“The Star” bows out on Homeland‘s Season 3 finale

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Jay: So, where does Homeland go from here? Brody’s dead, Carrie’s both promoted and pregnant (with both assignments seemingly up in the air, for the moment), and the U.S. and Iran have signed a nuclear deal (in a scene that must have been shot very recently). I confess that it is difficult to imagine a scenario next season that would really keep my interest at this point.

As for the episode itself, I was disappointed, I think. I can’t put my finger on any specific flaw, other than the pervasive notion that this show has really meandered without any real objective for quite some time now. In Season 1, Homeland was about patriotism, family, and loyalty. Much of what happened that season can be analyzed via Brody’s relationships with other people: Carrie, his wife Jessica, his daughter Dana, his mentor Abu Nazir, etc.

But as Season 2 began to run off-track and then Season 3 continued the trend, I’m much less clear on what the show is “about” now. And while I’ve been predicting Brody’s death for quite some time, the fact that it’s now actually happened does raise a lot of questions as to how the series will proceed.

In some ways I think it would be best if they just stopped the show entirely here. What do you think?

Sam: I definitely understand where you’re coming from and what you mean. But, I think I might take a different view on the themes of the show. Yes, Season 1 was very much about patriotism, family, and loyalty — in fact, perhaps a bit too neatly packaged in comparison to Seasons 2 and 3. To me, I saw Season 3 as those themes being turned upside-down and spun around. In that sense, this season then was truly depressing. All the ridiculous subplots aside though, that to me was the core of this season, even as it seemed muddled as we moved from episode to episode.

I certainly still have many of my criticisms of how they told that story and perhaps relied too heavily on the intense sequences that left you on the edge of your seat for developments that we knew were going to happen already. It’s almost like Argo, but worse. This episode had me on the edge of my seat in the beginning. Then after Brody was killed, it kind of just got uninteresting. I couldn’t help but feel sad for Saul, though.

But, I do agree that with Brody’s death comes a great deal of uncertainty — but potentially excitement. Might the show continue with Carrie as a new station chief in Turkey? Or might something completely different happen stateside that keeps her there? Might the show take on more of a format like AMC’s The Killing? That show was actually canceled after two seasons but rebooted with a third season. The difference between the two is that it’s got a pretty clear formula (solve a crazy case), whereas Homeland has much less definitive way of storytelling.

Here is my biggest gripe with this episode, though: Carrie does not move around like an eight-month pregnant woman. Granted, I have no clue what it’s like to be pregnant, but a friend recently was eight months pregnant and moved nothing like Carrie did toward the end of the episode. The way Carrie walked around she might as well have been wearing a fanny pack.

Is it ridiculous that that’s what bothered me the most?

Jay: That’s a really good point, and one I failed to notice. If I had to pick one thing that irked me most about this episode, it was the “Four Months Later” fast-forward towards the end. In one way or another, Homeland has been building up to this moment for three years; the least they could’ve done was end the season on the somber note of Brody’s death and the immediate aftermath.

Instead, by quickly skipping ahead and showing a semi-recovered Carrie discussing her future with Lockhart, the emotional fallout from the ending of a three-year storyline wasn’t allowed to fester for a long enough time. One moment, one of the show’s two main characters is hanging by a noose; the next moment, Carrie is assuring Lockhart that the absence of a star for Brody on the CIA’s memorial wall won’t be a sticking point for her. It seems like a bridge too far, too fast.

It seems like I’m in the minority on this episode: I’ve heard some skepticism but mostly a cautious optimism regarding the future of the show. You’re right that this could present an opportunity for a clean slate, possibly with Javadi stepping into the role of Brody as the cantankerous and unpredictable asset. (I wish I could lay claim to that idea, but I read it elsewhere.)

But hey, good for Homeland: they finally got rid of Brody, which was a necessary evil. Remember the end of Season 2, when we hypothesized that someone had to die, and then almost everyone did in an explosion? This was the more subdued, but targeted, version: Brody specifically had to die, and in the end it was just him (not to mention Javadi’s unfortunate boss).

What would you like to see next season?

Sam: I should say that you were 100% right on your predictions that Brody was indeed the baby’s father and would be the one to not make it out of Season 3 alive. I’d also agree that there really wasn’t much of a discussion about the aftermath directly after Brody’s execution. On some level, though, I’m actually okay with it, though Carrie drawing a star on the wall at the end just seemed like a very final ending to Homeland that makes you wonder whether a Season 4 can really live up to what has happened thus far.

In terms of what I’d like to see, I honestly don’t know. All I know is I don’t want to see anymore of Dana Brody or whatever her name is now. It might be interesting to see a situation where the CIA has to call Saul back to help on the mission at hand. I imagine Season 4 will end up being something that does continue Saul and Carrie’s relationship. Somehow, I don’t see Homeland cutting out two-thirds of the Saul-Carrie-Brody triangle and then moving on with just Carrie. It’s just not quite as interesting to watch Lockhart interact with Carrie.

Do you think Javadi would be back in the picture? I kind of got the sense that the whole Iran-US deal was to kind of tie up that story without actually including Javadi in the scene. But it could certainly be much more. What about you? What would you want to see in Season 4?

Jay: I definitely want more of Saul — that much is a must, as far as I’m concerned. If we learned anything this past season, it’s that the character of Carrie Mathison, while certainly compelling, grows pretty exhausting when left to drive the show all by herself. I hope, and expect, that Saul will play a crucial role in the next season. Quinn, too — in fact, when he showed up in this finale, I was surprised because I’d almost forgotten he still existed.

Season 1 ended with Brody nearly blowing up half the most senior people in Washington, while Carrie — who was onto him all along — underwent electroshock therapy. Season 2 ended with Carrie sneaking Brody over the Canadian border, believing in his innocence while everyone else thought the exact opposite. So what now? There’s no immediately obvious storyline here, other than the continuing evolution of Javadi as an agency asset. But as you pointed out, in some ways Homeland seemed to rule that out, since the Iran deal managed to tie the knot pretty neatly. Maybe they’re waiting to see what will happen in the real-life negotiations before assuming that’s a done deal?

Anyway, as always, it’s been another fun season of chatting Homeland with you. I can’t believe we’ve already been doing this for over two full seasons of TV shows (Episodes 10 through 12 of Homeland, Season 2; and the entire first season of The Americans). Anything else good coming out soon?

Sam: It’s been great as usual reviewing episodes with you! Not sure what new show we should tackle next, but I hear that The Assets is a new mini-series on the Cold War. After The Americans though, I might be more inclined to search for other new shows. Open to any other ideas!

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About Samson X. Lim

Samson Lim is the Founder and Chairman of the Board of Scholarship Junkies, a Seattle-based scholarship resource organization that works to help students make higher education more affordable. Sam spent the 2010-11 academic year in Berlin, Germany, as a U.S. Student Fulbright Scholar and is currently pursuing his Master of Arts in Education Policy at Teachers College, Columbia University. When he’s not buried in grad school reading, Sam emerges every once in a while to highlight higher education and financial aid issues in 140 characters or less at @samsonxlim.

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