The one thing a successful television show can’t do is lose the trust of its viewers. We invite shows into our living rooms, bond with their characters, and hopefully feel like we are along for the ride. The first two seasons of “Homeland” were masterful at forming that bond between the audience and the show’s players. An unstable CIA analyst and an unstable US Marine somehow became TV’s new “Ross and Rachel”. When Carrie said goodbye to Brody at the end of season two, it wasn’t just an analyst helping her asset defect. It was a modern “Casablanca” with love torn apart by forces greater than them both.
All of the greatness of the first two seasons of “Homeland” contributed to the problems the show encountered during the first half of season three. Suddenly the characters we had invested so much in started to let us down. Saul and Carrie were suddenly at each others throats, with Carrie being locked down and drugged in a mental hospital. How could their relationship, which was like a papa bear and his cub in the first two season, change so much that Carrie would slur a “Fuck You” at Saul.
And if the Saul and Carrie dynamic falling apart wasn’t enough there was the Dana Brody drama. Dana running away with her Tilda Swinton looking boyfriend made viewers eyes glaze over. If people are looking for teen angst then click over to the CW. Homeland was supposed to be a show for adults, but instead featured scenes of Dana having sex with Tilda in the middle of the school’s laundry room. Dana without her father isn’t what we tune in for. Right there the trust erosion was hitting a point of no return.
Right when “Homeland” felt like it was driving itself off a cliff, the Javadi plot emerged and spun the entire season in another direction. Saul and Carrie were back doing what they do best, and Brody finally had a chance at the redemption he so richly deserved. Last week’s episode ended with Brody killing Akbari, the head of the intelligence for the Iranian Republican Guard, and calling Carrie for extraction.
The season three finale kicked off without the normal “previously on” montage. Right away viewers got the feeling that this was going to be a special episode. Brody drags Akbari’s body behind his desk, and goes to work washing off the blood from his hands. With the pitcher of water, it reminded me of the ritual cleansing that occurs in many religious services. Brody literally washed away his sins with the deal of Akbari. He makes his way out of the Iranian building, but the body of Akbari is found right as his car is leaving the compound. Brody sticks a gun, that he took from Akbari’s office, into the ribs of his driver and speeds away.
Carrie calls Saul with the word that Akbari is dead, and that she’s taking Brody to their safe house for extraction. Saul is still skeptical after everything with Carrie and Brody so he has Dar set up a call with Javadi to confirm the info. It might be Saul’s last day officially as CIA chief, but he still wants to “keep his foot on the gas” according to Dar. Javadi confirms to them over the phone that Akbari is dead. In one of the most important scenes in the season Javadi lays out why he must not let Brody leave the country. If the CIA wants Javadi to become the man to replace Akbari then he can’t lose face by allowing the man to escape back to the US. Javadi also warns Saul of the implications if Carrie and Brody are captured together. That revelation could destroy the entire Javadi plan.
Saul tells Javadi that he will think over his argument, but orders Dar to put the extraction plan put into motion when he hangs up the phone. Carrie and Brody arrive at the safe house, and have another of their patented heart to heart conversations. Brody is still shaken over taking Akbari’s life, and wonders if this actually redeemed his soul. Carrie tries to remind him that he’s a Marine on a mission, but Brody says that man is long gone. In an attempt to raise his spirits and keep him focused on getting home, Carrie reveals her pregnancy to him. A few minutes later the sound of approaching helicopters reach the safe house. The extraction team has arrived.
Carrie and Brody exit the house and search the sky for the helicopters. Carrie realizes something is wrong, and yells for Brody to run for it but it’s too late. A special brigade of Iranian troops loyal to Javadi has them surrounded. They order both of them to hit the ground. Brody is cuffed and dragged away. Carrie is left wondering what her next move is now to free Brody. She calls Saul to tell him that Javadi’s men took Brody. Saul goes to confront Dar only to find Senator Lockhart with him. The President has made the final call on the Brody mess. He wants the story to end, and Saul is officially out of power at the CIA.
Carrie checks out of her Iranian hotel, but is grabbed by Javadi’s men before she can escape. They have a one on one conversation where Javadi informs her that Brody has already been tried by a military tribunal, and been sentenced to death by public hanging. She tries to get a meeting with him, but the best Javadi can offer is a final phone call. In the call Carrie begs for Brody to let her figure out a way to save him, but Brody has already accepted his fate. He realized that there was no true redemption for him back in the US. His path is to die here in Iran for his transgressions. There was a moment in their final call where a lesser show would have had Carrie say “I love you” to him, but that’s not the defined personality we know of Ms. Matheson. After an early season that lost viewer’s trust, this ending brought back all the “Homeland” magic.
The next morning Carrie is there when Brody is brought out for his execution. A noose tied to a construction crane is placed around his neck, and the mob around him chanting “allahu akbar”. As the crane raises Brody off the ground the crowd’s volume increases, and the juxtaposition of the calming effect “allahu akbar” had on Brody when he returned to the states is perfectly contrasted by its use here in his death. Carrie climbs a fence surrounding the hanging and for a moment is at eye level with Brody. They connect for one last time before a security guard knocks her down, and Brody gives one last gasp of life. Nicholas Brody is dead.
We flash forward four months to find Saul relaxing in a fabulous roof top villa, maybe in the south of France, with his wife. She’s reading the news about Iran becoming more open to the West, and attributing it to Saul’s work at the agency. The change in Iranian attitude is Saul’s legacy. All of the things he got pilloried for while CIA Chief have actually worked. They’re even calling him the “maestro” back at Langley. Saul is returning to the CIA for the memorial to the fallen service members out of respect for their sacrifice.
Carrie is super pregnant at this point, and now the next Istanbul station chief where she will be tasked to run the Javadi operation. Lockhart gives her the job, and the ability to handpick her own staff. She’s the youngest station chief in the history of the agency. Carrie pushes her luck by asking if a star can be put on the wall during the day’s ceremony in honor of Brody. The CIA uses a black star in memory for each agent lost. Lockhart refuses because of the complex nature of Brody’s life, but Carrie agrees to take the Istanbul job.
Carrie then has two important conversations about her life as a mother. Quinn encourages her to be the best Mother she can be after he messed up his own relationship with a child. Her father is so upset at the idea she might give up the baby that he offers to take it. The crux of the problem is that Carrie doesn’t believe that a person like her could be a good mother. Her sister thinks the baby girl will ground her and make her a better woman. Part of this is also Carrie’s fear of messing up the one piece of Brody she has left.
Saul has a lunch meeting with Dar, and its obvious Saul would come back to the agency if Lockhart begged. He might be making tons of money in the private world, but he wants back in to the CIA. It perfectly opens the door for his return in the fourth season. In the last moment of the season, Carrie is walking out from an empty CIA building. The lights are down except for the lights illuminating the stars on the wall. Carrie silently takes out a black magic marker and draws a star on the wall for Brody. She won’t let Lockhart keep Brody from being acknowledged and ultimately redeemed. The star isn’t permanent, but it’s a final goodbye from Carrie to Brody. She will always know what kind of man he was.
“Homeland” might have started off losing our trust, but now that the Brody story has been put to bed the next season has the room to explore new directions with Carrie and her baby girl. We said goodbye to a major part of the show, but Brody’s arc was completed. His life didn’t end in vain, and neither did “Homeland” season three.