Where Can 'Homeland' Go After Its Daring Season Finale?

The series ended its inaugural season with a bang, then a whimper. Is there any suspense left for next year?

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Showtime

Note: Spoilers for last night's Homeland finale to follow.

"It doesn't matter why terrorists do what they do."

Vice President William Walden

The threat of a large-scale terrorist attack loomed over Homeland's gripping first season, but last night's season finale, "Marine One," saw just two deaths—one bystander and one terrorist. Overall, Homeland has spent the majority of its screen time on emotional consequences: the dual extramarital affairs of Nick and Jessica Brody, the dissolution of Saul's marriage to Mira, and the complete mental breakdown of protagonist Carrie Mathison. Is this the level of sacrifice it takes to do what you believe is right?

That's certainly the case for Brody, who risks family, reputation, and his own life in "Marine One," and for a cause that he truly believes in. Despite the vice president's comment, it does matter why terrorists do what they do. It's exactly that attitude that turned Brody, after seeing the drone bombing of a schoolhouse, into an ally of Abu Nazir. Brody claims that he's not brainwashed—that he's living up to "an oath to defend the United States against enemies both foreign and domestic." He's wrong on both counts, but his horror is both understandable and justified. His ultimate action—a failed, then aborted vest-bomb—was a bit of a cheat, allowing him to go through with the attack in principle without writing him out of the series. But until Carrie's timely intervention, he was ready to strike. It's a daring action for Homeland to makes its ostensibly-sympathetic main character take, but Homeland has always been a daring show.

That level of daring certainly applies to Carrie, who spends the majority of "Marine One" laid up in bed after last week's psychotic episode. Carrie ends the episode in the midst of voluntary electroconvulsive therapy, which she hopes will cure the psychosis that has wreaked havoc on her personal and professional lives. The tragedy, of course, is that she's been right all along; she did stop a terrorist attack, though now she'll never know it. Homeland was sold on a hooky tagline: "The nation sees a hero. She sees a threat." But as the first season draws to a close, we can now clearly see Brody as a threat, just as Carrie finally concludes that he's a hero. Carrie spent much of the first season trying, ultimately unsuccessfully, to convince the people around her that she's sane. In the second season, she'll also need to convince herself.

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Scott Meslow is entertainment editor at TheWeek.com.

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