'Homeland' finale recap: Who survived Abu Nazir's devastating revenge in 'The Choice'?
Belying the carnage that would follow, the episode began quietly, even hopefully -- a tone that makes distrustful "Homeland" viewers almost more anxious than the show's dramatic action sequences.
With Quinn ( Rupert Friend) on their tail, Carrie ( Claire Danes) and Brody ( Damian Lewis) return to the cabin where they enjoyed an idyllic weekend last season. (The same place she heard Brody call out Nazir's son Issa's name in his sleep, only realizing its significance seconds before her ECT treatment.)
Back then she also placed a loaded gun in a drawer, which Brody finds and calls a "souvenir" from his last visit. But later, sitting before the fireplace, they resemble a normal couple, discussing their future. Except that he's a killer, who scares her, and being with him means giving up her career. And all the while, a killer is waiting to strike.
When Carrie leaves to get breakfast the next morning, Brody takes a blanket to pray by the water -- while Quinn takes aim at the back of his head. But he doesn't fire, and Carrie and Brody resume their conversation, asking:
"We could be happy, couldn't we?"
Is that a trick question?
Saul ( Mandy Patinkin), being detained, tries to persuade a CIA lackey to call Carrie and report Estes' planned assassination on Brody. He refuses, but at least he brought Saul some extra milk. Even in captivity, Saul's receiving better treatment than Dana Brody!
Estes ( David Harewood) returns home to find Quinn in his bedroom, "a guy who kills bad guys" -- a label he argues no longer applies to the former congressman. And, he adds, killing Brody would kill Carrie -- and he refuses to inflict the collateral damage just to cover for Estes. And, he threatens quietly, if anything happens to Brody, Estes will surprise him again: "Because I'm the guy who kills bad guys."
Brody meets his old buddy, Mike Faber, at the bar to offer his blessing for "taking care" of his wife and kids. Going home to get a suit for the vice president's CIA memorial, Brody is interrupted by Dana, who reminds him that he kicked her out when he was dressing the day he donned the suicide vest. Instead of lying, he confirms her worst suspicions -- but even as she turns away in her horror, there is forgiveness in Dana's eyes.
Estes pays a visit to Saul, enjoying an Aileen-style picnic, telling him he was free to go, called off the hit on Brody and is redacting the report that would've destroyed Saul's career.
And because Estes "owes" him, Saul offers Carrie a job as station chief for the CIA. She demurs, finally acknowledging that she might want a "normal life" with Brody instead. When he says she's throwing her life away, she retorts that maybe she doesn't want to end up alone like Saul.
"You're the smartest and the dumbest f***ing person I've ever known," Saul says with cold fury.
At Walden's memorial, Brody escorts the widow of the man he murdered to her seat, and shakes hands with Estes, the man who ordered his own death. Like Carrie says, it's complicated. While Estes gives the eulogy, both Carrie and Brody sneak out. She tells him she's decided to be with him instead of the CIA. As they embrace, he notices that someone has moved his car right outside the ceremony -- which suddenly explodes, demolishing the building and killing more than 200 people, including Cynthia and Finn Walden and David Estes.
But not Saul: He's attending another memorial: for Abu Nazir, aboard an aircraft carrier for a burial at sea like Osama bin Laden.
As they regain consciousness -- the blast knocked them out too -- Carrie blames Brody, but he quickly persuades her that this must have been Nazir's plan all along: "It was always Walden -- it was always the CIA," he reasons. Carrie activates her escape plan, recovering a fake passport and money from a storage locker, and then takes Brody to a contact to create a passport for him as well.
Homeland Security storms the Brody house, and just as Dana is defending her father, Chris interrupts: "Look, dad's on TV!" Someone has released Brody's "martyr" video, claiming responsibility for an attack and blaming Walden for the deaths of so many children.
Nazir's original plan has succeeded, only this time Brody is alive to witness the destruction attributed to -- but not caused by -- him.
As Saul walks, alone and disconsolate, among the rubble at Langley, his wife calls, agreeing to return home to her husband in his desperate need.
As Carrie and Brody reach the point where they must abandon the car and hike to the border, he realizes that she is not joining him. Her purpose now -- after giving herself "completely" to Brody -- is to clear his name. "Goodbye, love," he says before walking off, once again, in the wilderness.
Cut back to Saul, surrounded by hundreds of body bags lined up in a giant makeshift morgue, telling investigators to check whether the bomb residue from Brody's car matches the C4 from the Gettysburg tailor shop. His Kaddish prayer for the dead victims is interrupted by Carrie's surprise return.
So: Who is the CIA mole? Who planted the bomb and moved Brody's car? Did the Season 2 finale satisfy you? What are your expectations for Season 3?