How Homeland’s Finale Measured Up [SPOILERS & RECAP]

homeland finale

Getty Carrie Mathison and Saul Berenson (Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin)

Homeland‘s big series finale has a satisfying symmetry to it, with Carrie Mathison snapping back into the Carrie Mathison we know. But it took a lot of leaps of faith to get there. (Warning: There will be spoilers for the season 8 finale in this article.)

The series’ ending has Carrie in the Nicholas Brody role at first, not a prisoner-of-war exactly, but she’s been turned, seemingly by a litany of American wrongdoings. She’s in Moscow, decked out in glittering evening attire for a jazz performance, and clearly in a loving, romantic relationship with none other than Russian agent Yevgeny Gromov (we all saw that coming). She’s never looked better. She glows with happiness.

She’s turned into a female version of Edward Snowden, or at least we’re meant to think that at first (just so we wouldn’t miss the analogy, a photo of Snowden is prominently plastered to the wall of the apartment that Carrie and Yevgeny share, complete with articles highlighting American atrocities and failures.) She’s even writing a book, as Snowden did, revealing why she “betrayed her country,” and exposing American treachery. Snowden, who famously leaked National Security Agency data to expose mass surveillance techniques, wrote a book with a similar black-and-white cover, of course. Snowden is in exile in Russia, and he recently sought permission to stay there longer. He’s probably hoping the Russians don’t watch Homeland.

However, then the big reveal came: Carrie sends her mentor Saul Berenson (the brilliant as ever Mandy Patinkin) her book via the same bookstore and addressed to the fake professor that Saul’s long-time Russian asset, the ill-fated Anna, used for years. Saul gets the hint, and he unearths the slip of paper Carrie has secreted in the binder, using the same method of communication as Anna, who killed herself after Carrie passed her name to Gromov and the Russians. Inside the book binder, Carrie’s passed along a Russian secret to Saul.

In so doing, Carrie has redeemed herself. She’s back to being the Carrie we know, her severed relationships with Saul and America on their way to being repaired. She took his asset away, and now she’s become his asset. If she turned, she turned back, and she’s now a double agent in the heart of the Kremlin. Saul was worried about the damage she had done to American intelligence operations in Moscow with the loss of Anna, but now she’s restored it.

Carrie has always been motivated by the end justifying the means, but her character has always been rock solid in two ways: Her loyalty to her work friends (witness her determination to save Max even to her own detriment) and her loyalty to her country (if not its rules. She sees the big picture. Again: The end justifies the means.) She’s not big on actual family ties, but she’s emotionally bonded with work friends or even work foes, forming a pseudo family with them – Saul, Quinn, Max…Nicholas, Yevgeny. It’s the people in her work sphere she’s attached to. They get her. They speak the same language.

It was always implausible and felt completely out of character to think Carrie would consider killing Saul, which was the central set up of the final episode. The scene in the bedroom, where a supposedly poisoned Saul is at Carrie’s final mercy, and two Russian hitmen are poised to shove a syringe in his toe if he doesn’t give up Anna’s name, was chilling to the extreme because you didn’t know how far the show was willing to take this. Would Carrie go through with it? Was she so damaged that she would actually kill Saul? However, even as one sat on the edge of one’s seat, the thought couldn’t help but blare loudly: No way would Carrie do this. It’s just not plausible. It doesn’t fit her character. It might have worked if the show had spent more time making us think Carrie might really be turning like Nick Brody versus making it obvious she just wanted the flight recorder. Killing Saul? No way.

However, she was willing to sacrifice an asset, so who knows? (more on that in a minute).


Flaws in the Plot But a Good Ending Besides

Homeland

GettyWill there be a ninth season of Homeland? No.

There were a number of plot holes in the entire set up, and there are a number of plot holes in the final episode too. It was never believable that Carrie, charged in the murder of two presidents no less (on flimsy evidence), would be released on bail and allowed to live in the home of the National Security Adviser without any apparent supervision or that she would risk going back to the United States under that assumption. It’s equally implausible that a defendant in such a circumstance could hop on a plane to Israel or that her sister wouldn’t know anything about it all (the media didn’t catch on?)

