Homeland, Ep. 212: The Choice

Homeland The Choice 6

Homeland’s Season Two finale,  “The Choice,” came with only a portion of the anticipation that Season One’s brought. As it turned out, after one of the most surprising – yet somehow expected – conclusions I can remember, Homeland fulfilled my hopes for a classic send-off while also maintaining the new direction the show will go. In many ways, the shock of watching Estes’ body disintegrate into a rush of flames was like watching the writer’s howl that they no longer cared about blurring the line between reality and fiction and now would, quite literally, blow the lid off everything the show has been expected to build. Naturally, the creator’s of Homeland couldn’t have expected the scrutiny that this season has endured, yet watching them throw every angle possible at the viewer has to signal a sense of aggression about what this show can be and what the world wants it to be.

“The Choice” begins with Peter Quinn watching Brody as he retreats to his cabin for a night alone with Carrie. Inside the cabin, Carrie explains that she cannot be with Brody and work in the CIA. She must choose between him and her job. Meanwhile, Saul, still held captive, warns of Peter’s assassination to no avail. The following morning, Carrie grabs breakfast while Brody prays and Peter chooses not to take a shot on him. That night, Peter tells Estes that Brody isn’t a bad person and he only kills bad people. At the funeral for Vice President Walden, attended by hundreds of high-ranking officials, Carrie tells Brody that she chooses him. While Abu Nazir is buried, a bomb from Brody’s car goes off at the funeral, killing almost everyone. Now Brody will be seen as a terrorist. Carrie helps him flee the country.

Taking up most of the first part of “The Choice” is the reality of Carrie and Brody’s love. To my mind, the constant banter between them has gradually gotten goopy, routine, and redundant. The prolonged scene in the cabin possessed neither the strength of a love Homeland The Choice 3slowly finding freedom or the perceived suspense of an assassin on their tails. Similar to the Dana Brody angle that plagued the mid-section of the season, this diversion felt like a set-up that indecisively spiked with a whimper. Peter’s moment of decision, presumably coming as he’s about to shoot Brody in the back, doesn’t occur on screen nor does it seem motivated by anything but a random scrap of writing. His conspicuous plea to Estes, “I kill bad people,” pronounces the theme in an embarrassing tie-off. While long form television has recently been compared to literature, the difference may lie in watching the mechanics of creators trying certain angles only to watch them disappear for better ones. Only in television can you actually see these pieces at work.

In many respects, “The Choice,” is the tale of two halves. The first, a laborious and plodding thirty-five minutes (unnecessary considering the extra length of the show) and a stunning, sharp, and exciting second half. Has Homeland become 24? Well, sort of. But the tightly wound characters are so taut with convictions that when shit goes “bang” it does so with a furor as yet unseen in television. What works well here is the explicit realization that Brody has indeed been a small pawn in Abu Nazir’s huge network of terrorism, one that attacks from the inside and infects insidiously. While most of Homeland has been built, like America in the past decade, on the conceit of stopping terror, the finale proposes that our future will force us to learn to live with it. In light of recent events in America, this statement carries even more resonance.

While this show, and television in general, has yet to push the boundaries of visual storytelling, this particular episode contained noteworthy images. The shadowy firelight Homeland The Choice 1on Carrie and Brody in the cabin emerged as a visual metaphor for the fissure of distrust that will always linger between the two characters. Abu Nazir’s wrapped body being pushed off the side of the boat plunges into the water like a figurative torpedo digging into the façade of sleepy American life. It’s hard to recall a more poignant metaphor on the small screen. Likewise, the editing, from the staid burn of the first half into the chaotic – though no less grounded – second half, lends itself to old fashion cinematic construction.

