Monday, October 15, 2012

Homeland Ep. 2-3: State of Independence

Words cannot express how much I love Saul Berenson, or how glad I was to see him on Carrie's doorstep tonight.

I knew the writers were going to wait until the very end of the episode for that moment. They just had to ratchet up our fears that something would prevent Saul from telling Carrie what she needed most desperately to hear: that she was right about Brody. Part of the emotional power of "Homeland" since the end of the first season has been the agony that's been eating Carrie up inside - the agony of being, to paraphrase her own words, so sure and yet (apparently) so wrong about the man who single-handedly destroyed her life. For my own personal sanity as a viewer I'm grateful to see her liberated from such a crippling burden of self-doubt.

How the CIA reacts remains to be seen, but I can't see that video being anything less than a full vindication of Carrie...which also makes me nervous that something's going to happen to it. But even if it does mysteriously disappear, Carrie's at least recovered some measure of faith in herself, enough to go on functioning, and that's the mainspring of this show. Claire Danes continues to deliver some of the best work of her career as a woman perpetually on the verge of implosion - from the feverish perfectionism of her report-writing to the soul-crushing moment where Estes turns her away, to her arguably melodramatic (but totally in character) suicide attempt and the final, hugely cathartic sight of her face crumpling in that inimitable Claire Danes way as she watches the video. Mandy Patinkin, too, is superb in his limited screen time, bookending the episode as the spy capable of outwitting the Hezbollah and the father figure quietly watching Carrie watch, understanding better than anyone else how crucial his discovery is not just to national security but to her very existence.

As with the previous two episodes this season, while I found everything to do with Carrie's storyline quite compelling, I had a lot more difficulty with Brody's. Especially to the extent it involved that shady lady journalist, who seems to exist solely to send Brody on ridiculous assignments for Abu Nazir. Even assuming that Brody was really the only one who could move the bomb-riggin' tailor to safety - or that it's some kind of bizarre test - why would Nazir risk the man who's his best hope of infiltrating the U.S. government at the highest level getting caught way out of his own district with absolutely no explanation for being there with a random Middle Eastern man? Not to mention jeopardizing his good standing with the VP and arousing the suspicions of his own wife? It's a senseless scheme that not surprisingly ends disastrously for Brody (and even more disastrously for the bomb-maker).

Between the reemergence of the video, Jessica's knowledge that he's covering something up, and his old Marine bros pressing him about Walker, the net seems to be closing in on Brody. This probably, though not necessarily, means his days on the show are numbered, though I expect he'll at least as long as the CIA thinks he can lead them to Nazir. I hope in the meantime the writers give him a more plausible plan of action than sending text messages from inside the Situation Room and choosing to commit murder rather than hang up the phone on his wife.

Random observations:

-I really can't stand Estes. Wouldn't be surprised if he sits on the Brody video without showing it to VP Walden, though how he justifies that I can't imagine.

-I had a feeling Jessica would rise to the occasion in Brody's absence at the benefit dinner, but I wasn't expecting such raw honesty in a public address. Nice work by Morena Baccarin, who's generally been very good on this show despite being distractingly glamorous.

-There's clearly still unfinished business between Jessica and Mike. And if they keep talking about Brody's weird, erratic behavior, they might start putting two and two together about him.

-Do I detect a budding romance between Dana (reliably bratty as always this episode) and the young VP spawn? Xander better watch his back.


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