The damage we do

Homeland – “Gerontion”

After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Think now
History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors
And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions,
Guides us by vanities.

This passage comes from the T.S. Eliot poem “Gerontion,” which gives the episode its title. “Gerontion” relates the ideas and thoughts of an old man, a man who has lived most of his life in one era, only to have the world drastically changed and brought into a new era by violence. Saul is Homeland‘s Gerontion. He pines for the old ways in all aspects of his life, bemoans the changing of the world. But as most things in Homeland, it’s never quite that simple.

Much of “Gerontion” is given to Saul’s meeting with Javadi, and it’s the “Q & A” sequel I wanted and more. The interrogation in “Q & A” was loud, passionate, violent. Here, it’s quiet. It’s two old men, both looking at the paths they’ve taken to end up where they are. Saul is confident, and Javadi is more than willing to flip. But Saul wants more. Saul knows his time is limited, and he’s going out with a bang. A new scheme is launched. Javadi returns to Iran.

But Fara isn’t part of this world, not really. She sees the facts, the direct lines between consequences and actions, with no room for moral ambiguity or schemes. In her eyes, Javadi is only evil, and deserves punishment. Saul’s plan does not sit well with her, an unwanted complication in an operation this small, this secret, this fragile. Fara holds more power than she yet realizes, and combined with her thirst for justice, she may figure out how to wield it.

Peter Quinn is a man who just wants out. After confessing for the murders Javadi committed, he admits to Carrie that he doesn’t believe in the work they’re doing anymore. But even though he is beaten, he is still loyal. When he agrees to help Carrie follow her new lead on the Langley bomber, it isn’t in the name of justice or freedom. He agrees because Carrie needs him. But how long can a single man dive deeper into a world that is tearing him apart? Maybe he should ask Saul.

Saul feels a sense of pride by the end of “Gerontion.” He’s recruited Javadi as an asset. His secret operation seems to be going as smoothly as any top-secret intelligence operation can. He makes up with his wife. He gives Lockhart a proverbial middle finger and regains an ally in Dar Adal. But all of these points of satisfaction are built on the weakest foundations. Javadi is a massive liability. His secret operation is taking an immense toll on those involved. Mira isn’t interested in getting back together with Saul. And Lockhart, even when locked in a tinted and soundproofed conference room, has power and a line to the president, and now that he knows the truth about Saul’s operation, there’s no way he won’t act on it. It’s a question of when, not if, everything falls apart.

And Carrie moves one step closer to the truth, to Brody. While driving to his plane, Javadi reveals to Carrie that Saul asked him if Brody was the Langely bomber, and that Javadi said no. But he dangles the question in front of Carrie, begging for her to bite. She resists intially, she knows his tricks–and even tried to warn Fara earlier, to no avail–but even she crumbles eventually. And when she finally asks, he tells her that the bomber is still alive, still living in the country, and that Javadi’s lawyer can lead her to him. Carrie has a new mission: exonerate Nicholas Brody.

As much as “Gerontion” is about the old men observing the world around them and how it’s changed, it’s also about the truth, whether it be the actual truth, or the “truth” we use to manipulate events in our favor. What Lockhart and Carrie do with the information they’ve received is vitally important, and yet we only know for sure of one who has accurate information. Lockhart has the truth and can weaponize it. Hell, that’s his job. Carrie might have the truth, but when it comes to matters of Brody, she’s impulsive and pushes too far. There’s no way at least some of this truth doesn’t hurt our protagonists, and worst case scenario, we’re heading into a full-scale shitfest.

“Gerontion” is continuing the slow and steady course correction of season three’s midsection. As with the last few episodes, new plot lines are opening up in ways that exciting, if also terrifying in how badly they could play out. Mandy Patinkin and Shaun Toub are dynamite together, and Rupert Friend is giving a lot more shades to “brooding loner” than should be allowed. Even Nazanin Boniadi, who is shunted aside after the first few minutes, gets a few intense scenes that sell her own conflicts with a handful of worried looks. Director Carl Franklin, whose recent work includes episodes of The Newsroom and House of Cards, treats each plot as its own distinct entity, changing styles to fit an episode that, tonally, jumps around quite a bit. But what’s most immediate about “Gerontion” is what happens next. Homeland has finally set up some dominoes, we just have to wait until it knocks them down.

Stray Observations:

  • Chris Brody Watch: Look, we don’t even get any Dana in episode, so there was no way in hell we’d check in Chris’ karate class.

  • Spending some time away from the Brody family was a relief.

  • Fara makes another pointed reference to Caracas in the beginning of the episode, which makes me wonder which happens first: Brody being exonerated, or found.

  • I’m not sure if Carrie’s sickness at the crime scene was supposed to be a reference to her pregnancy or just being overwhelmed by Javadi’s carnage. Or maybe it was both.

  • As always, I’m aiming for “cautiously optimistic” when new, crazy twists are introduced. There are just many ways for “Carrie exonerates Brody” to go right as there are wrong.

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