Tentatively Best: The finale, "The Choice"
With a year full of fantastic moments countered by some of the series' first major missteps, the season two finale had a lot riding on it, regarding how we will come to view this season as a whole and how we'd view the series in the future, as well as validating some of the writers' stranger choices in the episodes that preceded it. And just as the fate of Nicholas Brody was the centerpiece of the season, it also became the deciding factor in whether the finale was a success.
"The Choice" pertains not only to Carrie's decisions in the episode, but to a choice the Homeland team had as well. With Brody's outing, his deal, and Nazir's death, many were of the opinion that he should die as David Estes (David Harewood) planned or at least be written out, freeing the series up to explore fresh material, and proving to viewers that its committed to faithful, honest story-telling. Any attempts to keep the Brody family in play would feel forced and spin the show further away from its once perfect orbit.
Well, last night the show got to have its cake and eat it too, and we mostly dug it, but thanks in large part to Carrie's major last minute decision. If she actually joined Brody on the run, then we would have found ourselves asking "What is this squishy bullshit" just like the late Director Estes. The tortured romance of Carrie and Brody was beginning to eclipse everything around it, worst of all, Carrie's rationality. A season that at least started with her and Brody on the run could've sent the series down a rabbit hole that it might never have recovered from.
As it stands, we're looking at a third season that finds Brody on the run, but hopefully with reduced screen time, far removed from the action and allowing new storylines to develop. His family remains, but thanks to the genius deicison to have Al Qaeda publicly frame Brody for Walden's memorial bombing at CIA HQ, Jessica, Dana and even, dare we say, Chris (!), may actually be more interesting than ever before.
The episode isn't without plotholes, namely, how running just makes Brody look guiltier or how Carrie will be able to explain her absence without ending up in a cell for aiding and abetting. And while the cross-cutting montage of Nazir and Walden's memorials was awesome, the reveal of his overall plan validated his random heart-attack plot against Walden in "Broken Hearts," but not the shittiness of the episode on the whole.
Still, great moments like that montage, Estes vs Quinn, Carrie and Saul's reunion at episode's end, and the Brody family's new domestic horror have us looking forward to season three and confident that the show can return triumphant. Or we'll be forced to watch vignettes of Brody on the run each week, coupled with family subplots like Dana turning to drugs or something equally predictable and boring to cope, and we'll have to come back and change this to Worst. The long wait until September 2013 begins.