Sergeant Nicholas Brody has been a pleasure to watch. Old Etonian Damian Lewis's top-dollar American accent, the way in which he portrayed almost constant, angsty discomfort, and his character's strangely decent incipient terrorism - wanting to avenge a drone strike that killed scores of children - made for compelling viewing. While the most critically lauded performance in Homeland has been Claire Danes's as CIA agent Carrie Mathison, Lewis has surely achieved the near-impossible: sympathy for a suicide bomber.
That he didn't explode adds to the subtlety of his character. This was no knee-jerk convert, no psychopath-in-waiting who responded to his master's call as if it was something he'd been longing for all his life. Just as the death of a child was what radicalized him, so it was his daughter's voice that talked him down. Here was a would-be terrorist with integrity. Sixteen year-old Dana pleaded with him to tell her he was coming home. He found it impossible to say no. Although quite how a mobile signal penetrated a bomb-proof bunker took believability more than a touch too far.
Those scenes after Brody's also-radicalized marine colleague Tom Walker had carried out a sniper attack were feverish and dark - literally, in the low-lit bunker. Brody looked as if he had food poisoning combined with an asthma attack. The Vice President, initially absent, and then present in blood-spattered suit and tie appeared both literally and metaphorically slippery. Brody's renewed, impromptu incarceration, after years as an al Qaeda captive in Iraq, sent conflicting signals through his brain.
But he should have blown himself up. The only reason he didn't was because a second series demanded his presence: another chance for Carrie to catch him; another opportunity for Brody to evade her.
He should have exploded because that's where his character was heading - his character's destiny. That's not to say he was a brainwashed robot, with neither the nous nor the courage to change tack, but after the initial guessing game of is he/isn't he a terrorist, once we knew that he was, and that he was prepared to leave his family behind, the writers should have sent him on his way. As he said in his suicide video, he believed he was not only defending America from its enemies, but also from itself. And so while his character had a murderous, violent, arguably misguided integrity (why not simply publicise the drone attack, rather than strap explosives to your chest), the drama sacrificed the same quality by having him vacillate at the end. And the vice president more than deserved it, after all.
Brody remaining alive felt wrong, somehow. If character is plot, then that's where the plot lost its way. The remaining half an hour after Brody spoke to Dana from the bunker was mostly slack and unsatisfying.
Indeed there was more tension in the penultimate episode, when Brody collected the suicide vest and chatted in a diner to ordinary voters who thought he was an all-American hero. His daughter's suspicions as she saw him tucking the ball-bearing-packed package, wrapped in plain brown paper beneath the floor of the family car's boot were properly edgy, filtered as they were through her desire to believe in her father; her need to trust him.
That said, the final scene of the final episode was bravely bleak. For Carrie to remember a vital piece of information just as she descended into medical unconsciousness hit the viewer in the solar plexus. I found Carrie Mathison pretty annoying for most of the series. But on Sunday night, she elicited great sympathy.
Arguably, that scene should never have been filmed though. Had series one been the only one, and had Brody blown himself up in front of a vice president who knowingly allowed a drone to bomb a school, it would have been a powerful exposition of moral ambiguity in the ongoing fight against terrorism.
As it is, series two will be a fairly conventional game of cat and mouse. It will almost certainly be a good watch, tense at times, but inescapably diluted. If the opening season was lifted above pure entertainment by the themes it was exploring, then the next series will be more of a genre thriller. Millions will watch. But Brody should be watching too - from above.