Thoughts On Homeland Finale

Caution: Spoilers ahead, don't read if you haven't watched the Homeland finale.

Season 5 of Homeland wrapped up last night. I think this Variety recap is the best.

For me, it was an okay season, but not one of the best. There were too many subplots going on in each episode, I never felt like I had a grasp of what was happening. [More...]

Part of that may be my fault. The show's audio is horrible on my TV's (a Sony and a Sharp.) It's the only show I watch I can't make out what is being said more than half the time. One week I turned on close captioning. (Since no one else has written about this to my knowledge, I assume it's the fault of my TV, or my settings, not a Homeland problem. Although I do have a friend who has had the same problem. )

That said, I also found the multiple plot lines confusing to follow without reading a review of the episode after I had watched it to figure out what was happening.

I thought some were too complicated and others were too banal and stereotypical. Examples: I had trouble following the Russian/Allison double agent subplot until the end. I didn't understand the Israeli subplot.

As for those I didn't care for: I didn't like turning Saul into a caricature of a newly divorced middle aged male, likely to fall for the charms of a younger (and not particularly physically attractive) female agent who of course was using him. (The Variety reviewer aptly describes him as "a vulnerable middle-aged divorcee who lost his killer instincts to his need for canoodling.")

I was totally bored by the sub plot of the expat American blogger-journalist in Berlin and her stereotypical right to privacy tirades. She was so predictable, I could have recited her lines without hearing the audio. She turned Edward Snowden into a caricature -- was he a hero and truth teller or a traitor? The Variety reviewer loved her and thought she should get her own spin-off. I won't be one to watch if shee does. (Her hacker buddy came off as more real than she did, and I liked watching his scenes.)

I thought the subplot involving Carrie and her daughter were too sappy, especially the shooting of that goodbye video. There just weren't enough episodes showing Carrie and her daughter's close relationship to turn her into mother of the year so fast. And let's face it; Same as Good Wife, why do these shows always have to foist irrelevant kids on us when the show is about something else? Homeland is about the U.S. fight against terror. The Good Wife is about a cheated on wife who returns to the workplace and becomes a good lawyer. They can have kids, but there's no need to make them a centerpiece of even one episode.

As for Quinn, I couldn't stand to watch one more scene of him frothing at the mouth or spewing some ugly liquid like a character in a horror movie. Who would live through the first one, let alone two, three or four? For that matter, all of Quinn's physical exploits this season had a cartoon-ish, superhero quality to them that strained credulity. Shoot him, stab him, hang him up, fill him with gas -- he would still land on his feet and take the offensive. His scenes were so overblown that I had a hard time crediting any of them.

Maybe I was less convinced than others by the sudden devotion at the end because I never found his and Carrie's romantic relationship believable in the first place. I still don't think she was romantically in love with him, it was more like a one-sided appreciated crush -- he was fixated on her and she took comfort in knowing he was there to watch her back.

Quinn's best scenes from a character standpoint to me were those from a past season, with the overweight woman he wasn't ashamed to have an affair with and violently defended. His best trait was his unwavering loyalty to his principles and those he cared about.

I also found the scenes about whether Carrie should take her meds unnecessary, evoking a "been there, done that" reaction.

With all these criticisms, was there anything I liked about Homeland this season? Yes. I liked the plot about Carrie and her German boyfriend (minus the daughter. His connection to Carrie's daughter was more credible than Carrie's connection to her -- they never worked for me as a cohesive threesome.) What really stuck with me was the scene where his son was kidnapped and he calls Carrie out for being completely non-sensitive to it. At that moment, I realized they would never get back together.

I liked the female German officer (especially when she got the better of the cliche-spouting journalist). I liked CIA double agent Allison's Russian sidekick. I liked the plot of the sarin bomb and Carrie in the finale (in her typical superhero mode) stopping it at the last minute by running down a railroad track in the darkness firing her gun. I liked Carrie's compassion toward the reluctant jihadi who let her stop the attack.

