All season long, Danielle Kurtzleben and Tierney Sneed will be recapping Showtime's "Homeland," and discuss what they're hoping to see in the rest of the season.
Danielle: Oh, it has been too long. Which I'm not entirely saying for effect – Season 2 had so many insanely big plot points at once (especially at the end) that I had to go back and remind myself who Peter is and what all of Dana's issues are.
Then again, we're all the way back to Season 1 in one way: bipolar Carrie is BACK, and not a moment too soon. My favorite touch – Carrie's off her meds because she felt like they clouded her judgment and prevented her from stopping the terrorist attack. Not only does it feel true for someone so self-flagellating, but it also gets her back into the interesting territory of being a troubled, obsessive spy. And giving her some distance from Brody is also a good thing (I know it's a major plot point, but that romance has never seemed plausible/interesting to me).
So the big questions I have for now are this:
1. What does Homeland do now without Abu Nazir for all the good guys to fight against? Does another terrorist (this Javadi guy, I suppose) slide into Nazir's place as the central protagonist? I personally hope not -- trading in one antagonist for a new, less-interesting one seems like a recipe for *yawn.*
2. Do you really think Saul threw Carrie under the bus? Since nothing is ever straightforward on this show – and because he's so stalwartly her protector – I'm guessing he has a bigger plan.
Can't wait to hear your thoughts, and to make the obligatory "Dana should get Snapchat" jokes.
Tierney: Overall I give this episode a solid eight. It's no "The Smile," Season 2's stellar premiere, but I felt like a it laid foundation for the show to return to its Season 1 glory. The problem with Season 2 was that "Homeland" overplayed its where-do-we-go-from-here hand, After "Tin Man Is Down" I feel like there's plenty places we can go. But first, your questions:
1. It's something people don't like to admit, but often when you take out a figurehead like Abu Nazir (or in real life, a Zetas drug cartel kingpin) it has a Hydra effect, that when you cut off the head, it spawns even more chaos, as a bunch of other heads grow in its place. I would love to see "Homeland" reflect this reality, rather than just anoint a Nazir 2.0
2. It's funny you should mention that, I asked Mandy Patinkin (who plays Saul) that very question when I interviewed him last week, having already seen the pilot. You can read the full answer here, but he more or less hinted that it might have been with Carrie's interests in mind, maybe as a big master plan, or maybe as a way to push her into action.
I think my favorite thing about last night's episode was the big final twist wasn't some catastrophic tailor-shop gun fight or Brody's confession tape showing up in a satchel, but more character-driven, with Saul's apparent betrayal. If you're new to "Homeland," you probably don't get why it was such a big deal. But for anyone who sees Saul's loyalty to Carrie as the show's anchor, it was a really jaw-dropping moment and stirred a different set of emotions. I hope it's a sign that "Homeland" learned from the critics of last season, who argued that it wasn't just the plot hijinks, but the character motivations, that felt sloppy.
Danielle: Very good point about the fascinating chaos that could ensue from eliminating Nazir. I hope the writers are confident enough to try to do something with that. Strangely, though, they've shut down the chaos pretty effectively already – that six-way sting operation, which could have been catastrophic, went off with zero hitches. Since when do things work that well in "Homeland"-land?
You also make a great point about the final twist. I'm excited to see a season where there's a little more internal drama and a little less bombast. And honestly, Saul (potentially) turning on Carrie is in many ways a more interesting plot point than, say, the vice president's pacemaker being hacked.