It’s safe to say “Long Time Coming” wasn’t what you were expecting, regardless of what those expectations were. In the pantheon of Homeland episodes, this finale stands alone. It is its own thing. And if I’m being honest, it really isn’t the type of episode that lends itself to the instant reactions required of episodic television criticism. I’ll do my best to talk about what I got from it, but there’s only so emphatic I can be about some of the elements. “Long Time Coming” is an episode of television I can easily see feeling differently about in a year’s time.

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As it stands now, I think “Long Time Coming” is arrhythmic and plodding in a lot of places, moving and well-observed in others, but more than anything, it’s a confusing note on which to end an otherwise energized season. That isn’t to say it isn’t thoughtful. There is a genuine thoughtfulness lent to this episode, and none of its moves feel arbitrary or desperate, even when I didn’t care for them. But what Homeland needed to deliver most in its fourth season was a reason to reinvest long-term, rather than the wait-and-see attitude with which a good chunk of the audience approached this season. “Long Time Coming” is such an odd conclusion, it’s hard to imagine upshifting to a mental full-season order. The situation is still wait-and-see.

“Long Time Coming” does go a long way towards quelling concerns, following the pyrotechnics and hostage slaughter of “13 Hours In Islamabad,” that Homeland had gone full 24. In fact, it almost plays like it’s intended to correct the season’s recent tonal imbalance by tilting fully towards emotional turmoil and strategic realignments. The idea is solid; in theory, cranking down the hysteria and leaving on a more muted note is the right play for the end of this season. But the pieces from which writer Meredith Stiehm builds the hushed story are a mixed bag.

Take for example, Carrie and Quinn, the workplace romance exactly nobody wanted. If I’m wrong, please tell me so, because I’d legitimately love to hear a defense of Carrie and Quinn’s relationship. I’m still not clear on when or how any of this happened. While Carrie and Quinn’s romantic awakening is the outcome to which Homeland has been managing all season, it was hard to expect this fervent an execution. I’d resigned myself to the two ending up together, but I wasn’t ready to see them this together, with Carrie and Quinn headbutting with their mouths open, then Carrie immediately blurting out that this relationship between them can never work. The scene doesn’t quite track. Carrie and Quinn are finally putting words to a thing that was bubbling under the surface and can finally boil over, but I never managed to feel that thing happening, I merely was repeatedly told it was happening. So when Carrie, who is well-known for her sexual impulsivity, immediately jumped from a sloppy, post-funeral kiss to building the framework of a long-term relationship, it felt off.

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Now the Dar Adal thing, that’s a bit more interesting. I admired the mischief and restraint in teasing Dar’s connection to Haqqani in “Krieg Nicht Lieb,” then eschewing the clean, predictable “mole” route in favor of something more mature and cynical than that. The episode’s best scene features Dar and Saul in a diner, with Dar dangling the Haqqani footage in front of Saul to woo him back into the CIA director chair that Lockhart will soon vacate. The second best scene is Carrie’s confrontation with Dar after realizing Quinn has gone back into the field after she dithered on starting a relationship with him. Carrie tries to bring down the hammer, only to find out Saul is in league with Dar. That’s not to say Saul is really on board as opposed to playing along with Dar in order to find a path back to Haqqani, but in any case, it’s a nimbler, smarter resolution for the Dar cliffhanger than expected.

The rest of the episode is all about Carrie’s family, which provides backstory I’m not sure I wanted. Victoria Clark feels right as Carrie’s mother, and Clark and Claire Danes play well together, but the through line feels rushed—not unlike the Quinn scenes. After a 15-year absence, is it necessary for Carrie to work through her mother issues at this rapid a clip? Carrie’s journey with her mother clips forward too steadily and ends too tidily, with Carrie getting an explanation for her mother’s disappearing act and realizing there could be hope for a relationship with Quinn after all. There was a compelling reason to bring Carrie’s mother back into the picture, and Quinn isn’t it.

The more meaningful effect is Carrie’s newfound interest in parenting Frannie, y’know, as opposed to drowning her. I’m not sure what Carrie’s life looks like with a kid in it, or with such a collossal rift in her relationship with Saul. “Long Time Coming” was clearly intended to be one of those finales that’s supposed to leave the audience wondering where the show could possibly go from here. That would be fine for a lot of those, but for Homeland, which just started getting some of its privileges back, “Long Time Coming” is a modest hand overplayed.

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Stray observations:

  • What a lovely tribute to Carrie’s father, and by extension, James Rebhorn, to whom the episode is dedicated.
  • This is only the second credit for Stiehm since she returned to the Homeland staff after one season heading up The Bridge.
  • Quinn wrote a letter to Carrie in case something happens. Sniffle.
  • Tasneem is apparently hot shit back in Pakistan. Congrats or whatever?
  • Thanks for reading, hopefully I’ll see you all in season five.

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