Homeland – “Tin Man is Down”
“There are people whose hurt feelings can trigger wars. People whose broken hearts become grand opera, on an international stage.” Bruce Wayne spoke these words in the final issue of Grant Morrison’s Batman Incorporated, which came to an end in August, and when returning to Homeland, I couldn’t keep them from my mind. Both stories deal with the intersection of the personal and the political, and the devastation found there, be it a lost child or lover, or the slow loss of an entire country’s trust. And once the destruction occurs, when all that’s left is a big, ugly hole in the ground, a glass case holding an empty uniform, an unrelenting darkness smothering all, the only way out is to claw your way toward the light, no matter what still lurks in the shadows.
By the end of its second season, Homeland had effectively painted itself into a corner of epic proportions, and it all revolved around Nicholas Brody. More specifically, it all hinged on the fact that Brody was still alive, and thanks to Carrie, has disappeared into the Great White North. And when all your balls are in the air, and those balls turn out to be chainsaws, how do you catch them all?
You abandon the metaphor, and you jump.
It’s been 58 days since the attack on CIA headquarters, and Carrie Mathison is a woman shackled by secrets, guilt, and paranoia. At her Intelligence Committee hearings, Carrie is forced to withhold pivotal information about Brody, but it’s a battle she’s slowly losing. When she blurts out that she believes Brody isn’t the person who bombed the CIA headquarters, it’s just another levee breaking, and when the levees break, there’s going to be leaks. As Carrie’s hearings go further and further south–culminating with her officially pleading the Fifth–more and more information, the same information Carrie’s counsel (and Saul) have tried to keep deeply hidden, comes out in the press. At home, Carrie has begun constructing yet another Wall O’ Crazy, and reveals to her father that she’s stopped taking her lithium, choosing to self-medicate with alcohol and sex instead. We’ve seen Carrie in this place before, and it ended with electrodes attached to her temples. By episode’s end, things will only be worse.
Saul Berenson has become paralyzed by fear, locked into indecision. With the ranks of the CIA decimated, Saul is acting director, and the CIA has been busy tracking down six members of the network responsible for carrying out the attack. The intention is to assassinate, but the call is Saul’s, and he can’t, or won’t, make it. The country is losing faith in the CIA, and if there’s no improvement, the risk of dissolution is very real. At home, his wife Mira has returned home as promised, but she and Saul have made no move to mend their relationship. They sleep in separate bedrooms, and never discuss what’s happening between them. But when Mira puts the cards on the table and spells out Saul’s paralysis for him, things begin to snap into focus. He gives the go on the assassinations, and all six targets are taken out. It’s a moment of personal victory for Saul, but one that is dashed quickly. While out celebrating, Saul is accosted by a furious Carrie, brandishing the latest leak to the press, the most damning of all: that she (though unnamed in the article) and Brody were having an affair. Saul can only watch as Carrie sets fire to the bridge between them, and when confronted about the information by the Intelligence Committee, reveals not only that it is accurate, but that Carrie also kept her bipolar diagnosis a secret as well, even going so far as to call her “unstable.” Carrie, alone in her home and staring at a screen once again, can only cry.
The women of the Brody household have fallen apart in their own separate ways. Dana, whose relationship with her father has been forever marred, attempted suicide, slitting her wrists in the bathtub. Jessica, left with next to nothing after her husband’s turncoat nature was revealed, has been desperately struggling to make ends meet, especially after putting Dana into a treatment facility, and grasping at any understanding of what’s going on in her daughter’s head. We begin on Dana’s last day at the facility, and she’s become accustomed to the new normal of the world inside: strict rules, bad food, and a cute boy. But when she finally leaves with Jessica, she finds a whole different world waiting outside, flanked on all sides by press and paparazzi, foaming at the mouth for a soundbite or photo. Back in their home, the three remaining Brodys are joined by Jessica’s mother, and the tensions all bubble just below the surface. Dana makes her best attempt to move forward, taking down old posters and sending lewd photos to the boy from the facility. Jessica is just holding on as best she can.
And of course, there’s Peter Quinn. At the beginning of the episode, we see him constructing a bomb, but it’s not until Saul gives the order for the simultaneous assassinations that we learn its purpose: he’s in Caracas, Venezuela, to assassinate one of Saul’s targets. He decides not to bomb the target’s car after seeing a child in the backseat, but is given the order to infiltrate the target’s compound in order to carry out the assassination. As Quinn stealthily makes his way through the mansion, taking out guard after guard, he finally reaches the target’s office, where Quinn eliminates him with shots to the bottom of the desk, where he was hiding. Quinn confirms the kill, but sees a light in the hall outside, and shoots the owner, revealed to be the same child he had chosen not to kill before. Quinn is crestfallen, but his mission is complete nonetheless.
It’s nearly impossible to tell just where Homeland is planning to go this season. Brody’s specter looms ominously over the entire episode, but he’s still missing for the indefinite future. Carrie is in another downward spiral, but now she doesn’t even have Saul to lean on. Neither Jessica nor Dana Brody have any real idea of what road to take. And Quinn, still, is more mystery than man. But all of these threads show promise, and I’m most interested to see just how long they’ll go without actually bringing Brody back into the ring. I’m sure the Dana story, wherever it goes, will irk many, but I’ve always found myself partial to Morgan Saylor and the Dana character, even when she’s gallivanting around and running over women with the Vice President’s son. And after receiving an Emmy nomination for a season where she didn’t actually do much, Morena Baccarin looks to actually have some story to carry this season, and I’m sure Brody’s return will only intensify it.
I knew coming in that Homeland is an exceedingly difficult show to review week-to-week. It’s often ridiculously unpredictable, and very rarely is the big picture clear until the very last minute. But the ride itself is half the fun, and this premiere hints at a great ride indeed.
F. Murray Abraham has joined the main cast as Dar Adal, the black ops specialist who Saul has a history with. His appearances in season two were exciting, and the chemistry he and Patinkin share is incredible. The character’s main purpose so far seems to pushing a wedge between Saul and Carrie, which will can only end poorly.
Chris Brody Watch: This week, Chris eats some dinner, gives Dana a hug, and laughs at her jokes. No mention of card games. Will report back next week.
Dana’s treatment boyfriend is the same actor who played Zach Hamilton in the garbage final season of Dexter, up until a few weeks ago when part of his head got chopped off. It was super dumb, don’t watch it.
If you’re not a fan of Claire Danes’ cry-face, I feel bad for you son, but I’m a huge fan and I can already tell we’re gonna get a ton of it in these early episodes.
Somehow, putting F. Murray Abraham and Mandy Patinkin’s beards in the same room for such extended periods of time doesn’t rip open a wormhole into an alternate dimension of awesome.
I hope no one ever asks me to choose between this or Nurse Jackie for worst opening credits music.