April 27, 2020

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Finale Review: “Homeland”


No season of Showtime’s HOMELAND ever came close to touching the wild highs of its first, an amazing concoction that managed to combine the tension of a great thriller with constant twists, impossible romance and psychological complexity.  The seven seasons that followed were varyingly up and down, the latter often marked by the apparent impossibility of killing CIA agent Peter Quinn, who was shot, beaten, poisoned and drowned through the years, and who at one point accidentally took the daughter of Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) hostage.  Happily, tonight’s series finale was close to a return to form, one of the most satisfying hours the show has given us in quite a while.

The season as a whole was only medium-good.  After an early nod to Carrie being off her meds, her psychological issues never played much of a role in the story, and much of the time she was a generic spy, doggedly tracking the ungainly McGuffin of a bulky flight recorder that would prove the helicopter flying the Presidents of the US and Afghanistan went down as a result of mechanical issues and not assassination.  (One couldn’t help wondering, as that flight recorder traveled all over the Middle East and eventually to Russia, whether there was no way to remove the actual recording from the its big, heavy box.)  There was an unfortunate amount of plotting that turned on the new President being a fool (feel free to insert real-life commentary here), and on Carrie and other people trusting when they shouldn’t.

By the last episode, however, series co-creators and finale writers Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa had pared the story down to its most essential relationship:  between Carrie and her mentor, National Security Advisor Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin).  In order for Carrie to get the Russians to release the contents of the flight recorder, she would have to burn Saul’s last remaining high-level Russian spy.  The initial set-up that Carrie might actually have to kill Saul in order to get the information because she knew he would have left posthumous instructions for her to run his agent was a bit of a cheat–it was always implausible that she would go that far.  But her very clever way of betraying him by merely simulating his death made just enough sense to work.  And the epilogue, which found Carrie, having defected to Russia, volunteering to become Saul’s new double agent, put a neat bow around Homeland‘s saga of the sacrifices one makes for one’s country.

Even during the years when Homeland was a tough watch, Danes and Patinkin were never less than splended, and it was a joy to watch them run with the stronger material of the finale.  (Patinkin’s silent realization that Carrie was back on his team was a master class.)  This season didn’t give anyone else much of a chance to shine, but the production values were strong, and house director Lesli Linka Glatter did a fine job with the finale.

There was a time when Homeland seemed destined to find a place on the Mount Olympus of TV drama where shows like Breaking Bad, The Wire and Mad Men reside, and that never really came to pass.  This last episode served as a reminder, though, that at its best the series could be as compelling as anything around, anchored by the world-class performances of its stars.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."