Coming to a Close
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Homeland ends an extremely uneven season. At its best, Season 3 was a brilliant handling of the War on Terror and its characters’ trials and tribulations. At its worst, Season 3 was an incoherent mess that rambled all over the place, trying to gather everything into place. The Star, the twelfth and final episode of this season, was certainly its best. Most threads of the story came together as it become at the very least somewhat clear what the writers were trying to accomplish here. The Star was the most ambitious episode yet of the show (which is saying something) yet also its most grounded. The reason the finale feels so satisfying after a season of roller coasters is because it trusts its characters enough to let the story they’ve earned fall into pieces around them. Homeland always, in its phenomenal moments and in its not-so-phenomenal ones, is about war and the effect it has on whom most people would consider to be normal humans. “I was born in the desert,” Brody says calmly. He fought a war in a desert. And he died in a desert, isolated besides the speck of Carrie Mathison yelling from the other side of the fence. Yes, at this point it’s old news, but Homeland did kill off Nicholas Brody, hanging him by a crane in a square in Tehran. It’s not as much of a shock as it was an acceptance of what the show needed to do in order to move forward with a legitimacy it somewhat lost this season in places. It’s deeply saddening to see such a phenomenal character go out like that and it’ll be damn hard to imagine the show without the talents of Damian Lewis. But the character needed to go. Now Homeland, which used its third season to remove so much, can breathe as that difficulty of straddling a beloved but hamstringing character has come to a close in an Iranian public square.
It is interesting to note that so many politicians watch this show, politicians who openly endorse the War on Terror policies that lead to the “collateral damage” that Issa and Brody embody. Let’s take a look at the war that put ringer after ringer after ringer on one man that drove him to his death as his only option out. Out of patriotism, out of his commitment, he went to war. He was captured in that very war and turned into an instrument on the opposite side of the war while witnessing a secret act within that war itself. Then he was turned again by an organization that is in the war and on its sidelines even though it was at a certain point hunting him down at the same time. The first turn is enough to make anyone go crazy. The rest of it can become nearly incomprehensible. It was oddly fitting for a character who was supposed to blow himself up at the end of Season 1 to be wrangled so throughly by this entire misguided attempt at defeating terrorism. Every angle possible of the war tortured him and there was nothing left for him but death. And what a painful, excruciating death it was. In the now Golden Pantheon of Television Deaths, Brody’s exit is in the Top 10 of the most viscerally horrifying sequences ever filmed and put to screen. In more ways than one, the War on Terror is entirely composed of collateral damage. The man hanging by a crane says as much.
The War on Terror did nothing to make Brody, his family, or the world safe. It did the complete opposite. There’s a decisive dichotomy that Homeland always manages to excel at. How those in power view the War on Terror and how those who work in it. It’s a fairly simple question with astonishing results. Whether it’s the former director of the CIA drone striking a school that arguably began the entire show in the first place or Lockhart being so willing to dump Brody off the cliff despite what he had done for American foreign policy interests, those in power when it comes to the American War on Terror have always had a destabilizing sense of detachment. They initiate wars, commit murders, and send over troops to fight their war for them.When our veterans come back, they hold fundraisers but apart from photo-ops, what else is done for them? Season 2 had on-spot dialogue regarding this, especially with Jessica’s speech at the end of State of Independence. Those who serve the War on Terror, on the other hand, doggedly pursue justice and protection for the just for the most part. “I don’t know what we’re doing here anymore,” Saul says when he learns of the CIA’s plan to dump Brody to his demise. Always one trying to do the right thing, Saul has had remarkable composure as the misdeeds of the agency during his tenure smacked him over the head. Leaving a man behind was the last straw. The dichotomy that exists between the heads of the CIA and those who work for it is often far too stark. And consequently a lot of the CIA’s foreign policy tactics can be seen as utterly scattered, a patchwork that does a lot more damage than good. And it is often up to those that are not at the top to try to recover something from the mess.
As the screen fades away from Brody’s execution, the show arrives a few months after his death. Saul and Mira are on the French Riviera, where he is now credited with being the man who transitioned Javadi into a powerful seat in Tehran and negotiated an open dialogue with the Iranian government. Carrie breaks down, wondering how on earth she could be a mother. Quinn is quiet and thankfully by the looks of Season 4 it seems that they’re not going to forget his disillusion. Lockhart is now the CIA Director and Carrie surprisingly goes along with her promotion as Station Chief, the youngest in history. She makes one request – to have Brody be honored with a star on the CIA Memorial Wall. He refuses. In the most touching scene, we get a bit of that defiant Carrie we all know and love. With a bit of light illuminating her at the wall, she draws Brody a makeshift star. We cue to black as Sean Callery’s wonderful composition swells over the end credits. For better or for worse, Brody is gone. And now Homeland can completely reinvent itself and I have faith the series can do that.
Sonia Saraiya over on The AV Club made a phenomenal point about how war always promises to clear the way for justice and peace and leave something neat and concrete in its conclusion. It can’t. It’s a phenomenally messy enterprise, from those who initiate it, those who benefit from it, those who are on the ground and in the thick of it, those who try to avoid it, those who try to elongate it, those who try to justify it, and those who try to end it as quickly as possible. It’s a messy, messy enterprise that leaves collateral damage all over the board. Unlike many other prestige dramas, Homeland operates in the now and the show is trying to make sense of the world we live in just as much as we are. It’s a curious thing, to see the horrifying depictions of violence on the screen and jump back to a news station and see almost the exact same sort of violence happening right now somewhere in the world. It’s viscerally disturbing and it makes us uncomfortable. But Homeland has never been about making the audience feel comfortable. If that was the case, it would be re-run of 24 with the idea that everything we do is right and everything they do is wrong. Homeland at its best and worst still questions every little piece of our choices and to what degree we can justify the war we’re so hopelessly embroiled in. From the looks of Season 4, the show will jump right back into espionage and drone strikes, using the recent demise of a Yemeni wedding party as the story inspiration. I cannot wait to see Homeland bounce back and question everything we do more than ever before. Bring it on.
Title: The Star
Written By: Alex Gansa & Meredith Stiehm
Directed By: Lesli Linka Glatter
Image Courtesy: We Got This Covered