Episode Title: "The Choice"
Writers: Alex Gansa & Meredith Stiehm
Director: Michael Cuesta
Previously on "Homeland":
After speeding through storylines and twists throughout the season, the writers of “Homeland” pulled back for the first half of the season two finale and lulled us into a false sense of security. Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban) was dead, Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) was alive and free to be with Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes). What could possibly go wrong?
Full spoilers are ahead for “The Choice.” If you aren’t up to date with “Homeland,” skip this review or else someone will move your car for you.
One of the defining aspects of “Homeland” was Carrie’s desire to prevent another 9/11. She failed. The CIA failed. Everyone failed.
Upon reflection, it makes perfect sense for “Homeland” to go in this direction. In the world of this show, if al-Qaeda was really as weakened as they appeared to be, then there wouldn’t be much to hang the rest of the series on. “Homeland” may be about the lives of two very damaged individuals, but it’s also about the ever present threat of a terrorist strike within the United States. And that threat was finally acted upon.
Backtracking a bit, the early parts of “The Choice” had some great tension because the audience was privy to Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend) waiting for his best chance to kill Brody while watching Carrie and Brody enjoy some intimacy at her family’s cabin. That Quinn’s first opportunity came while Brody was performing his morning prayers was also something that probably upset him.
But instead of following through on his orders, Quinn demonstrates that he’s a standup guy by ultimately refusing to kill Brody because he’s no longer a threat and because he’s the only person in the world that Carrie seems to love. This implies that Quinn has come to care about Carrie as well, since he actually threatens David Estes (David Harewood) and tells him to back off from having Brody killed.
Unfortunately, we don’t see Quinn’s reaction to the unfolding tragedy. He may be having second thoughts now. But if the explosives hadn’t been placed in Brody’s car, then someone else’s vehicle would have been used. This attack was inevitable.
Completely oblivious to the danger from Quinn, Brody and Carrie contemplated spending their lives together and it seemed to scare and exhilarate them. As they pointed out, there is real love between them. But there are still trust issues to work out... and being with Brody would cost Carrie her career with the CIA. For the first time this season, Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) made Carrie’s return to the agency seem to fall within her grasp.
Except Carrie choose Brody over the life that she is well suited for. Then the world blew up in her face. Or rather, a massive explosion erupted from Brody’s car, killing Estes, the Vice President’s family, Danny Galvez (Hrach Titizian) and over two hundred people at CIA headquarters who were attending a memorial for Vice President William Walden (Jamey Sheridan). And if Brody and Carrie would have been killed too if they had not snuck out of the ceremony to steal some time together in an office.
It says everything about Carrie that she immediately thinks that Brody played her once again and that he orchestrated the bombing at Abu Nazir’s behest. But she also buys Brody’s explanation that Nazir played the long game of sacrificing Roya Hammad (Zuleikha Robinson) and his own life to achieve the biggest terrorist strike since 9/11. Carrie also realizes that no one but her will ever believe that Brody is innocent, so she takes him on the run to smuggle him out of the country.
The government immediately seems to know that Brody’s car was used in the explosion, as a team descends upon the Brody family home, much to the confusion of Jessica (Morena Baccarin), Dana (Morgan Saylor), Chris (Jackson Pace) and even Brody’s friend, Mike (Diego Klattenhoff). Earlier in the day, Dana finally had a reconciliation of sorts with her father in which he basically admitted that he was a terrorist, but that he wouldn’t be again.
Thus Dana is the only one to defend Brody... until the news plays his suicide recording as leaked by al-Qaeda to the media. That was another way that “Homeland” managed to trick us. Carrie may have recovered the original memory chip from Brody’s recording, but there were obviously copies made for just such a contingency. Brody was screwed no matter what happened.
“Homeland” delivered its long awaited emotional gut punch when his family realized his apparent complicity in the attack. There were some great reactions from the Brody household, but the best reaction came from Brody himself as he realized that he will now be forever painted as the worst domestic terrorist in U.S. history.
I’m not entirely sure that “Homeland” has played straight with us regarding the CIA mole. Someone had to be helping Nazir from inside the organization and someone put those explosives in Brody’s car and moved it near the building. But so many supporting characters died in the explosion that there aren’t any obvious suspects. I don’t think it’s Quinn, because he’s more of a shadow operative and he wasn’t even directly involved in last season’s storyline. And it’s a little sad that some viewers apparently suspected Saul because they couldn’t tell the difference between his prayer in Hebrew (the Kaddish) and words spoken in Arabic.
Plus, Saul wasn’t even near the CIA when the attack went down. Instead, he oversaw the burial of Abu Nazir at sea; which seemed too good for someone who hurt so many. Mandy Patinkin was terrific as always while bringing Saul’s paternal feelings for Carrie to the surface. Saul cares so deeply for Carrie that it was her name that he first searched for on the casualty list. And it was incredibly sad to see Saul leave a message for Carrie when he thought she was dead. After all, Saul’s final words to Carrie had been about how smart and “f***ing stupid” she was for even considering a life with Brody over a return to the CIA.
In the end, Carrie manages to get Brody near the U.S./Canadian border, but she opts to stay behind and attempt to clear his name. Somewhat improbably, Brody has survived another season on “Homeland,” but it’s hard to imagine how he can continue on the series if he’s just going to be in hiding. Unless Brody goes on the run again, his story options seem limited.
With the CIA decimated and Saul seemingly running the agency now, Carrie’s path is secure... unless she can’t explain where she was in the aftermath of the explosion. “Homeland” season 3 will likely follow Carrie and Saul as they lead an investigation of this attack and other potential terrorist targets. The threat once again seems real and intimidating. It’s a new status quo, but it’s one that can be sustained beyond a single season.
Overall, the second season of “Homeland” was remarkably strong, aside from the largely meaningless detour of Dana and Finn’s hit-and-run accident. But “The Choice” was one of the best hours of television this year. If season three can maintain the momentum of this season, then “Homeland” may truly become something special.