and Saul's was the best kind of argument in dramatic terms, because you could completely understand where they were both coming from. He's right to worry that she's throwing her life away for Brody, and she's right to want a life outside of the CIA. But "I don't want to end up like you," still stung, and when Carrie's presumed dead you can read so much into Patinkin's anguished expression; the awful prospect that this ugly row might have been the last conversation they ever had.

Homeland S02E12: 'The Choice'

© Showtime



While we're not entirely sure what motivated Quinn's change of heart, he had a Hamlet moment and decided not to shoot Brody while he was praying by the lake, as poignantly symbolic though it would have been. And it was damn satisfying to see Estes not get what he wants, and even be called the bad guy. There was really no effort made to make us feel even slightly sad about his demise; even when he told Saul that the assassination was off, he lied to make himself look better by saying that he called it off. RIP, David Estes, douche to the end.

This has been a patchy but frequently outstanding season of what remains one of the best shows on television, and 'The Choice' is about as redemptive a finale as we could have hoped for. It turned Homeland on its head yet again, tearing down the status quo and leaving space for a new one to be built from the ground up next season, with Saul in charge and Carrie presumably working in secret to clear Brody's name. But for now it's hard to think beyond the final shots of this episode, and their haunting combination of horror and joy - the bodies laid out in perfect rows, Saul reciting the Kaddish and Carrie's dreamlike reappearance. Well played, Homeland.

Final thoughts:
- So... that whole hit and run storyline really was just a pointless waste of everybody's time and energy, then. Cool.
- Say what you will about Carrie and Brody's unhealthy relationship, but their sneaky make-out sesh probably saved both their lives. Make love, not war!
- On a similar note, Chris Brody's never-ending schedule of soccer and karate finally had a purpose! Had it not been for his soccer match, Jess just might have gone along to the Walden memorial to pay her respects.
- Saul just chugged that carton of milk without even taking a breath, didn't he? The Bear needs his calcium.
- We kept expecting to see Quinn once more after the explosion, because you have to imagine he's feeling pretty wretched right now. As far as he knows, this entire massacre would have been prevented if he hadn't backed out of the assignment.
- Saul looking through the casualty list on an iPad was an impressively morbid bit of product placement.
- We're not really sure there was much in the way of a point to the Brody/Mike scene, except that it allowed Mike to find out about the break-up (which Jess would have told him about soon enough anyway). It's good that Mike's going to be around, though - that poor family are going to need a whole lot of huevos rancheros to get over this trauma.
- In all seriousness, poor Dana. We've been hard on her this season, because she's been increasingly poorly written and stuck in a dead-end plotline that required her to be constantly bratty without any of the nuance she used to have. But now Finn is dead, and her father is (as far as she knows) a terrorist, and the media are setting up camp outside her house. If she's even around next season, we won't judge her for acting out.
- Brody juggling potatoes. That is all.
- So going into next season, the big unanswered question is: who planted the bomb and moved Brody's car? Leave your theories in the comments below!

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