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.
OK, so we do need to address the topic of Peter, because I'm confused. The show seems determined to make us not-trust him – the show opens with him making a bomb in a dim room with ominous music playing, but then we see him using it for his mission at the end of the show. As if to make us say, "Oh, OK, it was all above-board. He's fine." But why jerk us around? I can't even tell at this point if I'd be surprised or irritated if he turned out to be a bad guy.
Tierney: With that opening scene, I was struck by the juxtaposition of Peter – sweaty, shirtless, in the dirty apartment – and Carrie – dressed up, polished, in an empty, bright courtroom, about to be interrogated by a congressional committee. Peter is doing what spies love, and what they were trained for, while Carrie (and Saul, for that matter) are stuck dealing with the bureaucracy and the political witch hunt. Obviously Carrie was the most involved with Brody, but all three were in on the operation, and the sequence did show right off the bat how much it sucks to be the scapegoat.
When all is said and done, I continue to trust Peter Quinn, if only because I have been rooting for a Carrie-Peter love connection from day one. (Then again, Carrie has a thing for traitors – so maybe I should be hoping he's the mole).
Peter backed away from assassination original plan because he didn't want to kill the kid, and then killed the kid anyway. It was a good metaphor for the position Saul is in right now as CIA Director, a role he's clearly not comfortable in and he's not comfortable with the direction he's leading the agency either.
"We're not assassins, Mira. We're spies. We don't kill our targets if we don't have to," he tells his wife, and it's pretty obvious the motivation for the mission is more political than tactical. Having Saul succumb to the political pressure he's under is far more fascinating way to corrupt his character – he is arguably the most-likable character on the show – than revealing him to be the mole (though who's to say "Homeland" won't do both). The payout would last much longer. Though do the writers (and the viewers, for that matter) have that kind of patience?
Danielle: I likewise strongly cast my vote for a Carrie-Peter relationship. It's time for something new for Carrie on the romance front (other than drunken hookups – not that I'm counting that as "romance" anyway), and the show has hinted at sparks between them since the moment he showed up.
Speaking of love interests: Watching this episode, it's easy to forget that Brody is even around. I think what's going to be most interesting is letting things shift – Carrie getting more unstable and losing her confidante, the CIA going into kill mode, the Brody family moving on – and then reintroducing Brody into the mix and seeing how he reacts to his new surroundings. Once again, great potential for more internal drama.
Also, before I forget, a quick bravo to Dana: I've always loved the way Morgan Saylor plays her. She's fantastic precisely because she's awful, making her eminently believable among other TV teens. She's the self-destructive teenager we all were at one point, albeit a little more troubled. Sexting with troubled boys and driving Mom insane seems way more true-to-life than those nutjobs over at "Glee" or on any given sitcom.
Tierney: The role Nick Brody and his family would play was one of biggest questions looking forward to Season 3. Damien Lewis will be back – I mean, look at this poster Showtime sent me. But in the meantime, his absence is being felt acutely by Carrie – I don't think it's a coincidence that rando she picked up at the convenient story was also a ginger – while his family is occupying a solid amount of screen time.
Even though I love to hate on Dana, I agree that Morgan Saylor is excellent in the role, and the writers are ultimately to blame for my frustrations with the character. At her best, she's a moral compass for the show. At her worst she's an afternoon special. As much as I abhor the teen sexting trope, coupled with the scene of her taking down the posters in her room, the show has an opportunity to treat a girl's transformation into a woman realistically. Plenty of kids who don't have AWOL military fathers-turned-terrorist send out nudie pics, so to suggest that it is some horrible symptom of the tough circumstances Dana is facing feels a little lazy. Hopefully the writers can manage to withhold the judgement, and let Dana grow up a bit for the better. Either way, grandma is showing herself to be a far more annoying character.
Between the Brody family dramz, the thriller spy stuff and all the political undertones, "Homeland" has a lot on its plate. Here's hoping it cooks up something good.