Spoiler alert: Please read on only if you’ve watched the series finale, or if you don’t mind spoilers
Last week’s series finale of HOMELAND didn’t exactly tie everything up in a neat bow, but it did give us closure and satisfaction. Here’s a take on how things went down, as the world discovered the truth about how that helicopter went down
When season seven of HOMELAND ended two years ago, it hinted at a poetic final season. It seemed as though the swansong might explore the idea of prisoner of war Carrie Mathison having turned and become a spy, just like prisoner of war Nicholas Brody was suspected of it in the original premise of the show. It was the perfect little teaser, leaving us to anticipate how things would go when Carrie would be the subject of suspicion after being released by the Russians. It was the idea of the show coming full circle in its final season that made its onset so thrilling.
In the beginning of the final season, there was suspicion from various ends, the most prominent form of it being from Mike and Jenna at the CIA station in Afghanistan. While their mistrust might not have been completely unfounded, we knew it wasn’t completely warranted either. Yet, Carrie seemed to be waving red flags all over the place, mainly owing to her questionable friendship with Yevgeny Gromov. Based on the time that Carrie lost when she was in Russia and the things about her that Yevgeny knew, it wasn’t unfathomable that she might have been recruited by him as an asset. Now, lucid and aware, Carrie was doubtful of it herself, but her intentions were clear—as clear as the faith that Saul still had in her. She was hell-bent on doing what it took to prevent disaster, even if it meant going rogue, and against Saul’s cautionary instructions. She took it on herself to retrieve the one thing that it came down to—the flight recorder. She would do anything—perhaps even betray Saul. It wasn’t completely unimaginable. After all for years, we’ve been hearing her say it in the opening credits: “I missed something once before. I won’t…I can’t let that happen again.”
So off she went, risking her life, relying on dubious people, throwing herself into risky situations, et al. It might have seemed reckless for most people, but not for Carrie. She’d earned the reputation of being unhinged, whether or not she was on her medication. She had even done the responsible thing by letting her stable sister raise her daughter. Yes, she was unhinged, but not without a cause. Over the seasons, she’d learnt to find method in her madness. She knew what she was doing and what she was risking for it, and she did it anyway. Saul saw that and relied on her to never do anything untoward, even if he didn’t agree with her methods. He had taught her too well to not compromise and to squeeze out all she could from an asset. She did this even if there was a chance that Yevgeny would turn on her the moment he had the chance to. It made sense. Turn on her he did, as he stole the flight recorder, and it was clear as day where the loyalties were. But it did leave her in a tight spot—eventually being arm-twisted into turning on Saul. Carrie did consider it, and knowing how unhinged she was known to be, I’m sure we all had our moments of doubt, thinking that she might actually do what it would take. It would be ‘the cost of doing business’.
In a way, it did all come down to whether Carrie would ‘turn’, but it wasn’t her country that she’d be turning against; it was her mentor. The show did come a full circle, but in a much bigger way. Right from the beginning, the one thing that formed the essence of the show was the relationship between Carrie and Saul. From the Brody seasons to the complete reinvention of the series in season four, it was essentially about these two and their formidable partnership. So it was fitting for the finale to upend all of it. Yet, since they had made a great team before, I was hoping that the finale would be about how they’d turn the tables on the Russians together, as they'd find a way to save Saul’s asset and get the flight recorder to prevent the mother of all wars. Still, the finale didn’t disappoint.
Without trying to create the most explosive scenarios we’ve seen, they did present to us the most explosive conflict that the show could give us. Carrie almost did betray Saul, even if she never had the intention to go all the way to killing him. The asset had to be sacrificed from a storytelling point of view, but it didn’t go that way without all efforts being made to avoid it. It gave us one of Mandy Patinkin’s most gut-wrenching performance moments, when he heard the gunshot that killed his asset and friend. Carrie had done the unforgivable, and we didn’t think he would begin to accept that the end justified the means anytime soon. It was devastating really to see the core relationship of the show destroyed. That’s why I found the epilogue to be the perfect ending. The only way Carrie could make up for what she had done was to at least give Saul a reliable asset, if not bring back his friend. And when it came to protecting America, the one person he could rely on, despite her betrayal was strangely Carrie herself. The moment we saw her in Moscow, I knew what she’d used those two years to do. She had built a network of sources to put together her ultimate gift to Saul—now packaged neatly in a book, addressed to Professor Rabinow. And when he opened the package and discovered what it was, those smiles on Saul’s and Carrie’s faces, thousands of miles apart, were everything.
- I wasn’t entirely sure of what the relationship between Carrie and Yevgeny was at the end. Of course, they seemed to be romantically involved. But we know that Yevgeny wouldn’t be a part of her network of sources. He had used her and thrown her under the bus, so there’s no way he would turn on his country and work for her, and it also made me wonder if and why Carrie even trusted him. And if the relationship was a farce—to what end could that have been? Also, could Yevgeny trust Carrie? I don’t believe that even two years would make them truly start trusting each other and be in a genuine relationship. I just think the show could have done without implying that the two of them ended up together. Carrie could have still been in Moscow, and as a spy even.
- Carrie’s book about why she’d betrayed her country did however indicate that her alliance with the Russians and what she’d done had become public knowledge, and she was now a pariah for America. It explained why certain Russians would trust her, which might have helped her in developing her network of sources in Moscow.
- I didn’t see the need for Carrie and Yevgeny to flee from Israel the way they did, once the asset was killed. I don’t believe Saul would have turned her in, despite what she’d done. And at that point, the authorities didn’t know what Carrie had done, only Saul did. Even without that bit, Carrie could have still ended up in Moscow two years later.
- Speaking of the asset, it would have been far more impactful if they had sown the seeds of this secret asset over the last couple of seasons. It wasn’t unbelievable that Saul had had this extremely crucial asset for decades, but it did come up quite suddenly.
- Similarly, John Zabel also appeared quite suddenly, and I wasn’t quite sure why he felt so stubbornly motivated to throw the country into war. A little background to the character might have helped. Also, I was hoping to see Claire Danes and Hugh Dancy share the screen, so I was disappointed that it didn’t happen. But I do understand that the narrative didn’t demand it.
- It was sad that Carrie didn’t reunite with Franny, but it was also very true to her character. She had done the right thing in letting Maggie raise her. Yet, I would have liked to see her at peace with Maggie, just like Saul was finally on good terms with his sister.
- Jenna was a surprisingly interesting character this season. When she was disillusioned and ready to give up everything towards the end, I could almost see the makings of a spinoff—with Jenna being the new Carrie, as she might eventually come around to understanding the good that could come out of a job that otherwise made her feel miserable.
- If there’s a reboot miniseries or TV movie, which has become de rigueur these days, I wouldn’t mind getting an explanation as to what the Carrie-Yevgeny relationship was, if and why they trust each other, and other things that went down for her to become the spy that she did.
- RIP Max...It wasn't as devastating as Quinn, or even Brody, but it was heartbreaking still.