Carrie Mathison is pressed into service for one last quixotic mission to prevent geopolitical chaos from breaking out in Sunday’s series finale of the Showtime espionage drama “Homeland.”
The tortured tale of the brilliant, bipolar CIA agent played by Claire Danes draws to a close after eight seasons — 96 episodes — with an episode entitled “Prisoners of War,” a nod to the Israeli series that inspired “Homeland,” penned by executive producers Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon, and directed by executive producer Lesli Linka Glatter.
Here, Variety breaks down five questions to ponder in preparation for the the final outing.
Better Kill Saul?
In the final moments of Episode 11, “The English Teacher,” Carrie was instructed by her Russian spy tormentor Yevgeny Gromov (Costa Ronin) to “kill Saul.” Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) is, of course, Carrie’s mentor and protector, so this is tantamount to Luke Skywalker being dispatched to shove a lightsaber into Obi-Wan Kenobi’s belly. “Homeland” has been laying the track all season for a showdown between Carrie and Saul, the CIA agent turned White House National Security Advisor. His formidable beard going mano-a-mano against her bulging eyes will surely be an emotional ride for die-hard “Homeland” fans. After all, just last week Saul came to Carrie’s rescue by taking her in to his D.C. home as she awaited a CIA tribunal on all kinds of ugly charges of treason and consorting with the enemy, namely Gromov. “I want everyone on notice,” Saul told her as she tried to relax in his house. “If they want to mess with you they have to come through me, for as long as that’s worth something.”
Will the Russians Hand Over the Flight Recorder?
For the past few episodes Carrie has been on a crusade to stop the U.S. from taking military action against Pakistan and Afghanistan under false pretenses. The season’s primary storyline has revolved around the death of American president Ralph Warner (Beau Bridges) and his Afghan counterpart in a helicopter crash after reaching a cease-fire agreement that also involves Taliban leader Haissam Haqqani (Numan Acar). Carrie has gone to all kinds of great lengths to get the flight recorder from the doomed helicopter (RIP Max) to prove that it wasn’t shot down by a Taliban missile, but rather a tragic case of mechanical failure — perhaps the most humiliating reason why the world’s most powerful nation would lose a leader. Gromov, the Russian GRU star who tormented Carrie while she was in Russian captivity for much of Season 7, winds up stealing the flight recorder from her. The “Kill Saul” order is part of the very high price Gromov hopes to extract from Carrie for Russia to turn over the flight recorder in time to prevent the U.S. from adding another tragic chapter to what is already the nation’s longest war.
Who Lives, Who Dies?
Given their line of work, the prospect for the curtain to fall permanently on Carrie or Saul — or both — in the finale is definitely high. Carrie’s luck at dodging bullets and bombs, arrest warrants, angry terrorists and bitter intelligence community cohorts has to run out some day. Saul, too, has cheated death more than once, as evidenced in “English Teacher” by the flashbacks to Saul’s days as an agent in East Berlin in the 1980s. Fun fact: As depicted in Episode 11, Saul’s former East German asset who was now living in the witness protection program in Pennsylvania was named Alex Surnow, which is a mash-up of the names of “Homeland” showrunner Gansa and “24” co-creator Joel Surnow. Gansa and “Homeland” executive producer Gordon both did hard labor on “24” before they moved on to “Homeland.”
Mother and Child Reunion?
There’s little doubt that “Homeland” will give Carrie a final moment with her young daughter Franny, fathered by the late Marine Sgt. Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), who was Carrie’s adversary-turned-lover in the show’s first three seasons. Carrie and Franny have had quite a ride since the younger arrived in Season 4. (There was that time Uncle Quinn held Franny in the basement of Carrie’s Brooklyn townhouse in Season 6 as part of an armed standoff, for example.) Carrie has a lot on her plate in the finale, but even this over-worked, over-stressed single mother would seem to have to make some time for her kid. And this reunion would also allow for a last glimpse of Carrie’s older sister, Maggie (Amy Hargreaves).
Blasts From the Past?
Many of those who have crossed Carrie’s path over 96 episodes have died, sometimes in gruesome ways. But there are characters that “Homeland” scribes might be tempted to revisit. The Brody family of Seasons 1-3 would be an interesting surprise, given that the family disappeared from the show after Nicholas Brody’s death. Wife Jessica (Morena Baccarin) had no love lost for Carrie, who barreled in to their lives after Nicholas was released from eight years in a Taliban prison. Just because Carrie was right about the POW having been turned to work for the Taliban doesn’t mean Jessica wouldn’t hold a grudge against the spy who seduced her husband. Teenage daughter Dana Brody (Morgan Saylor) became a lightning rod for “Homeland” critics when her screen time increased in Seasons 2 and 3. Preteen son Chris Brody (Jackson Pace) never seemed to get over the heartache of having to extend his hand and say “Nice to meet you” to his own father in the “Homeland” pilot when the family was reunited.
“Homeland’s” series finale airs April 26 at 9 p.m. on Showtime.