Homeland Finale: A Big Shock – and the Right Thing to Do

12/16/2013 at 12:20 PM EST

Homeland Finale: A Big Shock – and the Right Thing to Do
Damian Lewis as Nicholas Brody and Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison
Didier Baverel/SHOWTIME
The writers and producers of Homeland bowed to necessity, common sense and the impetus of dramatic destiny on the season 3 finale Sunday night.

WARNING: SHOW SPOILERS BELOW AND FINALE ENDING REVEALED.

They killed off Nicholas Brody.

Unlike Game of Thrones, where death tends to reveal itself unexpectedly as a red-fanged guest hungry for human hearts and heads, Homeland delivered Brody up to somber execution. His head was placed in a noose, and his body was hoisted up by crane.



He didn't struggle or even wriggle, but dangled there hapless and helpless as a piñata. If anything, he looked faintly embarrassed. Carrie Mathison, who had tried to rescue him from a spies' game in which he was more valuable to Langley as a sacrifice, witnessed the execution and screamed his name.

The scene ended so abruptly that a viewer for a few moments might have suspected, as the story jumped forward four months, that Brody was going to turn up again in the States, very much alive.

He didn't. He shouldn't.

That would be a setback for a show that most definitely needed to shake Brody from its combat boots. His presence had become an implausible, over-embroidered business.

Fugitive, terrorist, lover, errant father, faithless husband, Congressman, killer of Vice Presidents, prisoner of war, national hero, assassin, pawn on an international chess board, he seemed less a character in an espionage story than a new hero from Marvel comics. Or, at the least, someone whose agent could have gotten him a terrific deal for a talk show.

He was close to mythic. Everyone was always muttering his name with incantatory urgency, as if he were Rambo.

He was more mythic than human.

Damian Lewis, who won an Emmy for the part, played Brody with unflagging intensity and seriousness, but it would have taken a Jim Carrey or maybe a Roger Rabbit to pull off all Brody's teeth-clenching, panicked changes in motivation and behavior.

Brody went to his end with an air not only of honor and defeat, but also bone-tired exhaustion and confusion. After three seasons following his flailing misadventures, I know the feeling.

Assuming Brody stays dead – and it's safe to assume he will, even if the finale didn't feel compelled to produce a corpse bleeding from every orifice, a la Downton AbbeyHomeland will return with a narrative focused on Carrie: She'll have been given a much-deserved promotion in the CIA and probably gotten over her neurotic romantic obsessing over her own Mr. Big.

This will be good for Claire Danes, whose performance has also been constrained by all the Brody nonsense, and good for Homeland's believability. Despite the brilliant first season, the show was put to shame by the release of the movie Zero Dark Thirty, with its hard-nosed, no-nonsense approach to hunting terrorists.

Killing off Brody was a bold gambit, but a totally rational one.

Fine by me.

And now we'll have a moment of silence, followed by taps.

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