After watching Carrie and Brody spend another weekend at her mother's cabin, Quinn decides that Brody's a pretty okay guy after all, and decides as the guy is praying that he doesn't feel like being Estes's assassin anymore. So he heads back to D.C. and, all spooklike, appears in the shadows of David's bedroom with an ultimatum: Lay off this guy, who has played fair the entire time (as far as Quinn knows) and whose death will destroy Carrie Mathison once again -- or else the new Bad Guy he's hunting will be David Estes. His face in this part, I don't have to tell you: Fabulously scrunched up.
Realizing that when you pay for the best, you get the best and therefore his life is in terrible danger, David lets Saul go, calls off the hit, redacts his report on Saul's misbehavior, and eventually seems set to offer Carrie a job as a Station Chief, the youngest on record. (The Wikipedia entry you get with "CIA Station Chief" is one of the weirder articles I've ever seen on Wikipedia, but the sense I get is that it's regional command to the same degree as a journalist might be on the regional desk somewhere, or you would be the head of an embassy?) Anyway none of this matters, as it turns out.
After a serious "look at your life" talking-to from Saul, Carrie immediately demonstrates classiness when she and Brody sneak out of Walden's funeral -- the guy they killed, a fact they are still keeping secret -- so they can fool around upstairs at Langley somewhere. Carrie decides to pick Brody over the CIA -- because she knows she can only really focus on the CIA while she's doing CIA, and the CIA is not actually her boyfriend, and she would like a boyfriend and for his name to be Nick Brody -- but this also does not matter.
Because while they are up there making out, and Saul's off commending Abu Nazir to his rest off the coast in international waters, some other dissident group, or so it would seem -- with access to his suicide video and his car and a shit-ton of explosives -- uses Brody's car to BLOW UP THE ENTIRE CIA.
Gone are Cynthia and Finn Walden, gone is David Estes. 200 dead, in all. Jessica and the Brody kids are fine, although Nick's parting words to Mike Faber about being the man of the house (a total class move!) and his confession to Dana about having been formerly a suicide bomber take on a freaky perspective once the baddies release that suicide tape.
Carrie has her brains knocked around in the blast and spends some time assuming that Nick Brody has just blown up the entire CIA and thus probably should get shot, but eventually they chill out and she loads him up with cash, new identity and the rest of it. So, lots of flirting with this "Murphy Brown lied to us" stuff about how she must choose between her job and her terrorist, which never actually becomes that at all, sidestepping it in a really neat way. Nick's presumed dead, so his suicide tape is mostly just further embarrassment for his family, but yeah: Way to toss 'em a romantic obstruction that not even Carrie's delusions can carry us over.
As Saul is learning that he's just been King Ralph'd to the top of the food chain, and getting ready to welcome his wife back from overseas, Carrie and Brody are all set to escape to Newfoundland when Brody realizes she's tricking him and in fact will be pulling the Ol' Carrie Switcharoo on him so she can go back and clear his name and they can finally be together. In the season's final moments, having said goodbye to the love of her life, she surprises Saul in the act of saying prayers for the 200 dead, and for herself in absentia. And the smile of the Bear in this moment, the last image of the season, I would say, is worth easily six to eight Saul Hugs.
So what do we think? All day long I've been so antsy. I decided the smartest thing they could do is make a list of everything that you might think would happen, like five possible outcomes, and then actually do the third one, and but with elements of the first one and the opposite of the fourth one. You know what I mean? Just make it believable enough that the only people left bitching are the people who would bitch no matter what, while still making it not incredibly obvious. And I would say yes, they accomplished at least that. While sparing Quinn, no less.
While it felt long, it also felt like a lot was happening, and anything that seemed initially problematic was either undercut or reversed by the next thing that happened, by design, so there's not a lot to worry with. If last season was the season of Surveillance, and this season was the season of Celebrity, they've taken out enough of the CIA infrastructure and secrets -- not to mention the Brody Family infrastructure, and secrets -- that next season could really be whatever it wants to be: Jessica and Mike crumbling under the pressure of being the Brodys without Brody; Carrie battling all kinds of new CIA dickhead authorities; Brody having Nova Scotia problems for like three episodes; the whole thing. Quinn, though. Lots of Quinn. That's definitely necessary.
Carrie may or may not be in love with Nick Brody, and may or may not be aware of it. Nick Brody killed the Vice President in part to save her from Abu Nazir, her mortal enemy, whom she has since vanquished. (She's the only one that knows about that part, and it's causing her a bit of an itch.) Walden's accomplice in black ops, David Estes, has ordered Peter Quinn to assassinate Brody, now that he's helped them get Nazir. (Saul's the only one that knows about that part, and it's causing him to get railroaded by Estes.)
But previous to that, Carrie Mathison was a person who thought life was a bicycle, that if you stopped moving you'd fall right off. For our first year with her, she leaned a little too far left and fell over. This year, she's leaned a little right. But her forward vector never stopped. Sometimes this desire to put the world between us and ourselves, the inability to be alone with silence, takes the form of heroism.
Every martyr is first and foremost a terrorist. A dissident on hunger strike is just another kind of hunger artist. And like any terrorist, the martyr is gifted with an illness that says what we symbolize is more important than who we are. That humility's best expression is in self-abnegation: A beautiful thing, but not the most beautiful possible thing. To make up for letting 9/11 happen, she set up a system by which this natural tendency -- to go and go, to never stop, ever fall over -- could masquerade as heroism. And like the martyr, the end result was a good thing. Lives saved.
I think regardless of what it is Carrie dedicates her life to, it's still a pretty bad thing to do so. We are a lot larger than we can really comprehend; we have it in us to contain not just multitudes but fundamental opposites. This entire show is crammed full with people who have -- you can't name more than three who haven't -- shaved off the contradictory parts of themselves and become razors, one thing only, always moving forward. Sharks, in the quiet. It is a very beautiful thing but it is not a very healthy thing.
"You gave it up to me," Nick will say. "Completely." And she'll know he's right. But before that, Saul will say, "You're throwing your life away," and she'll say no: She's just not giving it away. Saul is one thing only, and his love for Carrie comes out of the idea that they are the same. And he's right. But because she's giving up herself to something he can't, it looks like they are not the same. It looks ugly to him. He fights it like an addict fights recovery, striking blindly at her softest places because can't stand the change in vector: Her madness is only acceptable as long as it's useful; her self-abnegation is only positive so long as he can understand it.