All season long, Greg Otto and Tierney Sneed will be recapping Showtime's Homeland, and discuss what they're hoping to see in the rest of the season.
(Ed. Note: Spoilers ahead. Do not read if you want to let the story unfold for yourself.)
Greg: Vindication! Did you sit there, pumping your fist, saying "Yes!" to yourself as Saul discovered the hidden tape? Was that just me? It can't be, because for any viewer, there has to be a sense of relief (for the time being) in knowing Brody's actions will not go unaccounted for, and Carrie will (hopefully sooner than later) learn that she wasn't wrong all along. It's heartwrenching to see Carrie reveal her own personal self-doubt in the wake of her CIA dismissal, but at least we now know she won't go through the rest of her days questioning herself over her premonitions about Brody. Then again, Saul has yet to tell Carrie, so maybe there is twist coming that will drive us nuts. I wouldn't put it past this show.
Tierney: Yes! Major fist pump with the hidden tape! That was such a great twist at the end — especially considering the lengths that Carrie went to get that bag. As cray-cray as she is, she has almost a sixth sense about these things. I've seen some critics say that Homeland depends too much on "luck" or "coincidence" to further the narrative. What are the chances that video is in that bag Carrie grabs, and that Saul finds the disk before getting rid of the bag? Furthermore, what are the chances that Brody is visiting the Pentagon just as the raid was going down? I think this "luck" criticism is a silly one. So many good stories involve some sort of "luck" factor, and if Homeland's strength was only in its plot, then I would find that frustrating. But the show has done a fantastic job giving its characters — even the secondary ones — incredible depth, enough that I can forgive the show for being a little reliant on "what are the odds?" developments.
But first, when did Brody get that direct line to Nazir? I can name several times in the first season that Brody would have wanted to use it (remember in the tunnel with Walker how desperate Brody was to finally speak with Nazir directly?). What about when Roya came to his office in the last episode? Wouldn't that whole exchange warrant a text to Abu? Are we supposed to believe that he got it in between this episode and the last? Or that this is the first time he would need to use it (or at least we would need to see him use it)?
Greg: I don't think it's luck as much as it is clever writing, and the points you bring up are things that have to be addressed as the season progresses. If Fatima Ali's husband knows Nazir, is it really that big a stretch to think the video would make its way to Beirut? Even the best shows take a creative leap every once in a while (looking at you, Season 5 of the The Wire), but I don't think the convenience of the two scenes you mention is enough for a viewer to go: "Wait, really?"
However, this episode wasn't without its questions. Referring to Brody's warning text: Isn't there a way of knowing a text was sent from inside The Pentagon to a foreign country? Isn't it similar to the way you can track an IP address, or am I showing a vast display of cyber security ignorance?
And speaking of cyber security, a CIA director and a team overseeing a black-ops mission is depending solely on Skype for classified mission orders? That can't be the way it truly happens. I can't see President Obama launching a raid to kill the most wanted terrorist in the world using the same program I use to voice chat with my dad about the Phillies missing the playoffs.
Tierney: There were definitely some holes, but because the show is so good with both its plot and its character development, I'm willing to overlook them. In terms of character, one thing I realized this week is what an absolute coward Estes is, specifically after he couldn't make the call to go forward with raid and left it up to Saul. Something I totally forgot which the brilliant Rich Juzwiak pointed out last week was that Estes and Carrie had had an affair before the show picks up, but you wouldn't know it by how coldly he treats her. Contrast that with Saul (who also had a weird, sexually charged moment with Carrie last season) and how loyal and kind he is to Carrie — trusting her judgement on the raid, and then, even when Nazir isn't killed, giving her the credit she deserves for giving the right read of her asset. Saul's uncovering the tape makes the vindication all the more sweet—he should be the first to see Carrie redeemed.
Greg: Estes is a snake, but to borrow a turn of phrase, that's a "known unknown." Estes and Carrie have a history, and there was a point last season where Estes hinted that she played him to the point where he can only see his kids on the weekends. That's a history that hasn't been deeply explored. As much as I believe that whole thing was just a "friends with benefits" thing (by benefits, I mean career benefits), I'm not sure we will ever get an answer.
