After last week’s episode, Homeland seemed to be a show that was in real danger of losing its way and making a rather ugly mess of itself. Abu Nazir’s kidnapping of Carrie and his subsequent emotional blackmailing of Brody to get him a code required to kill VP Walden by tampering with his pacemaker stretched the credibility of the show to breaking point, leaving the final two episodes with a lot of work to do to coherently and satisfyingly tie up season two.
The good news is that episode 11 (previously called ‘The Motherf**ker with a Turban’, now changed to ‘In Memoriam’) at least seems to set the show in a clear path for the season finale, cleaning up a huge number of storylines to give episode 12 what looks like being a straightforward goal. That doesn’t mean that it’s a great episode though, and there are a few things in it that are frustrating and don’t really add up.
When we last saw Carrie, she was disappearing into darkness searching for Abu Nazir in a way that somewhat mirrored Popeye Doyle pursuing Charnier in The French Connection. Help was on the way, but she was determined to catch him after coming so close to him after he kidnapped her. But she can’t find him, instead finding herself outside where the CIA have arrived at the scene. She can’t believe he’s managed to get away, and although she convinces Quinn to sweep the building twice, there’s no sign of him. So it appears as though Abu Nazir has gotten away (and he definitely had time to do so while Carrie searched for a way to contact the CIA and get them on site), but Carrie wonders how. Suddenly she realises that Galvez (who’s made an inexplicably fast recovery from his near-fatal wounds) has disappeared, and she and Quinn wonder if maybe he’s been a mole the whole time, and has now fled with Nazir. I was very worried about the show at this point, as Galvez has been such a peripheral character that to suddenly thrust him into the spotlight as a traitor would have been too much. So it was something of a relief that he was merely leaving the scene because his stitches had started to split, although the whole scenario really is a terrible piece of writing.
And in general the occasional hints that Homeland has thrown out throughout both seasons that there might/must be a mole somewhere at the CIA has become very boring. We’re almost through two seasons of the show and there’s been nothing in any episode to show that there actually might be a mole, just hints at the idea, even if you can just point the finger at the CIA being incompetent or ill-prepared as the reasons for their failures. There are theories out there that would point the finger at Saul as a mole, and while it doesn’t really make any sense for that to be the case, he has been detained by David Estes, who wants him out of the way. Estes has become tired of Saul’s questioning of him, so he orders a lie-detector test to find reasons to get rid of him. Saul knows exactly what is going on, especially when he’s asked if he provided the weapon that Aileen used to kill herself. The man conducting the test is clearly on Estes’ side though, ignoring the machine showing that Saul was telling the truth when he rants about Estes’ plan to kill Brody, and giving Estes a dossier that will allow him to force Saul out.
I can’t believe Saul is going to be written out of the show, so I can see a scenario in season 3 where he is working alone (or at least not with the CIA) as the show presumably goes in a new direction. It’s never seemed feasible that the show could keep Abu Nazir as the ‘big bad’ into a third season, and that’s clearly not going to be the case now, as he’s no longer in a position to plot against the West, since they’ve shot him to death. It’s Nazir’s death that is, for me, the biggest problem with this episode. David Estes has told Quinn to lead the interrogation of Roya Hammad, but Carrie goes in before him (and as I referred to CIA incompetence earlier, how is it that Carrie can just wander into question Roya when presumably the people moving her were told Quinn would be leading the questioning?) and tries to get information from her. It seems to be working, and we get a performance from Claire Danes that has been missing for a while as Carrie’s been out in the field, but Roya isn’t falling for Carrie’s pleas in the way Brody does, and Quinn has to restrain her and lead Carrie away. But she’s left wondering about something Roya said, making her believe that Nazir hasn’t fled, but is instead still in the building where she was held.
She drives to the scene where a few teams remain, and goes back inside. They find a hidden room that Nazir has been sleeping in, but Nazir manages to take down several men before a confrontation with Carrie. Quinn and more men arrive before he is able to kill her, and he is executed when it looks like he may be reaching for a gun. The problem I have is this; why would Abu Nazir stay in that building? He’s held Carrie hostage there, CIA men have swept it twice, but he’s stayed where he was. If we’re supposed to believe that he’s a highly intelligent terrorist, surely he would have planned multiple escape routes, or even just have fled the scene after releasing Carrie and moving to another safe house or somewhere he knew he could hide? It feels like a lazy way to get rid of him, that the writers found themselves knowing that they couldn’t keep him alive for season 3, but not figuring out a logical way for him to be killed and having to settle for him making what looks like a series of very stupid mistakes.
But it’s done now, and leaves one more episode to wrap up season two. I don’t think that what happens next week is going to be a straightforward ending though. After Nazir’s death, the Brody family are allowed to return home, but Nicholas can’t go back into his house. He and Jessica talk and both accept that their marriage is over. He leaves them to it, and goes to see Carrie, who invites him in. Quinn is still under orders from Estes to kill Brody now that Nazir is dead though, so the season finale is likely to have him trying to do this while Carrie presumably tries to stop him.
At this point it’s hard to tell if the finale is going to be satisfying or not. Brody appears to be the only part of Nazir’s legacy still in play, but has he been totally honest about what Nazir’s plans for him were or is there still more revelations about him to come? This story will either be resolved in the final episode or continue for at least the start of season 3, and how the episode ends will be hugely important for the show’s future. There are many ways it could go, but at the moment, I’m worried that the right way might not have been found.