TV Recap: Homeland, ‘The Star’ (Season 3 Finale)

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Now that’s how you end a series.

But is it really how you end a season?

Homeland’s season three finale, titled ‘The Star,’ was a terrific, emotionally-wrought episode. However, as we faded to black, concluding this long and winding road of a season, we’re left with a lot of questions. They were ones we weren’t expected to be asking ourselves, in particular, can this series go on anymore?

Tonight, we were left with two major characters departing the series — Saul Berensen (Mandy Patinkin), who officially retired from the CIA and Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), who was publicly executed in Tehran. These two, along with Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), have been the driving force of this critically acclaimed drama. Now, both are gone, one forever and another, who knows.

The decision to eliminate Nicholas Brody was a choice the creators of the series had to make. The character has gone through so much both in terms of emotions and storyline that there was literally nothing more they could do with him but kill him off. However, in pure Homeland fashion, we were left guessing throughout the episode whether they (the writers) would actually go through with it. Homeland has always kept us on our toes and when it comes to Brody, they always find a way, a logical way, to get him out of whatever jam he’s found himself in. Throughout the episode you kept thinking they’d save him, that there’d be some last second miracle. Yet, simultaneously you knew this had to be done, that for the sake of the character (within the show) and for the sake of the show, he had to be ended. Had Brody somehow escaped, unpunished or even held captive during the fourth season, it would’ve really been a knockout blow to the series. This was a character that you could not go any further with. So, the series took a massive risk, and killed off its leading man.

Of course, the death of Brody allowed for a constant deluge of “Carrie Cry Face” which has become quite the popular meme these days. We can poke fun at 90% of Claire Danes crying scenes in the series, but when she climbs the fence in the town square, tears streaming down her face, screaming Brody’s name, you can’t make a joke. This is a serious, tragic and terrible moment executed to tear-swelling perfection.

The actual hanging scene itself, done void of music, is a chilling scene. The silence is deafening — it’s uncomfortable, it’s painful and just accentuates the sheer brutality of the execution. The deliberate pace of the crane which raised Despite the harrowing nature of scene it masterfully done and hands down, the most emotional in Homeland’s run.

However, the epilogue of the episode, felt a bit awkward. It came off like a guest who won’t leave after a big party. Yes, we had fun on the night, but it’s time to go home already. Instead, there was this really uncomfortable not sure when to say goodbye feeling. Everything that happened in this part of the episode, while relevant to Season 4, just didn’t feel as important or as impactful as it should.

In it, we’re saying farewell (maybe?) to Saul Berensen, a move that we should’ve seen coming, but got lost in the shuffle of all the drama and intrigue of his operation in Iran with Javadi and Brody. Seeing Saul confidently and contently walk out of the CIA after the commemoration ceremony was a complete WTF moment. Yes, that sounds very crude and unprofessional, but it summarizes my feelings perfectly. With a wrinkled brow and a befuddled look in my eyes, this reviewer couldn’t believe that the series was now letting go of another lead character. It seemed to have come out of nowhere or did it?

It makes sense for Saul to go, what more could he do? He was running the CIA — would we expect him to become Lockhart’s new lackey? Would we expect him to continue the same role of Carrie’s protector/confidant? Saul (the character) pushed all his chips to the center of the table and when he (eventually) won, he cashed out. We probably should’ve seen this coming, but the Brody storyline completely dominated our thoughts. His farewell seemed a little too matter of fact for a main character.

Then, there’s Carrie, now assigned to run the Javadi operation of Turkey and a month away from giving birth. Carrie is an even bigger wreck than ever. The whole situation with her wanting to give away her baby and fighting with her family about it seemed anticlimactic, especially since we just saw Brody strung up and killed. One thought was that Carrie would give The Brodys her new baby, almost as a peace offering for everything that happened and as a replacement for Dana. But, it looks like she might keep it? That whole situation remains an unresolved mess.

But, as we fade to black, one has to wonder, where does Homeland go from here? In going with the British-style of television programming, this makes for a perfect ending for the series. Brody atones for his sins, Saul victoriously walks away and Carrie is back to jumping in the deep end. Instead, we’re looking at a fourth season that finds us without Saul or Brody and Carrie with a new, to-be-determined team (Quinn will come along for sure) and a baby. Can a Carrie-centric Homeland work? Can this show, which was based on the unique premise of a POW turned terrorist, work without it’s main subject? One has to think if the show does go on, (and the fourth season renewal wasn’t a publicity stunt), will be any good? Sure, Carrie’s a great character, but can we even call this series Homeland anymore? Then again, going back to the example of British television, how many times have we seen cast turnovers like this? It’s the hallmark of Doctor Who after all, why can’t it work here?

Homeland’s third season ended, in my opinion, when Nicholas Brody died, the rest is just an epilogue, a teaser trailer for the fourth season. If we end the show at Brody’s death, “The Star” is a brutally amazing episode. If we include the epilogue in the conversation, “The Star” was a good episode mired with way too many questions.

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites

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