Vulture

Skip to content, or skip to search.

Homeland Finale Recap: The Trigger Effect

Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in Homeland (episode 12-season finale) - Photo: Kent Smith/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: homeland_111_0026

To put the Homeland Season 1 finale into the context of the great atrocities of our time, Homeland DID tell us who killed Rosie Larsen. They just didn't want to let the investigation end.

I've referenced The Killing throughout these recaps both because it's the most hilariously petulant the Internet has ever gotten about a TV show, but also because it's the cautionary tale of the moment, leaving every other drama on TV quaking in their boots about failing to deliver what the audience is expecting in the finale. In the case of Homeland, that would be an attack on American soil. (Err, another one, I guess, though nobody seems to think the suicide bombing in Farragut Park was not as big a deal as it could have been.) And technically, we got that. But Homeland opted to have their cake and eat it, too, leaving both Brody and Carrie in place to resume their twisted pas de deux next season, and in doing so, attempting to do exactly what The Killing did: extend the premise of the first season into the second. Obviously, Homeland isn't going to catch hell for its finale the way The Killing did. For one thing, The Killing had been savaged for weeks prior to the finale. For another, this is still a pretty great finale.

The episode begins with Brody recording a video to be published after he carries out his mission. He explains his motivations and makes clear that he's doing this out of a "patriotic" duty to scrub the government clean of Vice-President Watson and his cronies. The political climate of the country has been kept hazy this season — we don't even know what party the veep belongs to — and the lack of specificity raises questions. Like, why is the president somehow outside this whole loop of retribution? We also find out that apparently the only person anywhere who is maintaining the proper degree of skepticism toward Brody is Dana. If only she'd share information with Carrie! The intelligence community is BROKEN! Anyway, she catches him praying in the garage and tells him how much he's been freaking her out lately, but he manages to subdue her through some fatherly manipulation. I continue to dig how Brody uses the conspiratorial relationship he has with Dana to keep her under control.

Meanwhile, Carrie is on "administrative leave" (Saul makes no bones about the fact that this means she'll never set foot in Langley again) and not handling it at all well. She still hasn't managed to stabilize mentally, and she's haunted by questions about why Brody busted her with Estes. Even a visit from Virgil can't break her out of her depression. At least, not until he agrees to drive her out to the rally where the veep is set to announce his candidacy.

Meanwhile, Tom Walker has smuggled himself inside the checkpoint area in the car of some rich old lady who looks exactly like Kathy Griffin's mother, Maggie. Perched at a perfect sniping distance, Walker waits for all the players to be in place and fires away ... killing Elizabeth Gaines and sending everything into chaos. I had been wondering how Walker was going to play into this terror plot. Obviously, Brody's bomb vest is the main event, so whomever Walker would snipe would seem like small potatoes. I had begun to worry that Walker would end up shooting Brody for added twisty value, so I was happy to find out the sniping served the purpose of getting Brody and his chest full of explosives through the metal detectors and hustled into a bunker with the VP and secretary of Defense, among others.

And here's where the episode turned. Carrie and her magical powers of insanity suddenly figure out exactly what the plan is, and that Brody really IS a terrorist. With Brody already rushed into the bunker, Carrie's only recourse is to drive to the Brody homestead and try to convince DANA to call her father and convince him not to suicide-bomb himself into infamy. Only Carrie Mathison would think to make this case to the daughter of the terrorist she's trying to catch. The sense of worlds colliding in this scene is not to be underestimated, and a good season finale often feels like all the different plot strands are suddenly crashing together, so nice job on that one. I also loved how the show refused to have Dana behave as anything but the sullen, mistrustful teen she is. Of course she calls the police! So Carrie gets her ass hauled to jail, leaving just Dana's nagging doubts about her father standing in the way of an attack.

In the bunker, Brody is twitchy as all get-out but ultimately screws up the will to actually flip the switch on the detonator ... and it malfunctions. No explosion. First of all, check out the big brass ones on this show for not being afraid to serve up the "expected explosions fizzle out" metaphor on a platter. But after some frantic bathroom-stall repairs on the thing, Brody suits up again and is once more prepared to pull the trigger when he gets the call from Dana. It's very affecting, of course, as she pleads with her dad, not only to promise he'll come home but to assure her the crazy blonde lady isn't right about him.

The vice-president's reprieve allows him to announce his candidacy the next day, but more important, it means he's around to have Saul get amazing on his ass. Saul has been tracking down the reason Abu Nazir went through that fallow period: the schoolyard bombing that killed his son, adorable soccer moppet Issa. Turns out, Saul has blackmail info on the veep in the form of torture videos (that he's been apparently holding on to for just such an occasion?), so Saul ends up getting the details on the bombing from Estes, who was in the room when Walden gave the order. And boy, the shaming Saul lays on Estes once he finds out is a sight to see. Saul threatens to take the story to the Times, but Estes tells him he won't, because it would compromise their assets and be too big a boon for terrorist recruitment. Nicely ironic, since the initial cover-up is what ended up recruiting Brody to the terrorist cause.

Brody meets with Tom Walker in a dark corridor somewhere, where Walker (and Nazir, via telephone) are super-WTF about why Brody didn't go through with the vest bomb. Brody manages to convince Nazir that he'll be more valuable as a congressman in the VP's inner circle. Take down the system from within. This is more about next season, but I have to say I don't buy this part. It doesn't serve Nazir's interests to have Brody inside the Capitol. Or even the White House. Ideologically, they're too far apart. As the beginning of the episode told us, Brody wants to save his country from its worst impulses. Nazir wants to destroy it. Maybe this is a conflict we'll see arise in Season 2? Anyway, Nazir also tells Brody to tie up loose ends and take out Walker. Which he does. And to be honest, Walker is one of the least-developed characters on the show, so I'm cool with that.

Carrie gets bailed out of jail, has a fraught parking-lot meeting with Brody where she apologizes for suspecting him, promises she'll leave him alone, and checks herself into the hospital, where she volunteers for electroshock therapy. Saul shows up to try to convince her to reconsider (he thinks the practice is barbaric). He even breaks protocol and discusses the developments of the Nazir case with her, including dropping the part about how the veep essentially murdered Nazir's son, Issa. Ultimately, Carrie's stubbornness wins out, and she is sedated in preparation for ECT. And while under sedation, her brain — reminiscing about sexy fun cabin times with Brody — recalls the moment when Brody woke up calling Issa's name. Too late to do anything about it, though! After mumbling her way into sedation, Carrie gets the electroshocks, which, as she helpfully reminded us earlier, can cause some memory loss.

Huh. Yeah. So, yes, the idea of Carrie figuring everything out only to have the memory electroshocked out of her brain is pretty hokey. It lets us start Season 2 as close to square one as possible. It does, however, underline the point that this is a show about people and not events, and no matter which bombs fail to detonate, the appeal of the show ultimately lies with these fucked-up people and their game of homeland-security cat-and-mouse.

Carrie's Fridge Update:  Nothing this week, but after all that ECT, I'm hoping Maggie or Saul or someone has stocked it with some comfort foods.

Time-Slot Assault Update: I really kind of hated that this was a 90-minute episode. Lots had to happen, yes, but the extra length really contributed to the fact that everything that happened after the bunker felt like an everlasting denouement. That said, it was nice to see the show eschew those jazzy credits for the week.

Mole Update: Not addressed at all, to my great surprise. And with the popular suspect Lizzy Gaines dead and gone, my money is still on Galvez.

Fanfic Prep Update: Are we shipping Saul and Maggie yet or what?

Photo: Kent Smith/Showtime