Homeland finale review: An exceptional drama, capturing the anxiety of today

Spoiler alert: This was it. After 11 years, no more would Carrie Matheson barrel a beat-up jeep down dusty streets in a town of tumult.
Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in HomelandClaire Danes as Carrie Mathison in Homeland
Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in Homeland

For the very last time she was going to screech to a halt, wrap a scarf around her head and stride fearlessly into yet another version of hell.

I know that walk so well, having watched every episode. It’s a slim-hipped catwalk strut, and different to Saul Berenson’s walk. No one on TV walks faster than Saul without running. This involves proper cornering, a tilt of the upper body, like when he comes roaring out of the Oval Office and snarling: “Go f**k yourself.”

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But was this really going to be the last we would see of superspy Carrie and her mentor Saul putting one foot in front of the other in their special way? There didn’t seem much chance of them walking into the sunset together. Not when Carrie had been instructed: “Kill Saul.”

The command came from Yevgeny Gromov, the towering Russian whose resemblance to former Blue Peter presenter John Leslie has unnerved me throughout. Saul, about to become potted heid? No! I tell you, there was a moment yesterday when I was being refused access to an advance screening of the finale – the security questions were typically Homeland and far more complex than remembering the name of your first teddy bear – and the prospect of not getting to watch seemed like relief, albeit of a cowardly sort.

Remember in season six how our favourite who’s-side-are-you-really-on? thriller anticipated victory for Hillary Clinton and made the president a woman?

So often on top of the curve regarding US-Middle East posturing and sabre-rattling, with occasionally Saul running and tilting ahead of it and forecasting actual events, Homeland suddenly had to play out the series while, in the real White House, a bloke was creating more havoc than the show’s writers would have deemed credible.

For season eight, Homeland was presented with the chance to ape the bampottery of what’s going on at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue right now and grabbed it. Thus, a short while after president Donald Trump’s suggestion of an alternative use for bleach, president Hayes was poised to attack Pakistan.

Actually, he was being worked from the back by his hawkish adviser, John Zabel, a very dangerous man, so imagine how I felt when my wife checked the cast – he’s played by Hugh Dancy – and announced: “I once went to a ball with him.” Did that mean in a roundabout way – this is how Homeland gets you – that I was in fact sleeping with the enemy? Where had I put that teddy bear?

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Saul’s confrontations with Zabel have been a highlight with our man warning: “Don’t be the schmuck who takes us to war for the second time in 20 years under false pretences.”

To prove they were false Carrie had to find the flight-recorder showing that the previous president hadn’t been shot down. The Russians had it and in return wanted Saul’s informant in Moscow. He wouldn’t give her up, hence the order to take him out.

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As the incredibly brave, pill-poppingly unhinged CIA loose-cannon spook, Carrie can do, and has done, most things. And she almost did this.

Homeland has been an exceptional drama, perfectly capturing our anxiety about omnipotent nutters, and it almost forces its way into my all-time top three TV dramas (The Wire, The Sopranos, Mad Men).

But Carrie and Gromov shacked up together, her spying on Russia and him not knowing about it?

“They’ll be suspicious of each other for ever,” said my wife.

Yes, dear.

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