For that matter, why did the Russian kill team agree to stand down and go to the “backup plan”? And wouldn’t it have been easier for Carrie to just make the backup plan her first plan? After all, she just had to convince Saul’s sister that Saul was dead; she didn’t have to make Saul think he might die to do that. Everyone who has followed Saul’s character over the years knows he would rather die than give up an asset. As for Saul’s sister, she really wouldn’t demand some proof of death? And Saul would really leave his most prized asset to Carrie, whose loyalties to Russia he was already questioning and who was facing the likelihood of a stiff prison sentence?

The deeper question is, why would Carrie give up an asset? It feels too far out of character. It’s just a line you can’t cross and remain a good person.

Let’s repeat what everyone knows. You just do not give up an asset. Carrie didn’t kill Saul, but she sacrificed Anna. How is that really any better? Anna meant nothing to her, and Saul did, of course, but that’s personal; if you’re operating with any moral code at all, and any concern for your country, you just do not give up an asset. Carrie’s always been willing to bend the rules if the end justifies it, but in this case the means are too egregious to be justified by any end.

carrie mathison

GettyClaire Danes attends the final season premiere event for Showtime’s “Homeland” at MoMa on February 4, 2020 in New York City.

It never seemed like the stakes were high enough for Carrie to do the unthinkable. Pakistan and the U.S. were on the brink of nuclear war, but Jalal Haqqani, even if he didn’t shoot down the presidents’ helicopter, still took out a busload of special operatives (a point that seems to be forgotten at the end of the show.) If the presidents’ helicopter had a fatal mechanical problem, wouldn’t it be possible that someone sabotaged it? (The show didn’t go there, but reasonable investigators wouldn’t be so sure that mechanical defect exonerated all suspects.)

Saul calls Pakistan a regional conflict, which is overstating it, but he has a point. The lost intelligence in Russia could be far costlier to American interests and American lives over the long term, especially since Saul had a reasonable counter plan to slow down the U.S./Pakistani escalation (going to the news media.) Why wasn’t that a better option to Carrie than taking an action that would lead to the eventual death of a woman who put her life on the line for America countless times? The scriptwriters could have saved the life of the asset, and Carrie could still have plotted to replace her in Moscow, since an alive Anna could have defected to America for her own safety. That could have been part of the plot – Carrie could have tipped Anna off, and Anna’s death could have been staged to trick the Russians. She then enters the witness protection program, but the Russians think she’s dead. That’s how I would have written it, anyway. That would have been a better option, more in line with Carrie’s persona. Let Anna escape and have Carrie plot to take her place.

If you remove the outing of the asset from the equation, it’s plausible Carrie would end up in Moscow. After all, she has nowhere left to run, so she might as well use it. She’s got nothing left back home. No Quinn or Max. No Saul. No Frannie. No career. She’s lost everything for her country. She could never justify her actions enough to retain her freedom. Plus, she would enjoy the intrigue. Going to Russia and becoming a double agent was the only play left to get back what she really loved: America and the post 9/11 redemption her character sought.

Would the Russians and Yevgeny really trust Carrie enough to let her in on all their deepest secrets, though? Sure, she wrote a book. Would they trust Snowden?

One almost wonders if Carrie wanted to end up in Moscow because of lingering emotional ties to Yevgeny from whatever happened during captivity and just needed a reason to do it. This way she gets both. Yevgeny and Saul. Yevgeny is the new Nicholas Brody, the man she’s not allowed to love but does anyway. Maybe.

All that aside, even though this is supposedly the final season ever, who isn’t dying for another season to watch Carrie navigate the intrigues of Moscow and being a double agent? There are so many interesting emotional entanglements to work through. For example, are her feelings for Yevgeny real? How does she square them against her treachery? She’s betrayed her country and abandoned her friends and daughter, and now she’s betraying her new country, so where does that leave her? Back to square one, it appears, with her bond with Saul the only constant and the end justifying the means if it’s to America’s ultimate benefit. It would be so interesting to watch that unfold. How brilliant: Yevgeny thinks he’s turned her, but she’s just using him, spy vs. spy. Or is she? I’d like to watch that. How about you? One can hope anyway.

READ NEXT: Will There Be Another Season of Homeland?

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