Five Essay Prompts for Homeland: Season 2 Finale, ‘The Choice’

Is THIS a metaphor?? (Showtime)

Is THIS a metaphor?? (Showtime)

These questions regard the second season finale of Showtime’s Homeland. Please answer the prompts with specific examples from SUNDAY’S EPISODE, though supplementary material will be accepted as a secondary source. Please write legibly. No. 2 pencils only. You have an hour to finish this test. See below for questions and sample responses.

1. Whoa, that was pretty heavy? Did you see that coming? BE HONEST.


Yes, it was pretty heavy, to say the least. Watching Saul say kaddish pretty much ruined me. And honestly no, I didn’t see that coming. I knew two things going in: that there would be some kind of twist (because it was a highly anticipated finale on a show that relies on twists), and that it would end with either Brody or Carrie or both implicated in whatever happened (because it needed to set up some tension or suspense for next season).

As for how it happened, it certainly was surprising, but it also didn’t blow me away (pun intended). In the aftermath of the explosion, Brody says that Nazir “played us from the beginning,” but that doesn’t seem that shocking, or comprise a particularly satisfying explanation. Without knowing how it was done–who put the explosives in Brody’s car, and when?–all we know is that there was some kind of plot. Of course, unraveling these strands will be a major plot point next season, for which we are left in panting suspense, and so good job on that level, writers. But the twist in this finale just didn’t seem particularly “twisty.” Everyone acted pretty much the way we expected them to, given the circumstances (well except for Quinn, but that is a whole ‘nother can of worms, because his actions made no sense in any context); nobody turned out to be something or somebody unexpected. I wanted my mind to be blown, and it wasn’t.

2. God, Carrie and Brody were mopey this episode. For a show that hinged on a Grecian level of dramatic irony–we all knew SOMETHING bad was going to happen–the characters didn’t act that thrilled by the calm before the storm. Traditionally, an epic tragedy is preceded by a happy occasion…a party, a new love, the feeling that things are finally going to turn out okay. Which (as you predicted) lead to her suddenly going stir-crazy and questioning her feelings toward Brody. Is it possible that barring the explosion, the two would have actually “made it”? Or did that bomb do the best thing possible for their relationship by making it impossible to be “easy”…a word that obviously made Carrie’s teeth clench when she and Brody first went to the cabin.

I know that trying to figure out the intentions of the author(s) of a story is a mug’s game (not to mention a fallacy, as the New Critics taught us). But for the last several episodes, I confess, the relationship between Brody and Carrie has had me relentlessly trying to figure out what the show’s writers can be thinking. Can it be that they think this really is a love for the ages, a real, true, all-consuming and abiding attachment? They certainly seem to keep suggesting as much, and never more so than in this episode. But all the while, there have also been hints that this is really a passion born of tension and excitement, that will necessarily fizzle in its absence: that gritting of Carrie’s teeth, Brody picking up the gun, Brody momentarily seeming to put his fingers around Carrie’s neck as they say goodbye, and the weird language of surrender he uses to speak about her love (“You gave it up to me”). At this point I don’t know, but I do think it is important not to forget that Carrie is a very sick woman, and apparently unmedicated at this point. And of course her disorder provides an important metaphor for her relationship with Brody: as long as there is a crisis to channel her passions, all seems well. But leave her alone with her quiet thoughts and the demons attack.

3. The “How stupid do you think we are??” visual metaphor of the week: Brody showing off previously unknown skill of being able to LITERALLY juggle, the Carrie/Chekhov’s gun still loaded in the cabin, or Saul’s drinking the milk left by Estes? (Just kidding: The last one is the Saul’s Mourners’ Kaddish over the room full of dead bodies juxtaposed with the recitation of the Salat al-Janazah on the boat before dumping Abu Nazir’s body.)

Or how about Jessica braiding Dana’s hair, or Brody paying for a beer with Mike that he never drinks, or any one of a thousand other images that telegraph a major theme. It has gotten a little out of hand, as if the show doesn’t trust us to get the point but has to use italics and underlining to put it across.

The juggling was pretty clever, though, not for the metaphor, but for the opportunity it gives Brody to say that he’s funny. Because it makes you consider and realize, no Brody, you’re a lot of things, but you’re not a funny guy. (And Homeland is a lot of things, but it isn’t a funny show, even in its lighter moments.) That lack of an honest self-image is an important part of Brody’s character. He thinks he’s this one guy, but he’s totally some other guy.

4.  Some people (like my dad) have posited that it doesn’t even matter who the mole/terrorist is at this point. That options are dwindling: We’re left with Estes (in a kamikaze move to prove to the world what Brody was, plus he was certainly acting like a man about to die, making his amends to Saul); someone from the Brody family (oh god let it be Dana, PLEASE let it be Dana); Saul or Saul’s wife; Quinn (he was at the the tailor’s with the C4); Brody (*said in best Batman voice* “DO YOU TRUST HIM??”) and everyone’s favorite wild card….Galvez (even the show runners want you to think it’s him!) Make a convincing argument for the character you LEAST believe responsible, because at this point, it’s probably them.

You forgot the best option out there: Mike. It’s not him, obviously, as he’d have been acting against his own best interest this entire season. But imagine the possibilities. We already know Nazir liked to cultivate past friends/squadmates as unwitting co-spies, and who better to keep an eye on Brody than the guy who is sleeping with his wife? Plus he’s a high-ranking something in some department or another, and we know how much Nazir loves his high-level clearances.

My money is still on Quinn, by the way, as it is the only thing that could possibly make his failure to shoot Brody make even the remotest sense. But there is a part of me that wishes it could be Saul, as that would be a truly amazing twist. And witnesses he questions do have a weird habit of ending up dead.

5. Consider the phrase “Point of no return” in its various forms and meanings: Crossing the Rubicon; an Event Horizon; fait accompli; the one proposed in the titular fourth season Battlestar Galactica episode; the concept of liminality; the Tree of Life (which can be interpreted as the threshold between life and death), etc. Has Brody reached any of these “points,” and if so, which ones?

At least in Brody’s head, there is no such thing as a point of no return. As he has shown us again and again, he is a creature of borderlines, of limnality. Muslims pray five times a day, and yet we always see Brody praying the fajr, the dawn prayer, on the border between night and day. He doesn’t always seem to know his own mind, and so may be suffering from some form of borderline personality disorder as well.

There is no line for Brody that cannot be crossed in both directions. He has gone farther into the darkness than most people can imagine, and yet he still finds ways of crossing back into (what he considers) the light. The idea that there is a line that he can cross and not come back from seems entirely alien to him at this point. That, more than anything else, is why he didn’t blow himself up last season: death is a line he can’t comprehend.

Ironically, this is what makes him not really a terrorist. There is a certain impulse of non-return in the terrorist mind-set that he simply does not have. Nazir can make his own death the pivot of his plot. Brody can only make his survival and his return the center of his life.

And even though Brody has crossed some sort of line at the end of this season (while crossing a literal border), Carrie going back to clear his name indicates that he, like the show, will somehow be able to return.