So what would I say about Season Two? The evolution of Homeland has been a compelling comment on the state of television and entertainment in America. There was a great, impossible to reach, hope for this show, mostly manufactured by viewers who unrealistically wanted a more exciting version of Mad Men and The Wire. Homeland was never that, yet what it is still exposes a smart progression from the mindless storytelling inflicting most network drama. There’s something trashy on the inside of Homeland, but something incredibly intelligent rubbed on the outside. Perhaps Saul said it best when describing Carrie and, as it stands, describing the show as well, “You are the smartest and stupidest agent I’ve ever met.” [A-]

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5 Responses to Homeland, Ep. 212: The Choice

  1. Mario Munoz says:

    It bugs me that I agree with your last paragraph. I don’t want to admit that there is “something else” this show could have been, in vein of the excellent tension built up through season one, as if squeezed in a vice grip with slow, steady, and poignant intelligence. Season 2 is not like that at all. But even in the cheesier parts, like the conversation between Brody and Carrie in the cabin, there is still a sheen of intelligent and gritty writing (yes, it does veer off sometimes, but hey, perfection is hard to come by). Do I hate myself for loving the finale (especially that second half) as much as I do? … No, not really…

    • Zac Petrillo says:

      I agree completely. The show is fascinating because it hasn’t really allowed us to classify it. And, at least for me, that has become its biggest challenge. Honestly, I can’t think of another dramatic show like this.

      I liked the finale quite a lot as well. There were some soggy episodes in the middle there, but mostly this was a great season for sure.

  2. “There’s something trashy on the inside of Homeland, but something incredibly intelligent rubbed on the outside.”
    I couldn’t believe how well that sentence describes this show; it’s like an entire audience yearning to have their minds numbed decided you can accept the completely unrealistic Carrie; who’s so sure she can be in the CIA despite her hiding a mental illness (portrayed by flashing us BIG GOOGLY EYES) AND a relationship with a terrorist-double-agent, now definitely the world’s most unlikely and least credible romance.
    Or Brody, oh Brody… if you were really a terrorist, spy badass maybe you shouldn’t shuffle in your seat and break into sweats a la Nixon circa 1960 every time someone mentions counter-terrorism, or Al Qaeda. Dear Brody, your sell-by date expired all the way back at the end of Season One when you failed to go out in a bang (or Boom, or KABOOOM)
    Yes, there’s trash at the core of ‘Homeland’ and yes an intelligent audience listened first time around, but for God’s sake… get real.

    • Zac Petrillo says:

      Tell me how you REALLY feel! Well, I don’t share the same vitriol for this season as you do, but I agree with a lot of your sentiment. Especially regarding Danes, who, to me, was a major disappointment this season. While I was never on her bandwagon, I was truly impressed with her colors last season. This one seemed like a one trick pony. And the writing, which entirely abandoned her OCD and family dynamic, didn’t help matters. Likewise, the cat and mouse/is it real love angle had weight in season one when it was rooted in the terrorist plot. This season it was even more center and by the end it was tedious. Frankly, I never bought that they cared about each other to the extent that the show came to want me to believe.

      The finale was probably the best episode (at least in its last half) because it got to the nuts and bolts of what the show will be from now on. Yet, there’s still compelling characters at its core. The trashiness is appreciated because it takes itself so damn seriously. You have to hand it to the writers for being so straight-forward even when venturing into otherwise farcical territory.

      By the way, I appreciate your comments about Brody being both the world’s most deceptive and the world’s most obvious “spy badass” in the history of TV. But that’s why we love that tiny-mouthed man, right?

      • Mario Munoz says:

        What I’ve always somewhat appreciated about Carrie is not necessarily her believability as a character, but the way she can get under people’s skin. She is persistent in her teeter-totter between sanity and lunacy, and I think because of this, she evokes strong dislike.

        Curiously, that is actually why I tend to like her character. She is a caricature, but a very good one. Her hunches are almost always spot on, even when she’s on the brink of insanity. But that creates an enormous amount of tension. Like we KNOW she shouldn’t go back into that abandoned factory, but at the same time, she just HAS to do it, and that’s what will move the plot forward. Because she is gutsy. And stupid.

        Not to say that there aren’t overused tropes (i.e., the usual brow tightening, as if trying to crack a walnut, or the emphatic repetition of certain expressions – “He’s gone… he’s.. gone… he’s just… gone…”) And yes, season two seemed to gloss over her mental illness and her familial interactions, but it seems like this is for the best. You almost have to when writing with such consistent boldness.

        When I watch other shows, I’ll often ask myself something like, “What if someone finds that SD card with Brody’s confession? Nah, that would kill the show, wouldn’t it?” And boom, a few episodes in, and they’re already dealing with that issue. In that sense, I prefer to be keeping up with the writing, as opposed to waiting for it to catch up (to my idea of what this show could be).

        I’m still quite excited for the cat-and-mouse that Season 3 will surely bring!

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