Sunday night marked the end of a pivotal fourth season of Homeland, and with it, an assessment of how the series is holding up.
The show has certainly come a long way since its divisive Season 3 finale that saw the death of Nicholas Brody, virtually hitting the reset button on the Emmy-winning Showtime drama. What's more, many viewers questioned their allegiance to the program following that 2013 finale, since so many of the Season 1, 2 and 3 arcs were built upon the relationship between Brody and CIA operative Carrie Mathison.
With Brody now gone from the show, many fans wondered if Homeland could subsist on Carrie alone.
Season 4 of the drama, however, turned out to be a major coup — Showtime execs had long said that Homeland was intended, ultimately, to be a CIA thriller following Carrie Mathison as an operative, and Season 4 delivered on that promise with several nail-biting episodes and some of the most superb pacing on television this year.
With that in mind, “Long Time Coming” offered an almost jarring tonal shift from the season’s previous episodes. The twisty, Islamabad-set episodes were replaced with slower-moving plot lines in “Coming,” and the final scene offered more a meditation on what’s coming next for Carrie Mathison, instead of the jaw-dropping shockers we've been spoiled by throughout this season.
Much of “Coming” is centered around the funeral of Carrie’s father, who died abruptly in his sleep. Carrie has returned home from her time in Pakistan, which she refers to as “horrible” following Haqqani's brutal attack on the U.S. Embassy. Dar Adal shows up at Carrie’s family home, asking if Carrie has had contact with Quinn. Carrie has not, and also does not reveal that the last time she saw Dar Adal he was in the backseat of Haqqani’s car in Islamabad. Haqqani, we learn, is untouchable right now, protected by the Pakistani Armed Forces. It’s yet another reminder of how much the Americans failed in their mission to take down the wanted terrorist, and how much Carrie has lost.
As can often happen in times of mourning, an unexpected face shows up in Carrie’s life — her mother. Carrie’s mom had disappeared from the family 15 years ago, and Carrie is in no way ready to let the woman back into her life.
“You haven’t been here for 15 years,” Carrie snaps at her mother, while her sister tries to mediate in vain. “You don’t get to play grieving wife all of a sudden.” Carrie refuses to let her mother see Franny, and eventually her mom sees herself out.
With Lockhart about to hand in his resignation letter as head of the CIA, Saul learns from Dar Adal that the CIA wants him back running the org. Saul, however, thinks this cannot happen despite his interest, as a video of him and Haqqani exists out there that would make Saul “persona non grata.” Dar Adal whips out a memory card that, according to him, has the only copy of the Saul-Haqqani video on it. Dar Adal says he struck a deal with Haqqani that included taking Haqqani off the kill list so long as he doesn’t harbor terrorists in Afghanistan — and so long as he hands over the Saul video.
At her father’s funeral, Carrie gives an emotional eulogy and is surprised to see Quinn arrive at the wake — he escaped Pakistan with the help of his German embassy contacts, and at the wake takes a liking to Carrie’s daughter (and vice versa). Saul and Lockhart also attend the wake, and they all tie one on, finally relaxing after a trying time in Islamabad.
By the end of the night, a long-held tension is finally released — Carrie and Quinn make out against Quinn’s car, a romantic connection seen coming from almost a dozen episode miles away. Quinn asks Carrie if she would be willing to leave their line of work with him so that they can have normal lives and be together. Carrie says she will weigh the idea, but is also convinced that she will “just fuck up” any connection they have. In her mind, she's nothing but bad news for Quinn.
Carrie decides to head out of state to find her mom and make amends. But when she arrives at her mother’s home, she’s greeted by a 15-year-old boy who turns out to be Carrie’s half-brother, Tim. Carrie is shocked that her mother uprooted her life with the family and then began another life and raised a son, never coming back to offer an explanation. With that, Carrie realizes it was not her father who pushed her mother away, but her mother’s cheating ways that dissolved the marriage.
“I always thought that being bipolar meant you couldn’t be with people,” Carrie said, because those people will end up leaving you. Her statement references her mother and father’s relationship (Carrie’s father struggled with mental health issues), but also seemed to reference Carrie’s own romantic relationships, including the one she is fighting off with Quinn.
Carrie leaves her mother’s home rather distraught, and tries to phone Quinn. His number, however, has been disconnected — Carrie’s wishy-washiness when it came to leaving the CIA life drove Quinn to accept a dangerous mission with a group of highly trained operatives. The mission, we learn, is also open ended — the men are expected to extract themselves from Syria, or even Iraq, once completed, which could be seen as a death wish. Quinn takes the place of a newbie on the mission, instructing him to handle the letters to loved ones, should any of them die — and Quinn’s letter, we see, is addressed to Carrie.
Carrie is beside herself knowing Quinn has left to go on such a treacherous mission, and shows up at Dar Adal’s place unannounced demanding to be put in touch with Quinn. Dar Adal says he’s not able to, and Carrie pulls out the big guns, threatening to blackmail Dar Adal by telling a major newspaper like the Post that he was riding in the same car as Haqqani in Pakistan. Dar Adal tells Carrie to watch herself, while Carrie asserts that Saul, for one, would spit in Dar Adal’s face for ever making a deal with Haqqani. That is when Dar Adal pulls the rug out from underneath Carrie and opens his patio door — Saul is outside, the deal already done, Saul somehow playing along. Carrie storms out of Dar Adal’s home and goes for a drive with no idea who she can trust.
With that, we are left with several plot threads that the Homeland writers can pick up in Season 5 — Quinn’s mission abroad; his blossoming relationship with Carrie; Dar Adal’s morally gray dealings with Haqqani; Haqqani’s stronghold in Pakistan; Saul’s return to the CIA; Carrie's complicated relationship with her mom.
The setup for rich storytelling is certainly there. But for many, “Long Time Coming” may have been a weak ending to a thrilling season, a slow-moving exploration of Carrie’s complicated and often neglected relationships with a climax make out session that many saw coming (but hoped would never arrive). In a way, one of the most satisfying parts of “Homeland’s” recent run has been its ability to remain compelling without Carrie having an overt love interest. The drama was centered on CIA relationships and operations, and left viewers falling off the edge of their seat without much smoochy-soap. Having Carrie and Quinn fall into a long relationship arc could detract from one of the most complex romances on the show: the one between Carrie and Saul.
Nevertheless, Season 4 of Homeland is powerful proof that a serialized drama can be rebooted without a main character, and not only tread water, but thrive — taken as a whole, we’ve been reminded of what this show is truly capable of, and season five will hopefully be another hell of a ride.
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