Homeland Recap: Good Cop, Bad Cop

 Posted by on October 30, 2012 at 12:30 pm  Homeland
Oct 302012
 

Last week, I told someone that I could spend all my Homeland time watching Carrie and Brody talk to each other. Thanks to the CIA’s 24-hour video and audio surveillance of my home, I got my wish this week. It was awesome … I suppose. 

Q&A was a great hour of television: fast-moving and tightly plotted, it set a new level of intensity for Season 2. This episode really moved the story, and the scenes between Carrie and Brody felt like a great tennis match. But the plot holes in this show are not getting smaller, and they change my experience of watching the show.

I realized this week that watching Mad Men has affected my ability to surrender my disbelief. If I’m watching a show set in some imaginary place or time (post-apocalyptic Atlanta in The Walking Dead; years ago, Wisteria Lane on Desperate Housewives), I can enjoy the ride and accept any attendant goofiness. But my Homeland frame of mind tells me that these are real people, living in present-day Washington. When they don’t do the things I’m pretty sure a real person would do, I feel less invested. For me, that’s been the story of Season 2.

The episode starts with Carrie alone in an empty room. In a disturbing touch, the room seems to have bloodstains on the floor. This is where Brody’s being held and questioned, and Peter Quinn is the first to question him.

“Thanks to you and your colleagues in Congress, we have fairly broad powers,” he brags to a shackled Brody when he complains. And starts right in on the questions: “When did the torture stop?” Quinn asks, referring to Brody’s time in Iraq.

“I’m completely off the grid here, aren’t I?” Brody says, more to himself than Quinn.

If the second stage of imprisonment is lying, Brody gets there fast. He doesn’t know who Issa is, no. He’s never met Abu Nazir, and he had no idea about the drone strike that killed Nazir’s son. Quinn responds to all of this by leaving Brody to watch his own videotaped suicide message when he takes a break. “Let him stew for a while,” he says to Carrie and Saul.

Meanwhile, Jess and the kids haven’t heard from Brody in a while. Jess puts her brave face on to drive the kids to school (“It’s pizza night!” she reminds them), but she’s freaked out by her estranged husband’s sudden disappearance. She eventually gets the office lie: the Congressman has the flu. Suspicious, she gets some chicken soup and heads to the Brody Hotel.

Dana’s doing okay, though: she’s dumped Xander and makes a date with Finn. Oh my God, Dana! WHAT ABOUT PIZZA NIGHT.

Deep in Phase 2 of the interrogation, Brody’s lying up a storm. Exhausted, he holds the line: “I killed no one,” he insists (Really? I seem to remember something about a tailor and a flat tire), but Quinn’s not having it.

“Who is the target?” he prods. Brody says he doesn’t know (and maybe he doesn’t), and now Quinn is so mad he stabs Brody in the hand. Seriously: he does that. I don’t know why, either, but it’s Saul’s cue to hustle him out and move Carrie in. Quinn (who now seems a perfect match for our girl) defends himself: “Every good cop needs a bad cop.”

Which makes Carrie Mathison the good cop? Get it together, CIA!

Carrie gets intimate right away: “You broke my heart, you know,” she says. “You really have no feelings for me?”

Brody repeats his position –Yes, I think you’re obsessed with me, I’m sorry I hurt you, so Carrie changes her approach: gets him some water, and (in a callback to early Brody-Nazir scenes) holds it for him as he drinks. Then removes his shackles.

Carrie may know Brody better than anyone does, even Abu Nazir, and she leans into that knowledge: brings up their respective experiences in Iraq, his nightmares, their weekend at the cabin. Her main theme seems to be lying: “It’s the lies that undo us,” she tells him.

She’s very good at all of this, but she’s also a mental patient, and her tactics are as loopy as she is. “If I stopped lying, I could say, ‘I want you to leave your wife and children and be with me.’”

Pause. Crazy smile.

Loopy, yes, but she’s getting there. “You’re a good man because you didn’t explode the vest you were wearing.” Now Brody’s defense (“I wasn’t wearing a vest”) is down to a whisper. All she has to do is finish the job.

