‘Homeland’ Season 3 Finale Recap: “The Star”

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This week’s Homeland jettisons the show’s usual lengthy opening credit sequence (plenty moody at first, but a reach-for-the-remote button by midway through year one), presumably due to the episode’s full-hour length—there’s no time to lose, and that urgency carries through its opening scenes, as Brody literally cleans blood from his hands. “The Star” is the season finale, so appropriately enough, it begins with a series of exits: Carrie out through the back door of her hotel, Javadi making a nervous escape of his own (not yet sure if Brody sold him out), and Brody being escorted out solemnly, then stopped—for his visitor’s pass. His escape through the gates intercut tightly with the discovery of Akbari’s body, and he just barely squeaks out. It’s another close call for Brody, but he gets away, as he always had, and (as we discussed last week), as he always does. Which is what made this finale so surprising and, ultimately, affecting.

Then again, maybe you weren’t surprised that after two seasons in which Nicholas Brody could have died (and, many have said, should have died) and didn’t, that they finally pulled the trigger. I made a spectacularly inaccurate prediction last week… ah, yes, here it is: “the question is not if the lead character will survive—it’s how.” And then this: “’I killed him,’ he tells her. ‘Get me out of here.’ Will she? Probably. It’s television. It’s escapism. And we’ll tune in next week to see exactly how they’ll pull it off.” Ha ha, well, whoops. In my defense, the first half of “The Star” made it seem like Brody was not only going to make it out, but that he’d do so pretty easily: rendezvous with Carrie, escape to the safe house, wait for the cavalry. And that seemed credible right up until Carrie and Saul’s cheerful exchange about meeting up at Ramstein, which is the kind of oblivious chatter that immediately means everyone’s doomed.

And yet is says something about this viewer’s total distrust in the series—a series that I have, in fact, come back around on—that right up until the “executive producer” credit at the end, I was still expecting them to drop the ball. Public execution at 4am the next morning? Plenty of time for a daring, last-minute shoot-‘em-up extraction. No? Then okay, a thrilling escape moments before the noose goes around his neck! No? Then it must be some kind of elaborately staged Javadi operation! No? Then maybe it was a double?

No exaggeration—I spent most of the episode waiting for them to back out of the idea of killing him. Kudos to writers Alex Gansa and Meredith Stiehm for going through with it. The turn gave us two of Claire Danes’s best acting moments of the season: her face (after talking with Saul) as she finally gives in to the sheer hopelessness of the situation, and the determination with which she gives Brody someone to look at during his last moments on earth.

The question to ask now, as Homeland prepares for its already-announced fourth season, is what kind of show it’s going to be. Brody is gone, really gone, for good this time (and we apparently won’t have another season of brooding with his surviving family, thank God in heaven). Saul is off working in the private sector, and though his “you’d come back in a minute” conversation with Dar seems to indicate that this isn’t permanent, it’s hard to be sure. About all we can really know is that season four will place Carrie squarely at it center, having a baby, maybe keeping it, maybe going to Istanbul, maybe not. But she’ll certainly be grieving, and that’s not the direction I think any of us were anticipating for Homeland.