Who will survive in America?

saul

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.

Stray Observations:

  • 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.

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.

Shrill, sad cannonade

Homeland – “Still Positive”

At the mid-way point of Homeland‘s third season, it’s impossible to tell who’s winning and who’s losing. After a lot of middling around, in the last two episodes plots and schemes are unfolding and winding their serpentine paths toward presumed disaster. The show is shifting back to its original themes: the advantages of human espionage and the dangers of trust. Our characters, drawn in such close parallels at the beginning of the season, have begun taking divergent paths that cross and deviate at a moment’s notice. And somehow, in the middle of that, Homeland seems to be becoming a show about Saul Berenson, the man attempting to hold everything together.

Mothers, current, perspective, and all other variants, litter “Still Positive.” Hell, it’s what gives the episode its title: after her first meeting with Javadi, Carries takes an at-home pregnancy test, which gives a positive readout. She places it in a drawer, where we see rows and rows of other pregnancy tests, all with the same result. Jessica Brody feels more powerless than ever, and when Dana finally leaves at the episode’s end–but not before legally changing her last name–it’s less a shock than a devastating sense of failure that seems to was over her. And then there’s Javadi, who murders the mothers of his son and grandson in an act of retaliation against Saul.

Outside of Jessica Brody, motherhood has never been a major area of exploration for Homeland, but with Carrie’s impending pregnancy, it seems to exploding into the mix. Many Golden Age dramas have dealt with motherhood, usually by examining how terrible mothers are and how it effects their children. It’s too early to say, but I’m not convinced that’s what Homeland has in mind. Ideally, given that Dana’s departure and the reveal of Carrie’s pregnancy both happen here, the show will shift some focus onto Jessica Brody herself, as opposed to Jessica Brody in reaction to Dana. Morena Baccarin could work magic with the right scenes, and if motherhood is going to become a major theme, there’s no better place to start.

All of which is not to say that Carrie being pregnant is necessarily a good idea. It seems almost desperate by the writers, a card they get to play because they have a female protagonist. It’s a stale story to be sure, especially when there are so few “prestige” dramas with female protagonists, and it also might create some more big logical problems for the show. Mainly, how did no one ever realize she was pregnant? Carrie was committed to a mental institution just a few episodes ago, did no run any blood work on her? Is this part of her and Saul’s plan? Maybe they’ll attempt to explain away these questions later, but for now, they’ve been raised on a massive level.

In the CIA’s orbit, schemes on schemes on schemes are hurtling along, and just when the season didn’t have a single clearly-defined antagonist, we suddenly find ourselves with two. Having both a foreign and domestic threat is nothing new to the show (remember when Brody stopped the vice-president’s heart with hacking?), but neither of these threats are vying for our sympathy, which gives both Javadi and Senator Lockhart better definition, a saving grace consider they’re truly emerging halfway through the season. The Lockhart scenes weren’t as riveting as those in last week’s episode, but seeing Lockhart plant the seeds of a partnership with Adal was worthwhile. On the other hand, nearly all of the Javadi scenes were exciting and riveting, especially in the episode’s second half. Seeing Carrie on the other side of an interrogation has been a popular trick this season, but it’s never worked better than it did when she was hooked up to the polygraph being grilled by Javadi. I also didn’t realize how much I’d missed those scenes of Saul and his small team sitting in a CIA safehouse listening and worrying about Carrie. The team, which includes Carrie, Quinn, Virgil’s brother Max, and Fara, is great, even if we’re Virgil-less, and now that they’ve got Javadi, I’m hoping for a “Q & A” sequel next week.

There were still some bumps in the road, most of them occurring during the scenes between Javadi and Carrie. When Carrie revealed her plan immediately after Javadi’s men leave the room and he calls her on lying, I was suspicious, and the dread that accompanies every instance of Carrie playing her hand too soon appeared in my throat. But when it was revealed that it was all part of the plan, it was less unsettling and more just clunky plotting. I’m also still not 100% on the plausibility train for a lot of this deeply intricate plan Carrie and Saul are playing, and there were more than a few moments throughout the episode where I wasn’t quite sure what exactly was going on, especially with surveillance situations. I’m also still worried Leo is lurking in the shadows ready to leak Dana’s nude photos to the press, but I won’t stop worrying about that until the last cut to black of the season.

Earlier, I said the title “Still Positive” came from Carrie’s pregnancy tests, but it also ties into my thoughts about Homeland becoming the Saul Berenson show. From the time Carrie was captured last episode to the moment they realize where Javadi is going at the end of this one, Saul is inhumanly optimistic. The world he knows, already destroyed by a literal bomb, is being destroyed by plenty of metaphorical ones. All of these schemes lead back to him eventually, whether he’s the mastermind or they exist to take him down. Saul has a singular vision, but just like Carrie before him, that singular vision might leave him as a threat to homeland security, a broken person living a broken life with nothing left to fight for. Then again, as I said, we still don’t know who’s winning and who’s losing, and it’s truly anyone’s game.