She does: “It was hearing Dana’s voice that changed your mind, wasn’t it?” It’s pretty much over for Brody now. When she finally asks him what he really knows (“There is a plan, isn’t there? To attack America?”), he caves, and rolls on everyone: Roya Hammad, the Saudi attache who ran messages to Tom Walker, even the suicide-vest guy in Gettysburg. Not that he ever knew that guy’s name.

Back at home, Jess — who knows Brody does not have the flu, and is spending Distracted Pizza Night with the kids — finally gets a call from her husband. It’s short, but it’s enough: “Don’t worry. We’re gonna be fine,” he tells her, and she’s feeling better as she shares a tender pre-date moment with Dana on the front stoop.

Dana’s date with Finn has just started when she suggests they “have some fun” (which must mean “lose the Secret Service and drive like maniacs around DC” to the kids of government officials). Dana urges Finn to drive faster, he does … and hits a pedestrian with his car. They freak out: Dana says they should call someone, Finn insists they shouldn’t. They don’t. This might be the worst first date in history.

Meanwhile, Carrie is informing Brody of his “options”: a long trial and prison sentence, or cooperation with the CIA and no consequences. He makes the only choice he can make, and now these two will be working together? Really?

The deal done, and Carrie drives Brody home, where Jess is waiting. She reminds him of the terms of his cooperation — “The affair will be our cover.” Considering the busted hand, he’s not in great shape when he faces his wife. His explanation for the absence, the hand, everything, is this: I’m working for the CIA. It’s not really the truth, but it’s closer than what he normally gives her. So, progress?

In the middle of Brody’s return home, Dana slinks in the front door, bids the family good night, and heads to her room. The Brody family now knows even less about each other than they did when the day started.

Across town, Carrie’s long day is ending too. She gets the wine from the fridge and starts drinking. It’s another scene of where Carrie is when she’s not working: on a couch, alone. It’s also the most believable moment in the episode.

So where are we now, Basketcases? After Q&A, here’s where I am:

  • Glad Brody turned on Roya. That woman is the worst project manager of all time.
  • Positive that no agent of the federal government would respond to his own frustration with a suspect by stabbing him in the hand.
  • Wondering whether I really heard Carrie tell Brody, as part of the deal that helps him avoid prosecution, to “quit politics and move somewhere far away.”
  • Thinking that having Dana and Finn run into trouble (and a pedestrian) on their first date was going a bit too far.
  • Mystified: how the hell does a documented risk like Carrie Mathison still have the authority to do any of this?
  • Wondering what kind of story this may be turning into. Carrie, the most unreliable narrator since Verbal Kint, now strikes me as a very persuasive erotomaniac. What if the story we’re watching is not the story, but her version of it?

What about the rest of you? Let’s hear it!

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  11 Responses to “Homeland Recap: Good Cop, Bad Cop”

  1. I can’t wait to read Dana’s Facebook page:

    OMG, went on a date w/ Finn & had so much fun. Ditched the S.S. and ran over a homeless lady, LOL! No worries, Dad is a congressman and Finn’s is the, you know :-). BTW, Dad is a Muslim terrorist!!! LMFAO!

  2. It feels strange to be in the position of defending Peter’s action in stabbing Brody through the hand, but as I said in the open thread, I believe he chose it as a technique, to shock, and I believe it was ultimately effective. It’s the “end justifying the means” motive (a motive with which I don’t always agree, but listen, I don’t have to agree). I think Peter was brilliant. He judged that he was getting nowhere with Brody. We all know that Brody can beat a polygraph, so this is a guy who is in real control of his emotions and reactions. Peter needed something that would jar Brody out of his control, and would also serve as a good reason to get Peter out of the room, where his failure with Brody would not end up being the issue. I think he was totally right to do it, and damn, it worked. It also got Carrie in. I think Peter may have judged that, after the hard jolt to Brody’s control, Carrie would be the one who could manipulate him into giving them the information they needed. And he was right.

    I am still enamored of this series. I don’t have your doubts, Anne. I thought Carrie was telling the absolute truth (HER absolute truth) with the line about leaving his family for her, and I thought it would ultimately haunt her that she had to use that to manipulate him into giving her the intell. There is nothing really precious in Carrie’s life that’s personal to her. And in line with the thought that our weaknesses are always the exaggerations of our strengths, that’s where Carrie lives – in her weaknesses.

