'Homeland' Season 8 Episode 12 Review: A riveting finale that sees Carrie Mathison emerge as the ultimate spy

It almost feels like a scene from 'The Dark Knight' and the iconic line comes to mind while watching the episode — 'You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain'


                            'Homeland' Season 8 Episode 12 Review: A riveting finale that sees Carrie Mathison emerge as the ultimate spy
Carrie Mathison (Sifeddine Elamine/Showtime)
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Spoilers for 'Homeland' Season 8 Episode 12 'Prisoners for War'

It was the only way this had to end. Those who caught the mind-numbing explosive finale of Showtime's long-running political thriller may take time to process two facts — one, the final outcome, and two, they will not be tuning in every weekend to see Carrie Mathison throw herself into missions that are purely not for the faint-hearted.

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'Prisoners of War' is a befitting end and it is a reminder of the classic adage to American baseball legend Yogi Berra— "It ain't over till it's over." And for an easter egg, it is the title of Gideon Raff's book this series is partially based on. 

In the dark world of espionage, lives can be snuffed out at the mere utterance of a secret. Defiance comes at a cost, and as far as the life of a spy goes, the one question is: "How far would you go to protect your country?"

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In Carrie's (Claire Danes) case, it was a question of what she would do to stop the next world war. 'Prisoner of War' operates with two storylines and both of them signal a win for Carrie and Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin). There are casualties, there almost always are, as in most cases, victory comes at a price. 

The finale which stretches a few minutes over an hour sees Carrie try everything possible to get the name out of Saul.

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Drugging him is part of the process and despite that attempt, which comes across as something purely unimaginable and unbelievable, Saul stays defiant forcing Carrie to go back to Israel, meet his sister, Dorit (Jacqueline Antaramian), and get that piece of information she was looking for.

And she makes up a story of Saul's death to get the information. That one final deal with Yevgeny Gromov (Costa Ronin) and Russia may have cost Carrie her trust and love from Saul, it all but made her a fugitive from the United States.

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But what she was is an unsung hero and a true patriot who despite the many flaws, the complexities rallied her to stop a war. The episode's gripping narrative ensures there is nothing over-the-top or overly dramatic as the finale episode of 'Homeland' follows its typical style — build crescendo slowly.

Carrie and Saul in a still from 'Prisoners of War' (Erica Parise/Showtime)

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It almost feels like watching an hour of 'The Dark Knight' and 'The Dark Knight Rises' and there's that iconic line that comes to mind while watching the episode. "You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain".

This applies to Carrie for a major part of the episode, but not before she has one last ace up her sleeve. But that doesn't show before the consequences her move has.

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Anna Pomerantseva (Tatyana Mukha) shoots herself after Russia finds out she is the mole in the Kremlin, Russia lives up to its end of the bargain by releasing the details of the flight recorder thereby ensuring there will be no war between the US and Pakistan. 

Side note: Jalal Haqqani's location was apparently a bogus and the young Taliban leader is still alive. 

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With Anna effectively gone, the US has no clue as to what Russia would be up to and this meant effectively comprising their intelligence. Following these events, the series shifts to flashforward of sorts that sees Carrie in a relationship with Yevgeny.

They celebrate wins like a normal couple and might we add, it is so refreshing to see Danes in a dress, especially after we have seen her in typical black attire with a handbag slung throughout the eight seasons. Saul, on the other hand, is moving away from his home, presumably to start a new chapter.

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However, the final twist comes in when Saul receives a call from one of his assets who gives him a package. When opened, it is revealed to be an advance copy of Carrie's autobiography where she recounts how and why she betrayed her country.

Saul tweezes out the message between the narrow slit of the head cap and the spine and the scribbled info is a message from Carrie that reads: 'The Russian missile system just sold to Iran and Turkey has an exploitable backdoor. Specs to follow. Stay tuned.

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And we wish we could.

Carrie is now the spy US has in Russia (Erica Parise/Showtime)

This is probably that part where staying objective and critical becomes a challenge. And while writing this, there is that collective sense of relief that neither of the major characters died.

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And if it did, perhaps that would have been injustice and not so 'Homeland'. It is a bittersweet ending no doubt. But what it surely does is firmly cement Carrie as a patriot—  country over anything and everything else. To sidetrack a bit, it is almost shocking to realize there won't be another season of 'Homeland'.

It works if there isn't. Because some of the best stories are best left finished. Having a spin-off would mean injustice to the show and the legacy it has built over the decade. 'Prisoners of War' isn't the end of the road for Carrie. 

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'Homeland' finishes an epic run on Showtime with this finale.