Stray Observations:

  • Chris Brody Watch: Chris may think his sister’s new last name is cool, but she doesn’t even give him a hug goodbye when she leaves. Don’t worry Chris, you can always vent in karate.

  • I have to admit, I gasped in shock twice during this episode. One when we saw the drawer of pregnancy tests, and again when Javadi went on his little murder rampage.

  • Looking back on this episode, I can’t help but feel a good 20-30% was setting up future stories and mysteries, but it wasn’t immediately obvious while I was watching, which is a plus.

  • If Leo is gonna leak those nudes, I hope they take a few episodes before it happens. He’s such an awful character who dragged Dana’s story down considerably, and I’m excited about being free of him for at least a little while.

  • Let me be clear: I’m not 100% against the idea of Carrie being pregnant, it just seems like hoping a huge can of worms when they need it the least. I’m anxious to see how the writers navigate the story, and if they handle it poorly it could send the show flying off the rails again.

Agency

vlcsnap-2013-10-23-19h42m48s164

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.

The needle and the damage done

Homeland – “The Tower of David”

“The Tower of David” is all about the end of the line. Dimly-lit rooms with concrete walls. Being beaten down mentally and physically. Trying to escape where you are, and being pulled back. Accepting defeat. Lithium and heroin, two very different drugs serving very similar purposes. Crippling solitude.

The return of Nicholas Brody was going to be tricky no matter what. “The Tower of David” handles it with little aplomb. He is lost, he is confused, he is injured, he is captive. Even after he recovers from his gunshot wounds, he is not allowed to leave. “Better” is meaningless. Instead he is denigrated until he accepts his captivity. But this is nothing new for Nick Brody–he says as much near the episode’s end. By the time he reaches for the needle himself, and sits alone in his dark room, he has reached, by all appearances, the end of the line, the point from which he can never return.

The same can be said of Carrie Mathison. The show shifts from Carrie/Dana to Carrie/Brody, a smart choice for dealing with the most fragile piece of season three’s puzzle. Carrie is also “better,” but it’s not enough to get her visitation, to get her out of the psychiatric ward. What those in charge want is not “better,” but “cooperative.” For Carrie, that means always remaining calm, no bad moments, surrendering control. For Brody, it means accepting that he can never leave Caracas. For Carrie and Brody, there’s no autonomy left. They are subject to the whims of those who hold them captive. And by the end of “The Tower of David,” both have lost the will to fight.

But here’s the thing: those pushing Carrie and Brody down are not entirely wrong. Both are highly destructive forces, hurricanes who move with their own agenda, sucking up those who come too close and leaving a trail of destruction in their wakes. Carrie and Brody have each destroyed so much already, and that doesn’t even account for the wreckage outside of Langley.

“The Tower of David,” however, is not about answers. Instead, its small movements forward in plot are surrounded by mysteries. Homeland has made the distinct choice to keep its cards close to its chest this year, a move that I find smart and am enjoying much more than many. After such an over-blown second season, with the plot of Homeland having careened off a cliff of insanity, they need to go through these steps slowly and methodically, piecing together the Brody narrative in a way that benefits the show moving forward.

Because of these elements, I feel there’s not much to say about “The Tower of David.” It’s not truly a board-setting episode, as Carrie and Brody are the only characters we check in on. It’s not a bottle episode, as they’re worlds apart. There’s little exposition, and only slightly more plot. It’s a difficult episode, made even more so by removing the most contentious elements. A month has passed since Carrie’s hearing, but we know nothing about what’s happening outside, with Saul, Jessica, or Dana. Brody is back, but no one knows, and at this rate, it doesn’t look that’s changing any time soon.

Instead, “The Tower of David” works as a character study of sorts. We’ve seen Brody and Carrie in very similar situations before, but things are no longer working in their favor. And while they feign towards a more driven story with the scenes at the home of the couple from the Mosque and Carrie’s attempt to talk to her visitor, they’re misdirects, leading us back to a place where we’re forced to watch these characters drag themselves down to rock bottom. Brody injects and Carrie and ingests, and together, they’ve never felt more alone.

Lost in the world

Homeland – “Uh… Oh… Ah…”

Carrie Mathison and Dana Brody have both peered into the abyss. Both were walked to the edge by Nicholas Brody, but as they stared, he disappeared. And now, the walk back has become a painful journey, one that is consuming both women. Both are lost in a world where things are just a few degrees off, unable to see the same “big picture” as those around them. Both are struggling to find something to hold onto.

