Review: 'Homeland' - 'In Memoriam': Abu Nazir slept here
A review of tonight's "Homeland" coming up just as soon as I'm sometimes called The Bear...
"We just went along — one thing to the next. I think maybe this is a time to stop and think." -Jessica
As we head into the end of season 2, "Homeland" seems bound and determined to remind us both of the ways it can be incredibly smart and the ways it can seem incredibly stupid, no?
On the one hand, "In Memoriam" turned Abu Nazir into a horror movie villain (complete with appropriate musical stings from Sean Callery), lurking in the tunnels and popping up only when Carrie and/or her doomed FBI escort least expected it. And the episode somehow expected us to believe that Carrie could avoid any kind of deeper examination of her time in the custody of the world's most wanted terrorist by having her simply tell Quinn that she got lucky in escaping. (No debrief of any kind beyond that?)
On the other hand, "In Memoriam" gave us that fantastic scene between Brody and Jessica, where they finally acknowledged that their marriage was over, and had been for a long time. It gave us Brody's complicated reaction to the news of Nazir's death, and his family's uncertain reaction to him. And it gave us that perfect moment in Carrie's interrogation with Roya where Roya forced Carrie to recognize that anyone who can ascend to this level of importance in Nazir's organization isn't going to be reduced to tears by a few minutes of empathetic conversation. Again and again, when "Homeland" takes a break from moving from one thing to the next to the next and simply stops to think about how these people would actually feel about what's happening around them, it's a great show. But when it's creating the events for them to react to, it's... Nazir as Michael Myers.
And because of that, I feel like next week's season finale could really go either way.
A year ago, "Marine One" was able to sell some implausible plot twists (the vest malfunctions at the critical moment, giving Carrie enough time to get Dana to call her father and talk him out of it) because it was ultimately more concerned with the humanity of it than the "what happens next?" of it.
On paper, there's not a similar sense of urgency going into this finale. Nazir is dead, probably ensuring that Carrie and Brody's secret stays as such. The rest of his cell is in jail. Brody and Jessica are splitsville. Quinn's mission is still hanging out there, as is the tension between Saul and Estes — and if the show wants us to wonder which man will survive this feud, I think we all know it's gonna be the one with the magnificent beard and beautiful singing voice — but we could be heading into "The Wire"/"The Sopranos" territory where the season climaxes in the penultimate episode and the finale is for reflection and cleaning up a few loose plot threads.
The events of the last few episodes make it hard to believe that "Homeland" would just ease off the throttle like that. I guess what it comes down to is what Gansa, Gordon and company have in mind for Nicholas Brody.
By all rights, the show should be just about done with our favorite conflicted ex-Marine. Nazir's dead, and his network is just about shut down. Everyone in the CIA knows what he's about. I know there are theories out there on the Internets — advanced most vocally by Emily Nussbaum — that Brody and Nazir were secretly working together last week, and that he's still working against American interests. Even by "Homeland" standards, this seems far-fetched — after all, he maintained the frightened pose on the call with Nazir last week even long after Carrie was out of earshot — and yet it seems like one of the only ways the show could keep him as an ongoing character, rather than someone who's either going to take a bullet in the head or a bus ticket out of town next week. What's the plan otherwise? Saul voluntarily leaves the CIA, and he, Carrie, Virgil and Brody form a vigilante anti-terror squad?
Okay, I would probably watch that show, with those actors involved. But it wouldn't be "Homeland." Then again, the last several episodes have me uncertain what exactly "Homeland" is — or whether the acting and character work are so great most of the time that it's usually easier than it's been of late to ignore the parts that don't hang together.
At the start of the season, I wrote that it was time to shut up and stop waiting for the creative team to screw up down the line. My concerns about this finale aren't that, because the show has already screwed up — or, at least, done a whole lot of goofy things in a very concentrated period of time. If they stick the landing next week, it won't retroactively make the goofiness go away. But if it's one where everyone involved stops and thinks — and where the show doesn't fall apart because we're thinking about it — it'll make it easier to dwell on all the things "Homeland" does so well until it comes back next fall.
Some other thoughts:
* James Urbaniak returns as genial polygraph expert Larry, but unfortunately doesn't get to stick around to conduct the interview with Saul, replaced by an Estes goon played by Chance Kelly.
* I hope Carrie's mix-up with Galvez was the show's way of acknowledging that, just because we assume there's a mole because of the "24" connection, doesn't mean there actually has to be one for Nazir to pull the stunts he pulls.
* Best example of embracing a cliche: Carrie literally washing the blood off her hands after she told no one about Brody's role in Walden's death, or Dana literally crying (or, at least, throwing a tantrum) over spilled milk?
* Oddly, this episode was called "The Motherf--ker with a Turban" for a very long time. Now, though, "In Memoriam."
* As many others (including Nussbaum and Libby Hill) noted on Twitter, Brody telling Carrie that choosing between her and Walden was no contest isn't really the compliment he wanted it to be, given how much he despised Walden — and how Carrie knows this.
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org