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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

A dense Homeland finale ends season five in an elegiac fashion

Illustration for article titled A dense Homeland finale ends season five in an elegiac fashion

As precise and process-driven as counter-intelligence work is, it’s essentially a faith-based discipline. An officer like Carrie Mathison, back when she was still a company woman, is proactive as she can be about fostering relationships, grooming assets, and sifting through an avalanche of data in search of the tiny speck of information that could prove the crucial difference in thwarting a terror attack. But at the end of the day, she has to catch a break, and she has to hope that break will come in enough time to prove useful. Season five finds Carrie embracing faith in ways she never has before, taking communion in the opening scene of “Separation Anxiety,” and seeking solace in the hospital chapel in “A False Glimmer,” after learning Quinn is a few hours into surgery following a massive and likely fatal stroke. Carrie has put her trust in a higher power because, much as she did after the embassy breach in season four, she has finally accepted that not everything is within her control, and not every tragedy can be averted.

The brief chapel scenes are crucially important to “A False Glimmer” because they help to explain Carrie’s actions throughout the episode and the season, many of which have proven controversial, especially as it relates to Quinn. “Glimmer” leaves the question of Quinn’s fate open just a sliver, though Homeland is far too sophisticated a show to return in season six with a spry Quinn back in the field after having made a miraculous recovery. In all likelihood, Peter Quinn is dead, and Carrie chose to end his suffering after accepting that he chose his fate way back when he first agreed to go to Syria after they returned home from Islamabad. It’s a muted, merciful end for Quinn, who spent over half the season near death after risking his life to save Carrie’s. The writers certainly feinted in a direction suggesting they would eventually try to tie Carrie and Quinn back together, which is bound to infuriate anyone who was most interested in seeing them land in a good place. But Homeland isn’t about Quinn, it’s about Carrie, and “Glimmer” was only in service of figuring out where and in what mental state she’ll be in when the show returns.

When a television show isn’t working, it can be difficult to determine if the story isn’t being told correctly, or if the correct story isn’t being told. “Glimmer” is a challenging episode because after a season full of sound stories being told in an unsound way (see: almost anything involving Quinn or Allison after her capture), this dense finale is well-told but isn’t totally satisfying. Not because it’s executed poorly, but because the only way in which it upends the audience’s expectations is by (probably) killing off the character the audience most wanted to see survive after spending almost an entire season in peril. Because each post-Brody season of Homeland exists somewhat independently of what came before it, each season finale tacitly asks the audience if its onboard for the next season. As was the case with “Long Time Coming,” my answer is a resounding “maybe.”

That wasn’t a reaction I expected to have because of how different a finale “A False Glimmer” is from “Long Time Coming,” which screeched the action to a halt in favor of a quiet character piece about Carrie trying to make peace with her estranged mother. “Glimmer” picks up exactly where “Our Man In Damascus” left off, foregoing the opening credit sequence as Homeland finales always do. Carrie chases Qasim down the darkened train tunnel and tries to convince him to kill Bibi, though Qasim can’t kill Bibi anymore than Bibi could kill Qasim after finding out about the atropine given to Quinn. But Bibi isn’t into giving third chances, so when Qasim tries to talk Bibi out of going through with the attack just minutes before the perfect dispersal device comes barreling through the tunnel, Bibi shoots his cousin, only to be shot by Carrie. The attack is thwarted in minutes, which is not quite what I was anticipating considering how intense the build-up was, but “Glimmer“ has quite a bit of ground to cover and only so much time in which to cover it.

The biggest flaw with “Glimmer” is that it has too much ground to cover, between the Sarin attack, Carrie’s relationship with Jonas, Laura’s threat, Quinn’s fate, Carrie’s future with the agency, and Allison’s whereabouts. The latter ends up getting short shrift, in what amounts to a bigger disappointment than the truncated confrontation in the train tunnel. Allison escapes to an SVR safe house, which also doubles as a way station for underage sex slaves, then is loaded into the trunk of a car and sent on her way. The car is directed through a detour, which winds up being a kill box arranged by Saul. Sure enough, Allison is in the trunk riddled with bullet holes along with the agents transporting her. As much as I hated Allison throughout the season, and as much as I was rooting for her demise, part of me wishes she’d escaped that trunk and lived to see another day. Her death felt as rushed as did most of “Glimmer” which sewed almost everything up too quickly while leaving so many questions open, most importantly, whether Carrie will decide to reclaim her old life within the CIA. She’ll undoubtedly decide to do so, because there’s no other path forward for Homeland. But will the newly reconstituted Homeland be worth watching? The only way to know is to step out on faith come next fall.

Stray observations

  • After a season of weirdness, Otto During finally admits he wants Carrie to be the head security consultant of his heart. So, so gross.
  • Laura Sutton gets her comeuppance, after Astrid forces her to recant her story to save Numan from being deported back to Turkey for his likely execution.
  • Some really interesting use of light in this episode, which was directed by Homeland’s go-to woman, Lesli Linka Glatter.
  • Thanks for reading!