Homeland – “A Red Wheelbarrow”
Maybe this season has been extra light on the plot twists. Maybe the slower speed of this season has had a lulling effect. Whatever the case, “A Red Wheelbarrow” kicked the narrative into overdrive and threw out about forty big twists, and with all this happening, it was easy to miss the best parts of the episode: the toll Saul’s operation is taking on Fara Sherazi.
We learn more about Fara from her few scenes here than we have all season. Before coming into the CIA’s fold, she worked as an investment banker. She lives with her father (who requires a nurse to stay with him while Fara is at work), and the two have come to America to make better lives for themselves. Fara’s kept her new line of work a secret from his father, but when an inspector general comes knocking after Fara takes two sick days, the secret’s out. This, unsurprisingly, does not go well. Fara’s father is furious, worried what might happen to their family and friends who live in Tehran when it’s discovered that she’s working for the CIA. “I’m an American!” she insists, and her character snaps into focus. Fara Sherazi feels the weight of the long war, the endless espionage, information gathering, stealth assassinations, bombings, and drone strikes that make up the War on Terror. She feels guilt from her own heritage; because she is Persian, she is seen as the Enemy, a symbol of every Al-Qaeda militant, every life lost since 9/11. But not even becoming an American citizen is enough atonement for Fara. Her work at the CIA is a path to perceived redemption. Though she still retains her cultural identity, she wishes to wash the symbolic blood from her hands, to finally pay penance for sins she didn’t commit.
Homeland has had consideration for the experiences of Middle Eastern and Muslin peoples living in the United States before, but not often, and it fell off considerably in season two. But here we are confronted with it directly. We’re seeing the pain and guilt of a young woman who shouldn’t have to bear either of those things. Fara isn’t an informant or agent, she’s an ordinary citizen who has internalized the massive amount of all-encompassing hatred that has no regards for borders or citizenship. When the inspector general mentions that her “loyalty” may be in question, it’s plain on Fara’s face that this is far from the first time she’s heard such concerns, except now they’re coming from the very people she’s fighting for.
But these scenes account for just a small part of “A Red Wheelbarrow.” Mira breaks things off with her lover, who turns out to be a spy of some kind. Or a stalker. I’m not totally sure. (Though after that cafe scene, one thing was certain: dude was a huge dick.) Carrie goes in for her first prenatal exam… thirteen weeks into the pregnancy. Wait, thirteen weeks? Does that mean…? Well, yes, here Carrie finally all but announces that Nicholas Brody is the father of unborn ginger lovechild. Saul reveals his plan to the White House, where Lockhart is sitting by smug and ready for Saul to be chopped down, only for Saul to get the go-ahead with his plan–which, by the way, turns out to be even more insane and extreme than we thought, including a regime change–until his last nine days are up. And then there’s the massive play against Leland Bennett, the lawyer Javadi said has ties to the real Langley bomber. But it all goes to hell once Franklin (the associate of Bennett’s who visited Carrie in the hospital) goes to help the bomber escape. For starters, his plan of “escape” involves a couple of silenced bullets. But Carrie sees the gun and, against Adal’s orders, goes in after him, forcing Quinn to take her out with a bullet to the bicep. Franklin kills the bomber and begins to melt his body with I have to guess is hydrofluoric acid–thanks Breaking Bad!–while Carrie is rushed to the hospital.
Oh, and if you, like Carrie, were wondering where Saul was during this highly important operation, don’t despair! Turns out Saul’s in… Caracas! At the Tower! And as he moves into the room of a doped-out, red-eyed, half-alive Nicholas Brody, the two finally meet eyes for the first time since the attack.
“A Red Wheelbarrow” is an immensely busy episode of television, jumping from plot to plot, though I commend the episode for mostly following the characters through the chronology of the narrative. And it’s hard for an episode to not be exciting when plot twists are flying at your face every ten minutes with even more new questions being raised in between. But man, the reveal of the real Langley bomber was one of the most anti-climactic moments in Homeland‘s brief history. There’s no way this wasn’t intentional–there’s definitely a whole lot going on with Franklin and Bennett we don’t know about, and if you weren’t sure, Carrie spells it out for us after getting shot–but after all this time you’d think the show would give the guy a little more time to materialize before getting the whole bullet/acid bath combo. And I guess Lockhart doesn’t really have the power I assumed in the past, as he’s treated as a minor annoyance before being scuttled off for the rest of the episode. And I’ll reiterate, I have no idea what that scene with Mira’s lover in the house was about. All this creates more questions Homeland will have to own up and answer at some point, and with the Javadi plot (which, fairly, could be a multi-season arc), Carrie’s pregnancy, and what I’m assuming will be Brody’s return to America, the back half of season three is going to have a ton of answers to dole out, a task the show is not always up to.
And it’s a bit of a shame that all these plot acrobatics essentially drown out Fara’s scenes, full of deep emotion and superb acting from Nazanin Boniadi. Better understanding the character means better understanding how the character fits in the narrative, obviously, and it’ll be helpful to have this glimpse into Fara’s personal life as Saul’s operation goes deeper and deeper, but there was a fragility to these scenes that can’t be replicated at Langley or a CIA safehouse where everyone’s trying to figure out their next move. Homeland rarely indulges in humanity like it did in those scenes, and I hope it’s a well the show won’t be afraid of returning to.
Chris Brody Watch: No Chris again this week, though now that his dad’s coming home maybe someone will finally pick him up from karate.
“I love you, I love making love to you” is the kind of line, at least in this context, that will instantly create a bottomless pit of disgust for anyone, fictional or otherwise, within me. Considering that Mira’s boytoy had barely been introduced, they picked the perfect way to signify that the dude was bad news.
I wonder how Quinn shooting Carrie will impact their near-inevitable future relationship. Better yet, what about Brody’s baby? Or Brody? Quinn is getting the short end of the stick on this one.
So now that Carrie’s going to a hospital outside of an intricate ploy, everyone’s going to find out she’s pregnant right?
I almost felt a tinge of sympathy for Senator Lockhart after he was forced to leave the briefing, and I wish we’d gotten a scene of his sitting on a bench looking dejected.
So who’s the bad guy this week? We’ve had Lockhart, Javadi, and Real Langley Bomber, now Franklin–and I guess Bennett?–is added to the list.
As early as last week I still firmly believed Dar Adal had some kind of ulterior motive in all of this, now I realize he’s just a professional ass-kisser.
I wonder how long Saul knew about Caracas before going there at the end of this episode. It could certainly put a different spin on his apology to Carrie about not telling her the Brody info earlier.