Mark Schafer/Showtime
December 21, 2015 at 05:34 PM EST

Despite the eerily prescient plots that spanned the season (and the crucial discussions that followed), and despite the immense debates over surveillance and Snowden and Syria that went unanswered, the riveting fifth season of Homeland ended on a small, poignant moment with Carrie standing over a comatose Quinn.

It’s a moment that ends the season — to me, anyway — on an ambiguous note. Others may disagree about what happened to Quinn (and I get to all that at the end of this recap on page 3 if you want to jump ahead), but that moment is all about Carrie. After spending a season trapped by that kill order (and that wig) and by the fact that she was straddling two worlds — the CIA and the one with Jonas and Franny — without fully being in either, she’s finally freed in the finale. Because of that, the hour focuses on what she’ll do next.

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And she has so many options. The finale spends most of its time with Carrie as she makes pivotal choices (or, as she puts it, closes chapters of her life) and not much time with Bibi’s threat on Berlin. In fact, though we started the hour expecting to see the end result of a deadly terrorist plot, the show quickly sidelines it in favor of following Carrie. The real bombs dropped in the episode come in the form of verbal offers and denials from the men in her life: from Jonas, then Saul, and then, finally, Otto Düring — and Carrie defuses each of them as best she can. The sarin gas, after all that, is almost an afterthought.

Plus, she’s not even the one who stops the threat. She charges into the tunnel at full speed, but Qasim pulls her aside before she can reach Bibi. When she realizes he’s having second thoughts, she begs him to save the thousands of people trapped inside the station. And he does — by running to Bibi and sacrificing himself. Carrie shoots Bibi just in time before the train arrives, but can’t save Qasim, whom she cradles in her arms and thanks (for saving Quinn with atropine) as he dies. Faith — as it has often in this season, with all the shots of Carrie in church — again plays a role: Before Qasim ran to stop Bibi, he told Carrie that Allah would help him find the words to appeal to his cousin. And as he dies, Carrie whispers words of prayer over his body. 

The encounter shakes Carrie to her core. Saul finds her in an ambulance, but all she wants is to go home, which, it turns out, is Jonas’ apartment. She pauses at Franny’s room and then crawls into bed. 

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But Saul isn’t about to do the same and head to bed. He’s still pursuing Allison, and he’s livid that they lost her at the hospital. Luckily, the slimy Ivan Krupin is still in custody, and Saul doesn’t pull any punches when he heads into the interrogation room with the SVR Berlin chief. He delivers blow after blow, telling Krupin that he wasted his life trying to craft a masterpiece with Allison, that he’ll lose either way when Allison returns to Russia and reveals he wasn’t a defector, that he has ultimately failed. Krupin, as always, doesn’t believe Saul at first, but Saul scoffs. “I’m good, but I’m not that good,” Saul says. “A story with so many moving parts would’ve taken weeks to dream up.” (So, like this season of the show? Oooh, I see what you did there, Homeland writers.)

Of course, Saul’s not done. He offers Krupin an out: If Krupin reveals how the SVR is planning on squirreling Allison out of Germany, the CIA will help Krupin live out the rest of his life in Jackson Hole, Wyo., where there’s skiing year-round. Krupin glibly replies that he would miss the Alps, but when Saul turns to leave, he reconsiders and plays his one last, cruel card: He tells Saul that it was him, not Allison, who pitched the idea to have Allison sleep with Saul. Having shot his last verbal bullet, Krupin grimaces. And Saul steps back into the room. 

Speaking of bullets, though, the one Allison shot through her own shoulder is giving her plenty of pain (hooray!), and she can’t wait to be patched up. She’s taken to a tony mansion where a doctor promises to take good care of her. “You must be very important,” he says. “Who are you, Putin’s long-lost sister?” Allison’s shoulder may be wounded, but her ego’s intact: “I am important,” she fires back at the doc, promising to ruin him if he doesn’t do his job. 

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