Homeland Season 2 had so much to make up for in its finale that "The Choice" had nearly no chance of redeeming the story telling mistakes, character misguidance and overall unbelievability of the past half season or so.
In addition to the fantastic performances by Claire Danes, Damian Lewis, Mandy Patinkin, and others, as well as the thrills and surprises that the writing brought to us, Homeland Season 1 had an aura of realism that also made it easy for the audience to be drawn in.
Those first two facets were still in play this year, for the most part, but that third factor was really nowhere to be found. It seemed every episode had its own share of moments where you had to chuckle to yourself, and think "Really? Okay, I guess I'll play along."
"The Choice" featured its own share of such scenes. Listening to Saul talk about the added responsibility Carrie may be in for was ridiculous. Seriously, the CIA is not only going to allow this crazy person back into the company, but put her in charge of a station??!?
Moreover, Carrie and Brody walking out of the memorial service for the Vice President just in the nick of time was ridiculously convenient for everybody, no? If we're going to accept that neither has enough respect to stay through the entirety of it, couldn't we have at least had some shots of the other people in attendance shooting them the dirtiest looks of all-time for getting up and bolting?
The finale did redeem Abu Nazir in a way, though. At least now we can rest easily knowing that he wasn't the dumbest villain of in TV history. His ultimate plan, if we choose to believe Brody's explanation, was respectable. Getting his team caught, and eventually getting himself captured, in order to kill the Vice President and then murder hundreds of CIA agents at his funeral wasn't the worst idea ever. It showed a long-term plan that I can get behind as a viewer.
Did Nazir need to die to keep America's guard down? Probably not, so it didn't quite make up for his decision to stay in that building and not kill Carrie, but it was a good start to redemption.
Maybe it was just that Carrie and Brody worked so poorly together as a couple, but the performances of Danes and Lewis didn't seem nearly as impressive this season in comparison to what we witnessed a year ago. Patinkin, on the other hand, gave us everything we enjoyed about Saul and more.
Whether it was the simplicity of drinking out of a carton of milk, or the utterly painful words he spewed at Carrie when she told him she was thinking of choosing Brody over her job, Saul Berenson was once again the highlight of this episode.
You're throwing your life away... You're the smartest and the dumbest f*cking person I've ever known.
While all of his comments in that conversation were warranted - Brody was a terrorist after all - the pain they caused Carrie still cut so deep that they were shocking, so very enjoyably shocking.
If those were his last moments with his friend it would have been a shame, but still, the emotions they were trying to induce with that final moment didn't quite work. I get as sentimental as anyone can while watching television. Heck, I get teary-eyed during almost every episode of Parenthood, but I didn't feel a thing when Saul turned around and saw Carrie standing there.
Carrie became way too unlikable as a character this season to get emotional about any big moment for her. Whether that was saying goodbye to Brody in the woods, or showing up for Saul, she became too annoying to really want to see good things happen to her. That's not a good sign for the future of Homeland.
Also not good for this show's future is the feeling that it will never lose its main cast. Finding new stories to tell about each and every one of these characters is difficult. Taking the tale where it goes, organically, would be a much easier task. That, however, would likely include getting rid of Morena Baccarin as a cast member, and that's very unlikely to happen.
Instead, we will probably be stuck watching a few more uninteresting stories from Jessica, Dana and Mike next year, an issue that hurt this fall's flow as well.
In the end, the big issues of Brody getting killed by Quinn and Saul being detained by Estes were conveniently thrown away. The cold-blooded cleaner suddenly grew a conscience, which saved Brody's life and forced Estes to let up on Saul.
Now one will be on the run, and the other will likely be leading the man hunt as the ranking officer in the CIA. That's where this seemingly heads next season, right? I'm sure there are plenty more terrorist attacks in the works, but that has to be a part of the story, no?
What do you all think is in store for viewers next season? Did you have as many issues with the back half Homeland's second season as I did? If so, what were your problems? If not, what did you love about season 2? And what were your favorite moments from "The Choice?"
Dan Forcella is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.