In a nutshell, I think the best part of the season was Carrie -- her rawness was expertly written and played. The reviewer for Variety says it better than I could:

But in this episode in particular, it’s the work turned in by Claire Danes, who never ceases to impress with her dexterity, that makes the whole thing tick. There is not a glamour shot in the episode. Carrie is shot to look like hell — lines and crevices on her face, blotchy skin, eyes sunk into dark circles and tangled hair. Even when she’s wearing Jonas’ sweatshirt and little else, she doesn’t come off as a sexy so much as scattered and desperate.

(I would just have added the unattractiveness of her slumped posture, her overbite, her trembling chin and her masculine gait to that description. Props to Claire Danes for agreeing to be shot like that all season.)

As for those saying the season ended on a suspenseful note, I don't get that. I thought this finale wrapped up every conceivable plot line -- Quinn is dead (you shouldn't need an autopsy to know that -- the bathing white light when his spirit went out and Carrie pulling the plug off his fluids or whatever she was pulling showed that); double agent Allison is dead, shot up like swiss cheese in the trunk of a car; Saul is pitiful, begging for Carrie to return to work for him; the German industrialist makes a most unromantic offer of a romantic relationship to Carrie; the terrorist plot failed; the German boyfriend dumps her after makeup sex. The show is called Homeland because it's about the U.S. fight against terror. Unless they are going to kill off Clair Danes, she'll be back working for the Government at some point in Season 6. The show isn't going to morph into a show about Carrie raising her daughter. That's called a spin-off. So what was left unresolved?

I also don't understand the reviewers calling the show "prescient" about ISIS. Where have they been for the last year a half? ISIS has been in the news daily since at least June, 2014 when al-Baghdadi declared his Caliphate. The U.S. began airstrikes in early August 2014, which ISIS claimed led to the beheading later in the month of James Foley. ISIS was an obvious theme people would connect to by the time writers began scripting Season 5. The director recently explained:

Every season we reinvent the wheel. We have a series of meetings — myself, the writers, Claire (Danes) and Mandy (Patinkin) — with an incredible variety of intelligence experts in Washington. And we get this amazing series of seminars on what’s going on the world. Obviously no one’s talking about what’s classified.

(Showrunner) Alex Gansa starts off the conversation with what keeps you up at night, what’s your biggest nightmare. The things that became the key topics in this last session [when we met] last January were Putin, ISIS and all the issues around privacy and how’s that’s impacted security.

The director says the finale of Homeland filmed during and after the Paris attacks.

I was in the middle of shooting the season finale when (the attacks on) Paris happened. We were shooting in the subway tunnel under the Reichstag.

How did it feel to film there after the Paris attacks?

It was very intense. Sometimes when you’re reading the news, it can feel very distant. This felt very up close and personal. We were in another European capital. I felt it personally, having lived in Paris for three years. It’s a city I love. Sadly, it could have been anywhere. And that’s very sobering.

In other words, ISIS was a no-brainer for Homeland this season.

Is there such a thing as a terrorist with redemptive qualities? If so, no one, including me, is going to admit it in today's climate. But I do think it's okay to give Homeland props for giving us some unforgettable terrorists, like the one who turned Nicholas Brody and this guy. I hope Season 6 puts the focus back on terrorism and less on Carrie's personal life, reduces the number of plot lines, and skips the ones that have already turned into cliches.

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  • Display: Sort:
    the climate is irrelevant (none / 0) (#1)
    by nyjets on Mon Dec 21, 2015 at 07:03:37 AM EST
    'Is there such a thing as a terrorist with redemptive qualities? If so, no one, including me, is going to admit it in today's climate. '

    Honestly the climate is irrelevant. There is no such think as a terrorist with redemptive qualities. The climate does not matter. A person can not change there basic nature or for that matter undo their acts or actions.

    'Terrorism' is both relative & subjective. (none / 0) (#4)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Mon Dec 21, 2015 at 01:33:41 PM EST
    nyjets: "Honestly the climate is irrelevant. There is no such [thing] as a terrorist with redemptive qualities. The climate does not matter. A person can not change there basic nature or for that matter undo their acts or actions."

    It's a euphemism for a form of asymmetrical warfare between belligerents of significantly differing strength, usually a standing professional military force and an insurgency / resistance movement. The term "terrorist(s)" is generally imposed upon the latter by the former, as a means to delegitimize and criminalize the latter's efforts in combatting the former. But truth be told, the waging of war itself is inherently terroristic in nature.