It’s interesting that, at this juncture, Homeland is drawing these parallels between Carrie and Dana. Obviously, the bombing at Langley and Brody’s subsequent disappearance have affected both deeply, but it’s the differences that are key. Dana felt betrayed, and when unable to cope with the turbulence surrounding her family, tried to take her own life. The only person she feels a connection with anymore is Leo, the boy from the institution, so it’s him she runs to in the middle of the night for laundry-room romance. He understands her, she insists, but we know what can happen when two potentially unstable people begin to understand each other. Jessica has no idea how to handle this new complication to their lives, and though she claims Dana has her attention, as we learn in the bathroom–the same one once so soiled with blood that Jessica was forced to replace the tiles and grout–she can’t see the world like Dana does right now. All Jessica wants to do is help, but Dana refuses to accept it.

And while Dana has just left one institution, Carrie finds herself inside another. After her last confrontation with Saul, Carrie decides to take her story, her full story, to the press, the same press that marked her just days before, but Adal makes certain it won’t happen. Carrie is taken into psychiatric detainment and set for a commitment hearing. The information she has is dangerous, Adal insists, and the easiest way to block the truth is to label it insanity. And Carrie, despite being right about most everything so far, is so far down her own spiral that she’s lost the ability to remain calm, lashing out at any and all who defy her in even the slightest. Even Quinn, who, like Jessica, only wants to help, is pushed away when he can’t provide the immediate results Carrie wants. When Carrie’s sister and father arrive to her hearing with her medication, Carrie only sees another slight. And when the judge attempts to begin the hearing, feeling more alone than ever before, Carrie flees, fighting at the orderlies containing her, once again on the cusp of losing everything.

At Langley, Saul and Quinn have had little luck finding the incriminating information they need in the files and computer Quinn took from Javadi’s compound. A financial analysis is brought in, a young Persian woman, new to the CIA, named Fara (Nazanin Boniadi), whose headscarf raises the eyebrows of many in Langley, including Saul. Fara fails to find the specific evidence they need, but she does find suspicious wire transfer records, which lead her and Saul to an interrogation with the bankers responsible. When they attempt to dance around answers, Fara steps up, and for a brief moment, Saul sees Carrie in her, a young woman he can mentor, one with ambition and a moral compass, one he hopes can fight against the evils of the world. Peter Quinn, on the other hand, is becoming unhinged. After the accidental murder of Javadi’s son, Quinn has become less tolerant of Saul’s cavalier methods, saying outright that he doesn’t support the treatment of Carrie and plans to leave the CIA once the bombing investigation is through. He seeks out one of the non-compliant bankers, threatening him into releasing the information they wanted, and it’s there that Fara finds both the biggest clue and the biggest mystery: almost $45 million that vanished during the transactions. Saul is certain that money is the key, and it becomes their top priority.

And we come back to Carrie and Dana, both in drastically different scenarios of distress, both seeking some sort of comfort. For Carrie, it comes in the worst way, the unwanted Thorazine injection from her doctor, which numbs her, but not enough to keep her from letting out one final “fuck you” to Saul. For Dana, it comes from her father’s prayer rug, tucked away in the garage beneath family photos. As she crouches on the rug, the sunlight filtering through the dust, it doesn’t matter whether or not she’s actually praying. The rug itself means so much more than any prayer could.

“Uh… Oh… Ah…” is a stupidly named episode of television, but one that’s more assured than “Tin Man is Down,” the season’s premiere. The plot continues to click along, though it feels much slower due to the small nature of many of the episode’s scenes. I was right that Dana’s storyline is raising ire, but when Morgan Saylor delivers scenes like her monologue in the bathroom, I can’t even care. And now that the show has played a bit of its hand, showing us the parallels between her and Carrie, she feels more essential to the show than ever. Rupert Friend and Morena Baccarin continue to orbit on the outer edges, but both are slowly being drawn into the heart of the plot by their similar connections to Carrie and Dana, respectively. And F. Murray Abraham continues to deliver more and more menace, pushing Saul to take down Carrie, then retreating to the shadows to let Saul take all the blame. Sure, it’d be nice to see him for more than a scene or two an episode, but his presence is still there. With “Uh… Oh… Ah…,” Homeland continues its push into a great unknown, hurtling as many characters as possible toward complete and total breakdowns.

Stray Observations:

  • I just noticed in this episode that Henry Bromell is still credited as executive producer, which is a nice way to honor his memory.
  • Chris Brody Watch: Chris tries to help Jessica deal with Dana and does some homework.
  • Claire Danes does some superb chin-acting in this episode, culminating in that commitment hearing.
  • The shot of Dana on the prayer rug (see top) was absolutely gorgeous.
  • Honestly, I was taken aback by Saul’s line to Fara about wearing her headscarf into Langley. I rationalized it as Saul trying to push her to deliver results, but Patinkin’s delivery was scathing, giving hateful words even greater bite.

The Few Who Remain

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.

Stray Observations:

  • 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.