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23rd December 2012 22:40:00
Posted by Nick Bryan

Homeland: 2.12 - The Choice

Review of Homeland: The Choice from Showtime and Channel 4, starring Damian Lewis and Claire Danes.
During last week's episode, Homeland implemented the always-amusing strategy of finishing off their main bad guy early, leaving us to wonder how on earth they would fill out this extra-long space of time we'd put aside for their finale. Would they cancel the entire thing, so Carrie and Brody could go for a romantic picnic? Isn't that a bit rude?

Well, that's not entirely wrong. Time to review a very strange episode, and believe me, better to experience it yourself on 4OD before I spoil you.

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Homeland - Touching Romantic Drama?

From the final scene of the previous episode, you'd think this week would be entirely about Brody evading assassin Quinn, probably with Carrie's help, until they can strike back at Estes for sending him. And, well, you'd be wrong about that, since Quinn helpfully takes himself off the field without the Golden Couple even realising he was in play. Quinn, rather unsettlingly, breaks into Estes's bedroom to declare he's not going to kill Brody because his conscience won't allow it. Fair enough, although he seems quite an inefficient assassin, and it would also have been nice if they'd set up his reluctance in previous scenes.

But with that tension entirely happening elsewhere, we're left with about half the episode devoted to Carrie and Brody taking some time alone in her cabin. I guess this is Homeland so the idea is we're waiting for something to go wrong - and, of course, it eventually does - but that segment of the episode really did drag on. Maybe it would've been better to keep the finale normal-length, so they didn't need to use the extra time on that. Sorry, but I'm not so invested in the Carrie/Brody relationship that them making gooey eyes at each other is enough to entertain me.

Elsewhere in the first half, a few asides, including Saul getting out of prison and Brody having a revealing chat with Dana about recent events. Yes, her hit-and-run storyline dragged, but Morgan Saylor is a decent actress and she always does well in plot-relevant spotlight scenes. Still, without the looming threat of terror, this show seems rather slow - a timely reminder that Homeland would make a terrible soap.

I Don't Feel Bad Waiting For A Massacre

But then, at long last, everything turns to shit when a memorial for the Vice-President blows up, killing huge numbers of CIA employees, including poor old Estes. I wasn't baying as loudly for Estes to die as I was Abu Nazir, but his ambiguous boss act has been going for a while, so good of them to terminate before I grew bored. It's uncertain whether there are any other fatalities we care about - Virgil and Max? Danny? Quinn? - but it's made quite clear that Saul is in line for a big promotion. You'd think his recent troubles with the boss would prevent this, but I suppose there isn't a wide pool of applicants after that massacre.

More relevantly to the plot, the bomb was in Brody's car, and to make matters worse, someone leaks Brody's pre-suicide tape to the media. So he's pretty screwed and Carrie packs him off on the run, in a flurry of fake passports. Surely no fake passport would disguise the fact that Brody is a national celebrity? Perhaps he's going to grow an enormous beard.

And then there's another huge romantic send-off. To be honest, this show was more my cup of tea when we weren't sure if Carrie and Brody were using each other or not - now that they're sincerely in love and speaking in sonnets, I'm starting to find their shared scenes a bit dull. Is this because I'm a horrible cynic?

Like A Shark Or S Club 7, Homeland Can't Stop Moving

Anyway, as that runthrough might've established, there are a lot of holes in this Homeland finale, and the first half moves so slowly that it's hard to give them a pass just for being entertaining. Don't get me wrong, I was okay again once the explosions and action started, but they need to either keep those going or learn to do interesting dialogue. And what does this mean for the third year? Will the new slimline CIA of only Saul and Carrie get a new villain to investigate? Will Brody going on the run take him off the show for a while? (I hope so, but doubt it.)

They've come out and said that next year should be a smaller scale story with less ludicrous 24-style plot gymnastics, and if they can make themselves do that, I'd like to see it, especially a big co-investigation between Saul and Carrie. Make it happen, writers. In the meantime, what did you think of all this? Happy? Excited? Whole show totally jumped the shark?

Homeland is now over, alas. More details on Channel 4 site. Recent episodes on 4OD. Let the bells ring out for Christmas.

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