There was a moment while watching Homeland episode 5.12, A False Glimmer, when Professor Spouse turned to me and said, “I like how they do a quiet, wrap-up, episode for the finale.” And then there was the moment when you realized that it cannot wrap up, that there is no peace to be had, because the forces of evil won against the forces of evil.
Let’s enumerate: The final moments of the aborted terror attack in the U-Bahn once again demanded that anti-Muslim prejudice be turned on its head, as Qasim ends up being a reluctant hero, hoping that Allah will give him the words to turn his cousin’s goal of mass murder aside, and sacrificing his own life in the process. In the end, Carrie Mathison recognized his goodness, and there’s a moment—just a moment—when you think there’s a kind of good guys win vibe going on.
But by the time we get to Laura’s appearance on TV, condemning an innocent man, a tragic man, a man with a family, as a terrorist—well, all that goes out the window. (Like Faisal. Ew.) Astrid, our strong, interesting, woman with a soft spot for Quinn, Astrid engineered that.
Saul Berenson said he wanted Allison punished. Instead, he oversaw her riddled with bullets in the trunk of a car. Not exactly punishment as I understand it. Meanwhile Ivan, an actual bad guy, the kind who had Numan’s friend, and his friend’s girlfriend, brutally murdered, that guy gets Saul’s admiration and the rest of his life on ski vacation. Whoopee.
Jonas, another supposed good guy, rejects Carrie even knowing she saved thousands of lives. Rejects her because it’s too scary to be around someone who could do that. Otto Düring, another supposed good guy, lied to Jonas and arguably drove him from Carrie, and for what? Turns out, just for love. I hope, if they bring him back next season, he turns out to be a villain. Because if that’s the kind of dishonest shit he’d pull against a romantic rival, I don’t want to know what kind of dirt he’d do to “make the world a better place”. Dump him hard, Carrie.
Quinn, an actual good guy—you know, an assassin, a real James Bond type, recruited from a foster home, just as James Bond was recruited as a young orphan—Quinn ends up with irreversible brain damage. And for what? They woke him from his coma because he had information that could save the city. Except he was unable to convey the info, and then it turned out they didn’t need him anyway; Carrie figured it out when she found Qasim’s apartment. So Quinn died for absolutely nothing.
Died? Yeah. Because Carrie, who didn’t want to be that person anymore, Carrie, who found a capacity to love, and found God, and found comfort in prayer, Carrie killed Quinn to release him from the prison of minimal consciousness. As God’s light shone into the room (and we know it’s God’s light because she saw it earlier, in the chapel, when she induced a trance state by pressing on her wounds hard enough to cause blinding, mind-altering pain), Carrie leaned in to murder Quinn. And finis—end of season.
It was Laura condemning Faisal, though, that made the whole thing coalesce. This isn’t about fighting terrorism, and it isn’t about freedom. It’s about how wrong we all are, all the time, how compromised. How no one is on the side of the angels, and there’s no point to any of it. Yes, Carrie saved thousands of lives, and that was beautiful. She did so leaving a trail of pointless bodies behind her. Remember that sweet guy in Amsterdam? Yeah, he got very dead.
The sense of pointlessness was profound. Not in a way that condemns Homeland, either. The show is smarter than you may notice, watching it. With the guns and the conspiracies and the spies and the foot chases and the occasional explosion, it can be hard to remember that you’re watching something with some real smarts. Not necessarily smarts in the sense of an absence of plot holes—there are often more than enough. Smart in the sense of thinking about what it actually means. And the answers are really, truly uncomfortable.