If the last few episodes of “Homeland” were on amphetamines, all pumped up and on the run, then Sunday night’s loose, unhurried season finale was logy on Irish Whiskey — specifically the bottle that finally helped bring Carrie and Quinn into each others’ arms.
Talk about a change of pace. The hour drifted by so quietly you might have been suspicious, waiting for all hell to suddenly break loose. But it remained the calm after the storm that was season four and Islamabad, where tragedy and failure struck Carrie and her colleagues. It was time for Carrie, Quinn, and Saul to regroup after Haqqani got away and Carrie caught a glimpse of Dar Adal in the back of Haqqani’s car. It was time, with all the crises over for now, for the personal toll of all that had happened to surface.
I admire showrunner Alex Ganza for pulling back on the action. He reminded us that, while the show is a strong action series, what distinguishes it are its psychological underpinnings. And at this point in the evolution of series TV, the eventful penultimate episode followed by the mellower finale has become a familiar and welcome pattern of its own on cable dramas, bucking against the pressure for more conventional cliffhangers.
The theme of the episode was motherhood and fatherhood. Carrie’s return home is somber, as she and her sister grieve their father and pick through his belongings (the episode was dedicated to James Rebhorn, the actor who played Frank Mathison; he died in March). Still reeling from the hard lessons she learned in Pakistan, and quite emotional about her father, Carrie becomes newly drawn to her own role as a parent. She starts to bond with little red-haired Franny, a.k.a. Li’l Brody.
When her mother shows up to grieve her former husband, Carrie is furious. Her mother, played with powerful understatement (and with Claire Danes’s body type) by Broadway actress Victoria Clark, left home 15 years ago and cut all ties with her children. When Carrie finally goes to see her in Missouri to find out more about her mother’s desertion, she learns she has a half brother. More important, she learns that her mother is commitment-phobic, that she abandoned her family because of her own inadequacies and not because of Frank’s bipolar disorder. Suddenly, Carrie feels liberated from her deep-seated belief that her bipolar struggles have left her unable to have a successful relationship. She feels healed.
Which brings us to Quinn. Carrie and Quinn have struggled mightily with their tense relationship and its underlying attraction. Last night, they finally recognized the attraction openly, and flirted with the idea of leaving the CIA and making a go of it. But Carrie’s low relationship self-esteem (“It ends badly,” she tells him) gets in the way. Alas, their timing is off — by the time Carrie realizes she is game to give it a try, that she is not spoiled goods, Quinn has shoved off to another mission in despair.
There were no scenes with Martha Boyd and her husband in the finale, leaving us to think for now that their arc ended with Dennis Boyd as a double coward — and not as a conniving prisoner preparing to use the belt, or the fact that Martha gave him the belt, as some kind of future weapon.
The most important dangling thread, beside the fate of Carrie and Quinn’s relationship, involved Saul, who appeared to be consorting with Dar. Alas, for Carrie, yet another parental disappointment.
Matthew Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com.