    I am fascinated by these two people. The show can make a lot of mistakes without losing me because it is showing me Carrie and Brody.

  3. My thoughts:
    1) Is it me, or is Brody’s son a little annoying? What’s with the pouty face, kid? Didn’t make it to your karate lesson again?
    2) When Dana and Finn hit that homeless woman, I thought (after I jumped), “This has been done SOOOOOO many times before”. I hope they have a good reason to use such an overused plot device. 3) Claire Danes is running those crazy-eyes all the way to another Emmy.
    4) Agreed that the final scene was probably the most real in the episode, which is why that scene is the one that has stuck with me the most.
    5) Good Cop, Bad Cop? More like Crazy Cop, Bat-Sh!t Insane Cop

  4. “Thinking that having Dana and Finn run into trouble (and a pedestrian) on their first date was going a bit too far.”

    This show makes me feel like they’re rushing through poorly considered ideas. The tailor in the woods situation reeked of it. It doesn’t function to build suspense or create energy. It works to pull me out of the flow of the show and to cause me to doubt their dedication to anything happening in the story. The fabric of this program is full of holes and stretched areas of open weave. It lacks that plushness and craftsmanship that the great shows all have.

  5. The “Crazy Teens Run Over Homeless Woman While Out Having Careless Fun” scene is so reminiscent of pointless 24 subplotting. I really hope that’s not the case, because otherwise this was such a compelling episode.

  6. Because of some circumstances this week, I have been unable to watch this episode and not sure when I will (I should be able to view next week’s episode–although may have to watch it a day or two late)

    So, I made the decision to peek at this recap and spoil the episode for myself. Hmm. Reading it, it really sounds like the show may be jumping the shark. But, maybe not. I have to assume they (The Powers That Be in charge of the show) had a plan for Brody all along, so if so, hopefully they know what they’re doing. Like any show, I guess it’s all in the execution!

    (Although hopefully not too many characters will get executed.) ;-)

    • Oh, Maddie, sorry if I spoiled. :(

      I’m somewhat stranded in NC this week (I say “somewhat”, because I’m with my favorite sibling and her adorable family), due to twice-cancelled flights. I do have return flight plans, but one of my flights went to “delayed: duration to be announced” today.

      For this reason, and for family reasons, I may have been distracted when I was watching the episode. That slight disconnect is showing up in this recap.

      I do believe the folks at Homeland know what they’re doing. I love the desperate tension between Carrie and Brody, and I find Carrie to be a riveting character. She’s brilliant, and also such a mess. Such an outsider, yet so sure of herself: she is the most rewarding TV character to watch this fall.

      Of course the creators have a plan. I just hope it doesn’t involve turning Dana into some miserable-teen-with-a-terrible-secret nightmare.

      • Aww, no, you did nothing wrong! recap has to summarize what happened (and you did it well). I debated if I should wait to read it, until I had seen the episode, but unfortunately the way things are going I’m afraid I will probably have to miss this episode, catch next week’s, and then watch this past week’s episode at a later time (but out of order). So reading your recap was good because now when I watch next week, I won’t be confused. :)

        I do believe the folks at Homeland know what they’re doing.

        I think you’re right. (I hope you’re right!) Sometimes enjoyable shows can get a little too contrived. For instance, I’m currently watching Revenge. A certain soap-y element was always built into it. But now they’re in the second season, and I’m hoping they can still do the storylines effectively. Sometimes these shows get a little out there. People we thought were dead are actually alive, someone we thought was someone’s relative actually isn’t, etc. If it’s what they intended all along, it can be great. But if the writers just run out of storylines and grasp at straws, it can start to show.

        I know that Homeland’s showrunners were also involved with “24.” I liked “24″ for a while–but stopped watching near the end. However, they certainly had a good run and stayed on the air for quite a long time!

  7. Am I the only person who thought the woman that was run over was Brody’s journalist contact? It was hard to tell, but when they did that pan over her I could have sworn that’s who it was.

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