    South African President Nelson Mandela was once a terrorist, when he headed the African National Congress prior to his arrest by the white Apartheid government. If fact, he was also designated a terrorist by no less than our own U.S. Dept. of Defense during the Cold War, and he remained as such until 2008, when President George W. Bush finally ordered that Mandela's name be officially stricken from the Pentagon's terrorism watch list.

    As a leader of the Jewish paramilitary group Irgun in British-ruled Palestine during the 1940s, the late Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin was responsible for both the bombing of Jerusalem's King David Hotel, which killed 97 people, and the massacre at Deir Yassin, in which 107 unarmed Palestinian villagers were ruthlessly slaughtered. As such, he was also considered a terrorist.

    And the late Michael Collins, the father of the Irish Republican Army, was such an effective terrorist that the British government placed a £10,000 bounty -- the equivalent of £300,000 in today's currency -- upon his head. He later became Chairman of the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State, once that country obtained its independence from Great Britain in 1922, and was himself assassinated the following year by members of the very organization he once founded, after they had refused his orders to stand down and disarm.

    Are you really prepared to argue that none of these men had any redemptive qualities, or that they never changed during the course of their respective lifetimes?



    2 points (none / 0) (#5)
    by nyjets on Mon Dec 21, 2015 at 01:41:33 PM EST
    I have never nor will ever accept the notion that terrorism is subjective. For most people, a terrorist act should be obvious.
    For that reason, I would never accept Nelson Mandela as a terrorist in the first place.
    As far as the conflict between Israel and the Palestine, in all honestly, I consider both sides to be terrorists. Both sides have massacred each other and committed vile terrorist acts. Therefore, as far as I am concerned the late Prime Minister of Israel should be only be remembered as a terrorist (I also hate to say it, but I have a strong feeling that most of the US leaders also have to be considered terrorist as well. What we did to that hospital alone puts us in the category.)
    I will be honest, I am ignorant of Michael Collins. But what I was able to skim read , like Mandela, he was never a terrorist in any sense of the word.
    So yes, I will argue that true terrorist have no redemptive value.

    ... about Collins and his role in the Irish War of Independence (1916-21), as a good start I would recommend director Neil Jordan's underappreciated 1996 biographical epic "Michael Collins." Well written, sweeping in scope, beautifully shot and choreographed, it's a pretty accurate and often gritty recounting of those terribly turbulent times, and Liam Neeson in the title role gives what's arguably the best performance of his career. (It also helps that the then-younger Neeson actually bears a somewhat uncanny resemblance to the now-celebrated Irish nationalist and patriot.)

    Collins' brilliantly conceived "Domhnach na Fola" ("Bloody Sunday") attacks of November 21, 1920 -- which Jordan recreates for the film -- neatly and effectively decapitated the entirety of British counter-intelligence capabilities in Ireland. Working from relevant information that he obtained from a mole in Dublin Castle, Collins dispatched IRA gunmen to select addresses across Dublin simultaneously, who then assassinated within minutes of one another all ten British officers who constituted the Royal Army's feared "Cairo Gang," a Royal Irish Constabulary officer, two senior members of the Auxiliary Division (the notorious "Black and Tans"), and a suspected civilian informant, while wounding another five.

    While Collins' men actually nailed only one-third of those on their hit list that day, his point was nevertheless made loud and clear to Whitehall in London. The British sought negotiations with Sinn Fein to end the guerrilla war, which led to the truce in July 1921 and eventual restoration of Irish independence, save for the six counties up north which constitute present-day Northern Ireland.



    The thread is about Homeland (none / 0) (#11)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Dec 21, 2015 at 09:29:34 PM EST
    Please take your off topic comments to an open thread.

    With all due respect, Jeralyn, ... (none / 0) (#12)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Tue Dec 22, 2015 at 11:30:41 AM EST
    ... you're the one who posed the question in this very thread, "Is there such a thing as a terrorist with redemptive qualities?"

    And I answered that. Yes, there is such a thing. And the names of two such individuals are Nelson Mandela and Michael Collins.

