When someone dies, especially after a long illness, it is natural to respond with a mixture of intense sadness and enormous relief. That’s exactly how I felt after watching Sunday’s “Homeland” finale, in which Nicholas Brody died after being captured in Iran, and “Homeland” as we know it died as well, after weeks of suffering from a variety of debilitating plot-related afflictions.
Yes, there will be a fourth season of “Homeland.” But with no Brody at the center of the Showtime drama, the show will look and feel very different. And it must.
Season three contained some effective moments but overall, as has been noted in this space and elsewhere on the Internet for the past 11 weeks, the most recent “Homeland” installments consistently stretched the limits of believability and character logic until they were a half-sneeze away from snapping entirely, assuming you didn't thin they'd snapped already.
This finale was no different. For example: It was preposterous for Brody to calmly exit the Akbari murder scene without anyone realizing the man had been killed, even if that did provide one of the more deliciously tense moments of the season. It was equally absurd for Javadi to deliver that speech to Carrie regarding her relationship with Brody considering that he barely knows her, and also could not possibly care that much about her feelings for the war-hero-turned-bombing-scapegoat who would soon be resting in peace. (That speech seemingly existed solely for Javadi to make a lot of obvious observations about Carrie Mathison that also explained what has been so wrong with “Homeland” for the past one-and-a-half to two seasons. “It was always about him,” Javadi said to her, regarding Brody. “That’s what you cared about. Maybe the only thing.”)
And Senator-turned-CIA Director Lockhart’s sudden reasonable behavior and desire to promote Carrie to Istanbul chief was jarring given how villainously he’s behaved throughout this season. (By the way, nice shout-out to “Tony Shadid,” the deputy in Istanbul who shares a name with the real-life New York Times foreign correspondent Anthony Shadid, who sadly died last year in Syria.)
Yet alongside the beyond-credible developments in this episode, there were some genuinely moving moments, including both the final one-on-one scene and the final phone call between Brody and Carrie. That relationship’s function as the primary “Homeland” narrative driving force had to end, and it was clear all season long that it was going to. Brody was barely in the show this year, and when he was, the writers dropped blatant hints -- like naming an episode “One Last Time” -- that let us know he probably wouldn’t be around much longer. But it was still sad to see that mortal connection rupture, especially when Carrie struggled in the aftermath of Brody’s death over what to do with their soon-to-be-born baby. As I've said before, Claire Danes and Damian Lewis had such great chemistry that even though their romance was often wrong for “Homeland,” it still, up until the very end, often felt viscerally right to see them together.
“What happens next?” Brody asked Carrie when they’d gotten to that safe house and, for a brief moment, thought they might both get out of Iran alive. There was no concrete answer because no one had thought beyond the extraction part of the plan. What was Brody supposed to do once he got back to the States? Live underground for the rest of his life? Demand that the CIA admit he wasn’t responsible for the bombing of Langley, which would be impossible since the domino effect of that admission would put Javadi’s clandestine role at risk? There was no real answer to that question, and Carrie’s response, “Let’s be together and raise a baby” does not count. There was no answer because Saul’s plan did not include one and the “Homeland” writers didn’t write one, because they knew they wouldn’t need it. In a land where he sought asylum, Nicholas Brody would be executed, raised into the air in a brutal punishment that also made him appear to be ascending toward heaven.
That less-than-illustrious end to Nicholas Brody’s life suggests that he died as a murderer and figure of public shame in two countries. (Remember: as far as the American public knows, Brody is still the guy who bombed the CIA.) That ties in directly with what strikes me as the main theme of “Homeland” season three: the tricky and sad business of hiding one’s truth from the wider world.
Saul and Carrie had to publicly pretend to be at odds to get the Javadi play going. Brody had to go into hiding following the Langley bombing, and remain off the grid for most of this season. Carrie had to hide her pregnancy, from others and, essentially, from herself since she continued to be in total denial about it until her dad and sister finally showed up with a Baby Bjorn and a crib. Saul had to keep the details of his master plan tucked away in the wiry follicles of his beard. And even when, against all possible odds, that plan turned out to have worked beautifully -- with Javadi in place, Iran suddenly got much more permissive regarding nuclear inspections, kinda sorta mirroring real life -- Saul won’t get the credit for that success. He’s out of the CIA. No newspaper articles will trumpet his brilliance since every thing he put in place happened under the cover of night. Same goes for Brody, who acted heroically but will be remembered as a terrorist and a fugitive, even if Javadi contends that “everyone sees him through [Carrie’s] eyes now.”
Given Carrie’s decision to commit both vandalism and cornball symbolic behavior by Sharpie-ing a star in Brody’s honor on the CIA memorial wall, it seems reasonable to assume she may not let that injustice stand. It would not be surprising at all next season to see Carrie stationed in Istanbul, power-struggling with Javadi and working to clear her baby-daddy’s name for the history books. The presence of Brody, even if he’s no longer physically around, will surely be felt.
Speaking of the baby, it seems fair to assume that Carrie’s father will indeed take that little girl once she’s born and raise her while Carrie’s away on CIA business, a scenario that could very well turn next season into “Homeland: Work-Life Balance Edition.”
I’m not sure if that or any of the aforementioned plot jumping-off points qualify as smart ideas. But any change at this point is welcome. So to “Homeland” season three: may your departure bring you as much sweet relief as it will bring to those of us who watch this show and still have some faith that it can right itself. Together let’s light a candle -- or magic marker a star -- for Nicholas Brody. Then, like Carrie and Saul, let’s finally start to move on.