Monday, December 19, 2011

Homeland (spoilers!)

(Heavy Homeland spoilers. Be careful.)

Homeland concluded its first season last night with a finale that seems to have satisfied a large portion of the audience, judging by early returns from comment sections and Twitter feeds. The tense 90-minute episode didn't leave much hanging in terms of plot threads revolving around the planned attack by Brody (Damian Lewis) and Walker (Chris Chalk) at the campaign kickoff of Vice President Walden (Jamey Sheridan). Yet as any good season finale should, last night's Homeland put plenty in play for Season 2. Brody, now ex-CIA agent Carrie (Claire Danes in a titanic performance), and Carrie's mentor Saul (Mandy Patinkin) were all sent into different orbits as Brody's plans for revenge on Walden end up becoming a "long game."

A few thoughts and questions:

1. I'm happy Brody wasn't killed off, but I would have understood if he had been. Some reviews have suggested that the malfunctioning suicide vest (a plot device that turned off some viewers who found it too random) and Brody's frantic attempts to repair it were about how willing Brody was to die in order to carry out the plans of master terrorist Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban). I suppose that's true, but after last week's episode, last night's opening involving Brody's confessional video, and the way Brody says goodbye to his kids, I'm not sure think Brody's willingness to die needed to be reaffirmed or restated. I can live with the faulty vest, but I don't think we needed it since the phone call between Brody and his suspicious daughter Dana(Morgan Saylor) was so fantastic. The Brody-Dana relationship is one I'm really looking forward to following next season. My biggest question about the vest scene was why a room full of Secret Service and military officers didn't notice a sweaty man flicking a trigger in their midst.

2. My biggest question about the Homeland finale is one I haven't seen brought up elsewhere. What happened in the time between Carrie's final unhappy meeting with Brody and the concluding scene in which she receives electroshock therapy? We've known since the pilot that Carrie secretly receives drugs from her physician sister Maggie (Amy Hargreaves) in order to control her mood disorder and conceal it from her bosses at Langley. After Carrie's breakdown and impending ouster from the agency, why wouldn't Carrie and Maggie seek out another opinion or different treatment for Carrie's condition? Are there any consequences for Maggie's treating a member of her immediate family, and (I assume) falsifying prescriptions? How did we get to ECT so quickly? I think it's very unlikely that Maggie is somehow working with Abu Nazir (though Nazir could know of Carrie's existence since she spent time in Iraq) but I wonder if we'll return to that time gap in Season 2.

3. The question of if there's a mole at the CIA and who it is wasn't answered exactly, but we learned much about the relationship between Saul and his one-time subordinate and now boss David (David Harewood). David may not be a traitor in the strictest sense, he doesn't hate his country or serve Al Qaeda, but we learned last night how far he is capabale of selling out for the sake of his own career.

4. What was the job title of Elizabeth Gaines (Linda Purl), the Washington party-giver who offers Brody a chance to run for Congress? (Brody is told by Abu Nazir's agent that he will be drafted for office.) Gaines is presented as some kind of Pamela Harriman-like social mistress, but if that's all she is I didn't understand why she'd be interviewed before the Vice President's announcement or why she'd be so close to the VP at the moment Walker begins his attack. It was no accident that Walker missed Walden and shot Gaines; I suspect we'll find out she was (perhaps unknowingly) doing Abu Nazir's bidding.

5. Who has the memory card that contains Brody's justification of his planned attack on Walden? The two most likely candidates, Walker and Gaines, are now dead. I'm surprised Brody didn't search Walker's body when he had the chance, but in any event we'll learn more about how deep Nazir's network goes as the series progresses.

I hope it's clear just how good I thought last night's episode, and most of the Homeland first season, was. The show is an honest, searching look at the fact that we're still figuring out how not to lose ourselves in fighting this new war. I look forward to Season 2; with lead actors like Danes and Lewis I'd follow this show anywhere.