    As far as "Homeland" itself is concerned, while it's a good TV show, it's also fiction. And any terrorist with redemptive qualities on that show is no more real than the hooker with a heart of gold from "L.A. Confidential."



    nyjets: "I will be honest, I am ignorant of Michael Collins. But what I was able to skim read , like Mandela, he was never a terrorist in any sense of the word. So yes, I will argue that true terrorist have no redemptive value."

    ... that "terrorism" is both relative and subjective, because you are entirely willing to apply the term "terrorist" selectively in any given situation, as you might personally see fit.

    Because what exactly is a "true terrorist," if not a subjective term? Truth, after all, can be quite relative, and in fact we often conflate the term "truth" with our most unyielding and inflexible personal opinions. Therefore, we both have "truths." Are they necessarily to be considered one and the same? I certainly don't think so and neither, I believe, do you.

    By his own admission, Nelson Mandela was a terrorist in his early years. And as the world later bore witness, his evolution from terrorist to statesman allowed him to become arguably one of the most truly magnanimous and inspirational leaders of the pan-African anti-colonial movement in the 20th century.

    The entirety of Mandela's life, as well as that of Irish leader Michael Collins, undermines your premise that people who engage in or have committed terrorist acts cannot and will not be changed by their experiences over the course of a lifetime of experience. Because for that be "true," you would then be required to redefine subjectively who is and is not to be henceforth considered a terrorist.

    On May 31, 1986, President Ronald Reagan addressed the nation via radio on the subject of terrorism. Widely applauded at the time his speech was first delivered, Reagan's rhetoric today appears entirely dated, hypocritical and self-serving, given the actual extent of his administration's then-current and proactive support for not only the violent Contra movement in Nicaragua and accompanying arms deal with Iran, but also Apartheid South Africa, which by the 1980s had clearly become a rogue terrorist regime in its own right. (How else to characterize its security forces' wanton massacre of over 700 unarmed Xhosa and Zulu students at Soweto in June 1976?) Reagan simply rationalized his definition of terrorism by exempting his own self-perceived allies and friends from its application.

    That said, I am certainly open to arguments regarding the classification of specific wartime acts as criminal, particularly if they constitute crimes against humanity. After all, terrorism only becomes patriotism in retrospect if its underlying political motivations prove successful. And the failure of such political movements is more often than not due to an insufficient base of popular support.

    But speaking as someone who lost his own father in early 1964 to an act of terror by the Viet Cong in downtown Saigon, I think it's both unwise and irresponsible for our country's leaders to lock the U.S. into a fixed position on the subject of terrorism through their own bellicose rhetoric and acts, and thus greatly hamper -- if not altogether preclude -- our country's ability and capacity to seek peace through negotiation with our adversaries, for fear of appearing weak and vacillating.



    I have to respeciful disagree (none / 0) (#7)
    by nyjets on Mon Dec 21, 2015 at 04:16:51 PM EST
    Terrorism is not subjective.
    Genuine military action, attacking a country military force is legitimate military action.
    Blowing up civilians is terrorism (Paris and California and the Planned Parenthood attack).
    Hence I hate to admit it, the actions of our military in Afghanistan, Iraq, and in countless number of countries are examples of terrorism.
    (Honestly, most of our leaders should be tried for war crimes. )
    I have NEVER accepted the notion that the winners are freedom fighter while the looser are terrorist. IT is obvious which is which. Because some people with this point of view (And I am not saying you, I don't believe you have ever done this. IN fact I believe you also hate all forms of terrorism as well) essentially attempt to justify all acts of terrorism. (Remember Ward Churchill; practically applauding the 9/11 attackers.)

    That being said, you are correct that it might be necessary to negotiate with some terrorism groups, like ISIS if for no other reason as to stop the violence. AS long as we remember what they did. (heck most countries will never forget what we did.)


    I'd agree that acts of terror themselves ... (none / 0) (#9)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Mon Dec 21, 2015 at 04:51:49 PM EST
    ... are not subjective, and most certainly not to the victims. Rather, what IS subjective is how we choose to define "terrorism," and for whom we further choose to apply that term. That is, what's a terrorist to you or me, may be perceived as a patriot and freedom fighter by someone else. Further, those who engage in terrorist acts today may be our friends and allies five or ten years from now, and vice versa.

