Agency

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Homeland – “Game On”

“Now’s the time for patience. Don’t force the pieces, store them away.”

Homeland has never been known for its subtlety. When a show uses and abuses plot the way Homeland does, it loses that option. But when Saul says these words to Fara midway through the episode, they’re not just for her, they’re for the audience as well. But how can a show that burns through plot and flies by at breakneck speed expect its audience to be patient? It took nearly four hours for the third season to play a single card from its hand, and when compared to seasons one and two, that’s a lifetime. Season three of Homeland has slowed to a snail’s pace to draw parallels, to parse out plot in increments so small they’re not difficult to miss. Even when we’re given a(n extended) glimpse of Nicholas Brody, it floats in a plotless expanse. But in the closing moments of “Game On” there’s a spark, but it births a phoenix, a force of life or death, and which it becomes is yet to be seen.

But before we reach those final moments, we must go back to the pieces. Carrie is finally released from the psych ward (after being denied release at her hearing), and is scouted once again by Franklin. She refuses his offer, but finds her life hampered by the Justice Department. With no car, no money, no help at all, Carrie is left stranded, and finally agrees to the meeting with Leland Bennett, a lawyer for with ties to same Iranian terrorists who carried out the attack on Langley. After promising that they can keep her out of the hospital, Carrie agrees to give his client information about the CIA.

Dana helps Leo escape from the psychiatric facility, the two of them going on the run in Jessica’s car. But the outside world is dangerous for Dana, as well, where people recognize her face and realize who her father is. They end up at a graveyard, next the headstone of Leo’s brother, who Leo reveals committed suicide, and the base where Nicholas Brody was stationed before his deployment. Jessica and Mike meet with Leo’s parents and the police, where Leo’s parents accuse Dana of being a bad influence because of her father. Mike begins investigating, and learns that Leo was only in the hospital because of a plea bargain. The police believe he killed his brother, but wouldn’t charge him with homicide if he was committed.

Saul and Fara continue to track the money, leading to a mildly confusing series of revelations involving futbol and money laundering, all tied back to Caracas.

And in the final moments, Carrie visits Saul at home, where it’s revealed that Carrie is going triple-agent, getting in with the Iranians in a grossly elaborate operation to help Saul take them down.

“Game On” was at its best when focusing on Carrie. Director David Nutter gave the scenes of her trying to navigate the world after being released from the hospital a claustrophobic intensity reminiscent of season one. Claire Danes pulls back throughout, leaving the chin acting for the final scene, and instead playing her steely resolve, a side of Carrie we haven’t seen nearly enough of this season. The scenes between Saul and Fara were fine, though the explanations were convoluted, and with so many different names flying around it became difficult to pick apart what was happening, though the cut aways of the actual laundering operation helped immensely, and there was no very awkward scene of Saul yelling at Fara for her headscarf.

And then there’s Dana and Leo. I’ve been a staunch defender of Dana Brody from day one, but I’m already bored with Leo, and adding the possibility of psychopathy doesn’t help. I’m still overly worried that he’s going to leak her nude photos (especially after he threw her phone out of the car), which would be a terrible plot direction, and Sam Underwood brings almost nothing to the role, coasting on the same half-acting he used in the last season of Dexter. Morgan Saylor is still fantastic, and her monologue at the base was a great piece of acting, but their portion of the episode went nowhere, and handing off the baton to Jessica and Mike didn’t really help.

“Game On” could be a game-changer for Homeland season three. It could also be the episode everyone points to as the moment it all went to hell. It’s impossible to say, but if the final moments are any indication, we might be headed back for the Homeland we know and love.

Stray Observations

  • Was that the guy Carrie had the one night stand with way back in season one?
  • Also, VIRGIL!
  • So are Saul and Fara going to find Brody once they start investigating Caracas? Seems obvious, but Homeland rarely takes the obvious route.
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