It's a safe bet to say anyone who has stuck with the second series of Homeland through the more absurd scenarios and preposterous plot twists will have approached the finale with a sense of dread.
Could it GET any sillier?
Yes, it could. The good news is it didn't.
In an eleventh-hour act of scriptwriting derring-do, Homeland pulled itself back from the brink with a riveting final act.
While it didn't repair all the damage wrought by this series' implausibility, it effectively reset Homeland, wiping the slate clean and restoring a little of the faith fans used to have in it.
A fresh start is exactly what Carrie and Brody were looking for at the beginning of the episode.
They were back in THAT cabin, the scene of so many key revelations in season one, finally admitting that it's love and not just lust they feel for one another, and talking about escaping to a new future together.
They weren't alone, of course. Quinn, the guy CIA boss Estes had put in place to rub out Brody, was lurking in the woods, watching them through his telescope and waiting for the right moment.
But when the right moment came (Carrie nipping out to buy some food) Quinn didn't pull the trigger. Instead, he turned up in Estes' home and told him he wasn't going to kill Brody because he was "no threat".
He wasn't going to allow Estes to do so, either, nor was he going to allow him to destroy fragile Carrie's life for a second time.
If Estes laid a finger on either of them, Quinn promised, he'd come back and kill him.
So, has Quinn fallen in love with Carrie?
Does he really believe Brody is a changed man?
Or could it be that Quinn needs Brody alive, because he's working for the terrorists himself?
Remember, there's still a mole on the loose in the CIA.
The upshot is that Estes reinstates Saul, the only other person who knows he's been on black op solo run, and redacts the file on him. "I'm giving an old man a break," he tells him.
Up to this point, the episode was surprisingly low key -- and then the came the explosive twist that blows everything wide open again. During a memorial service for the late vice-president Walden at CIA headquarters, Carrie and Brody slip to another room for an intimate moment.
Brody sees through a window that someone has moved his car closer to the building, which can mean only one thing: car bomb.
BOOM! -- an explosion rips through the room where the service is being held, killing 200, including Estes and the VP's wife and son, which at least gets rid of that tedious hit-and-run death subplot.
The game has changed again and Carrie is pointing her gun at Brody's head.
"I didn't do this," he says.
"Nazir played us all from the very beginning. It was always Walden, always the CIA. Nazir would have died a thousand deaths to make this day happen."
"Nobody else will believe you," Carrie tells him. But she does, and soon they're at her secret bolthole, where she keeps a pile of cash and fake passports. Their plan to escape to Canada and then Newfoundland goes awry, however, when Al Qaida broadcasts Brody's old tape, the one he made before donning the explosive vest in series one, to the world, making it look like he's responsible for the memorial service bomb.
Is he innocent or is this just another part of an elaborate terrorist plot?
It ends with Brody going on the lam alone and Carrie -- who's back at the CIA where Saul is now top dog -- vowing to clear his name.
I tuned in last night expecting to be suckered. Instead, I was sucked in all over again. This was an excellent finale.
Homeland gets another chance.