    And that's my point here. We're looking at the complex issue of "terrorism" through a prism, which really defies and constrains our ability to analyze the concept in purely black-and-white terms. Every situation throughout the world is unique unto itself, and therefore doesn't necessarily align with such simple and rote classifications as we might otherwise desire. And such individual situations can and do evolve at their own pace and time, sometimes markedly so, as will their human participants.



    I agree with your assessment J (none / 0) (#2)
    by ruffian on Mon Dec 21, 2015 at 07:53:23 AM EST
    I've watched all of the seasons and I think this was Clare Danes's best performance. Maybe it is the maturing of both the character and the actor but she lost all of the teenage girl mannerisms that really annoyed me in the past and made it hard to watch.

    I also was really confused...sometimes her boss seemed sinister - I was waiting to hear he was really a bad guy. Maybe he is. They would not throw that marriage proposal (if that is what it was) out there if it was not going to happen in the next season. That would be an interesting twist -she partners up with him and learns he is a spy. Actually, not so interesting - it is Brody all over again. Hmmm.

    And did she go back on her meds at some point? They never showed her taking them, but she got coherent again, so maybe so.

    I wish they had done more with Quinn than making him just a hit man with a crush.

    Regarding the terrorists, maybe they do not have redemptive qualities, but they are people and not machines. The arts force us to confront that fact. If we ever hope to end terrorism we have to deal with the human element - there is no way to just 'carpet bomb' it out of existence.

    I think that her disconnected motherhood (none / 0) (#3)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Dec 21, 2015 at 11:33:26 AM EST
    Is done on purpose. I think it is something that many female CIA officers must deal with, I know female soldiers do. The job asks for so much there isn't enough space for motherhood. We just watched the documentary Spymasters, and an Intel analyst who was working bin Laden before it was cool gives a lot of testimony in it. She talks about how missing the details, failing to connect the dots on your end turns into dead and injured people right in your face. Once an attack has occurred, the analysts can track backwards and if they missed something...well looking at that woman's face you can see that failure consumes them.

    Her first child was born too early, cessarian, on 9/11. I can't even imagine. She was best friends with Jennifer Matthews. Matthews was pregnant with her three children when this CIA analyst had her last three. The CIA analyst has had an amazing five children while serving in the CIA. At the end of her sharing though she admits she is emotionally disconnected from her children, and you see that it hurts her, but what she does in her work life consumes her.

    So I connect with the disconnected parent Carrie. I just see so few parents who have a day job in the WOT who are able to stay emotionally connected to their kids. You really must have a spouse or mate willing to take over all the household and family responsibilities. And they don't mean for it to be that way, it's just how it turns out.

    I loved the the episodes that involved the Berlin station, because that was the episode right after we got home from being in the Berlin train station. It was really cool. We took an ICE train from Stuttgart to Warsaw. I chose to do that because my husband gets really wound up in airports. He doesn't understand trains :) And he did relax. Our connection to Warsaw though was in Berlin. We had several hours going to make the connection, but only 15 minutes coming back. The ICE train from Poland comes in on the lower platform tracks, then you take escalators or lifts to the upper platforms to make connections in Germany. So we reconned the Berlin station well in order to make that 15 minute connection with Josh in a wheelchair. It was interesting to see that they did shoot that episode in the Berlin train station.

    I think the disjointed season reflects our new normal. It is all very scattered in real life too now.

    Allison from Homeland (none / 0) (#10)
    by MKS on Mon Dec 21, 2015 at 07:52:04 PM EST
    The actress portraying Allison also played the wife of Private Bell in Thin Red Line.

    She was seen through the intimate letters she wrote her husband and his sensu*l memory of their being together--beautiful gauzy recollections of their shared se*ual intimacy.  He totally loved her.  And then out of nowhere he gets a Dear John letter.  He is stunned and disoriented.  In her letter, she is shown to be remarkably shallow.

    The actress who played Allison is very good at playing ice cold women who manipulate men.