Tierney: Wow! What an episode. I guess we have to start with the final scene: Carrie's confrontation of Brody. I had assumed that the takedown of Brody would unfold slowly, with all the suspense and tension Homeland typically has to offer. We are now again left with the question (a question I have had to ask myself often since the season 1 finale): Where does Homeland go from here?
I also was surprised by Carrie's mental fortitude throughout the whole operation. When she defied her orders (classic Carrie, going rogue) and went to Brody's hotel room, I thought she was losing it, that her fragile mental state couldn't handle the confrontation with Brody. But she said exactly what she wanted to say to him--she got as much of confession out of Brody as she could have. Note that she suggested that this was their final moments alone, even knowing she was on camera, and that she mentioned his children, which she knows is his soft spot. My question is, are we supposed to believe that "old Carrie" is back? I thought her mental condition would be a persistent issue throughout the season, but considering how quickly the other plot points have turned, the bipolar thing could have been just as easily resolved.
What did you think about that final scene?
Danielle: I am completely with you, Tierney, on the question of where the show goes from here -- I've been asking that every episode since Carrie and Brody slept together. So many plot twists in this series have felt to me as they happened like superfluous complications. And yet to the writers' credit, it all seems to work so well. Here's hoping we don't have a jump-the-shark moment coming up.
Which brings me to the final scene -- it had such a sense of finality to it, because Carrie got to deliver her big money line. She gets to get right up in his stupid terrorist face and tell him he's a disgrace to his country -- something I figured we wouldn't see until the final episode of the series. So, yes: what now?
I also add that I loved the 10 seconds after that of watching Carrie, standing there staring after him, when it was all over. She didn't look proud or vindicated; she looked completely lost, which is to be expected. I think my favorite dynamic of this series is that you have two very smart and strong but also broken people -- one by war, one by mental illness -- just ready to take each other down. And even after getting the confrontation that you just know she wanted so badly, Carrie is still clearly broken.
Also, regarding your "old Carrie" question: I hope to God that Old Carrie is back, because watching her sit on the edge of breakdown episode after episode is getting tiring. I also wonder if Claire Danes' face gets exhausted from the heavy, jaw-out, about-to-sob frowny face that she has to make for roughly two-thirds of every episode lately.
OK, so my questions have to do with some of the side plots: 1) What is going to happen with Dana and the VP's son, Finn? This show doesn't bother with immaterial storylines, so I think we can expect something big to happen with them. Maybe she'll tell Finn for real about Brody's new worship habits. 2) I smell romance between Carrie and the new agent, Peter. Once again, I ask you, Homeland writers: where to go from here? Another love interest just feels so beside-the-point right now. I mean, Carrie's saving America, people.
Tierney: I agree about the sparks between Carrie and mystery agent Peter Quinn. Maybe he will serve as a rebound for Carrie, and help her get over Brody. But I'm sure there's some major twist coming about his background and his connection to Estes.
Which brings me to my next point (which will speak to your first question). I think the next major hurdle the show will jump is the Estes-Walden relationship, and how it will play out that the CIA (which Walden once ran) is accusing the VP's favorite son of terrorism. Saul brought the tape to Estes's house because he knows this would be an issue, and Estes, aside from verbally acknowledging the awkward spot, insisted that the operation would be outside the CIA so Walden wouldn't be able to intervene. I've had my doubts about Estes, so I'm glad he put his trust in Saul and Carrie, and put national security above his political allegiances.
But the original long-con plan that would have let Estes cover up his agency's incompetence is blown. An added complication is the budding romance between Finn Walden and Dana Brody—you're right, Homeland won't leave that stone unturned. Puppy love seems like small potatoes next to national security, but this show is just as interested in family dynamics and personal relationships as it is in foreign policy and international terrorism, so I think that conflict will get some play.
What did you think about Brody's building paranoia leading to the final scene? That, plus his family losing their faith in him, seemed like cosmic justice to me, after his actions led to Carrie's life falling apart last season. And what about Roya brushing off his concerns? I'm curious about this date she went on with Estes a while back. I hope they ordered Milano's veal bolognese.