On the other side of the show, the noose is starting to tighten around Brody's neck. All of his Marine buddies from "Uncle Mike" to the drunken, Lt. Dan-esque conspiracy theorists read him the riot act about the holes in Tom Walker's sniper alibi. They know something's up. The bar scene provided us with one of the best looks into Brody's psyche about this entire ordeal. When Brody says "Tom Walker stopped being a Marine the day he turned," he pauses, closes his eyes, and drops his head, almost in a realization that he could have placed his own name in that declaration. Brody ultimately helps Nazir in the episode, but his comfort with his "mission" is clearly not at the same level as it was a season ago. I think Brody is starting to realize that he may still be a prisoner of war despite his physical freedom.
Tierney: Brody struggled a bunch of times in this episode. There were a lot of moments where Congressman Brody and Nazir-ally Brody come into conflict (I am not saying "terrorist Brody," because I don't think he believes he is a terrorist), and it visibly shows. Specifically, the cocktail party where Vice President Walden reveals only four of the five Iranian nuclear sites were hit, it gives Brody pause — literally. He is clearly uncomfortable associating with the government officials behind the kinds of attacks that killed Issa. A cold-blooded terrorist could play a double agent much more smoothly, but Brody continually, though subtly, falters in the role. He even explicitly verbalizes his internal conflict at the end of the scene when Jessica asks about throwing a veterans fundraiser: "You know the people hosting this party? They make bombs. You really want to help veterans, you take out everyone in this room."
What a chilling statement, considering that was essentially his plan in the Season 1 finale. I keep waiting for these moments—the pauses, when he challenges his government colleagues (think back to last week when he is shocked Estes doesn't know the number of drones in service), and outbursts like that—to throw up a red flag to those around him that something is up with this guy. But Jessica and everyone else would rather project what they want to see in "Congressman Brody." As you mentioned, it's his Marine buddies who really "tighten the noose" by pressing him on Walker. In classic Homeland-style irony, they don't know how right they are that Brody knows the circumstance's of Walker's fate.
Greg: So now we are left to wonder who confronts Brody first? Saul? Carrie? Mike? Jessica? Dana? I've been racking my brain on the direction this season is going to take, and if it's going to result in a stunted story arc. A senior member of the CIA now knows the truth about Brody. Is there any possible way for him to wriggle out of this, and string it out over the course of 10 episodes? If he's caught, where does the show go from there?
Tierney: I mean, who does Saul call first — his boss, Estes, or Carrie, the person who deserves to know first that she was right all along (especially after her melt-down of self-doubt on the roof top)?
Maybe the bigger question is where does Carrie go from here? I imagine if/when Brody is exposed, she will have to carry the show into its next major arc, unless it ends when Brody's arc does. I really like the detail that she went rogue to meet her asset, Fatima. It's a decision she shrugs off to Saul, but I think is actually really telling of her character. One, this is her being a good spy: She knew Fatima would not have divulged that secret Nazir meeting to her with Saul or anyone else hanging around. Two, deliberately or subconsciously, she knew she needed to make herself indispensable to the mission and the CIA as a whole: She is not going let herself be Estes's pawn.
Despite the reemergence of "Hero Carrie" (and I'm glad this Carrie is re-emerging so soon), she is still sick. She started to lose it again when she was resting in bed in Beirut — and I think that might be a recurring problem for her. She can keep her cool in the most chaotic, dangerous situations, but in those quiet moments she falls apart. Even though a big part of the reason she cracked while in the hospital last season was that she hadn't taken her bipolar meds, I think, the medication factor aside, she is at her mental best immersed in the action, and at her worst when she is completely removed from it.
I think a lot of the upcoming episodes will focus on her wavering from the flashes of brilliance and the panic of self doubt that's weighing her down.
Greg: That is where the show will find its ability to transition over 12 episodes. Carrie walks this tightrope between CIA wunderkind and calamitous mental wreck, so much that even if she does fall back into Langley's good graces, her own personal flaws are going to get in the way. Let's hope it doesn't ultimately get in the country's way.
Come back next week as Greg and Tierney continue their Homeland discussion.
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