Danielle: Nice catch -- I had forgotten about Estes and Roya getting dinner together. I agree that Estes is about to play a bigger role. Suddenly in this episode we got to see a bit more of him: he has a cute little Darth-Vader-wannabe son, and he acknowledges that he's vulnerable, no longer firmly on Team Walden since he can't tell Walden about Brody without being fired.
As for Brody's paranoia, I think it was fun to see him sweat. Carrie seemed like a problem he was done with for good at the end of last season, so I think for most of this episode he was off-balance just knowing he'd have to deal with her again. One thing I couldn't stop wondering -- how much is he playing Carrie, and how much is he still attracted to her? How much was he ever attracted to her?
Regarding Roya, I like how big of a role she's starting to play. She seemed like just a minor messenger that first time she met with Brody in his office, but increasingly she seems to be calling the shots, sending him running off to Gettysburg and now instructing him to get close with Carrie again. So in terms of her brushing off his concerns, I think it's possible that while she finds him valuable, she also may not care about him too much beyond what he can do for her/Nazir. It seems that her orders come from someone much higher-up.
Also, can we talk about Jessica? She's yet another victim of main-character's-buzzkill-wife-syndrome, like the wives on Dexter and Breaking Bad. Anytime you have a secretive, morally ambiguous male protagonist, you have him doing secretive, morally ambiguous things during dinner and upsetting the missus. It makes for a really frustrating character -- she's totally understandably pissed, but she's also ruining the fun! My point being that I really hope we get more action from her in the future as opposed to reaction (i.e., getting mad at Brody). But what else can the show do with her?
Tierney: I disagree about Jessica. Yes, she does play the nagging wife role quite often, but I think her character has really grown in the last couple of episodes, particularly with last week's speech. She clearly likes being in the public eye and handles it well. It's a stretch, but I wonder if she can play the scandal that is about to ensue to her own social ladder climbing advantage, or at least score a book deal out of it. But I think, if anything, we will be getting mainly more reaction from her (I can only imagine the coming meltdown).
I think more devastating to Brody was losing the support of his daughter, who had been his ally when Jessica wasn't. Dana's line: "By the way, your car smells like smoke," was just so cold and biting the way she delivered it. Which brings me to the last thing I wanted to bring up—the episode's title "New Car Smell." It's obviously a reference to the conversation she had with the car detailer (that scene also delivered a chilling insight to Brody's growing paranoia when he hears "blood splatter" instead of "mud splatter"). But I think it is also a clue to where this show is heading. Things might seem "good as new"--with "old Carrie" back and Brody exposed for what he is--but I don't think Carrie nor her relationship with the CIA is truly fixed.
Danielle: Agreed that Jessica has grown -- and I like, at least, that she's not entirely saintly, given her relationship with Mike. As for Dana, you're exactly right that she has perfected the distant, chilly teenager demeanor. She gets a lot of air time...I wonder if her brother will ever figure into things. I suppose it's telling that I had to go back and look to figure out his name (Chris, as it turns out).
I like your insight into why they called the show "New Car Smell," also. I hadn't really given it any thought until now. You make a good point on Carrie's relationship with the CIA still being broken. It's a fascinating thing they've done with Carrie -- I find myself completely convinced that she was fantastic at her job, but I also can't quite take her side. If I were Estes I wouldn't trust her enough to bring her back, either.
The other loose end we haven't brought up yet is Brody's fellow marines and what they might uncover. If the CIA already knows the whole story, what further complications will it introduce if Mike et al. find out the truth?
Tierney: New York's Vulture blog did a great comparison of the Brody family and Mad Men's Draper family, re: the no factor brother (he did get one line in this episode at least). I think you're right about the Marines--Lauder is very volatile, so I wouldn't be surprised if he blew up the whole situation once the CIA got it under control.
Overall, I still can't believe how quickly this season is unfolding. Critics often worry that Homeland will write itself into a corner, but each week the writers manage to outdo themselves in moving the plot forward. I can't wait for next week!
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Come back next week as Danielle and Tierney continue their Homeland discussion.