Homeland Season 3 (Ep 301): So Far, So Good

 Posted by on October 3, 2013 at 12:00 pm  Homeland
Oct 032013

Screen Shot 2013-10-02 at 5.51.09 PMThese are the days after. Everything now is measured by after. – Don DeLillo, Falling Man

I wasn’t going to do this, Basketcases. After Homeland literally blew itself up last year, I danced the “It’s not me, it’s you” solo on these pages, vowing never to take the thing back.

What changed my mind? Several things.

The first United States government shutdown in 17 years. I watched the third-season premiere in the first 24 hours of Washington’s self-imposed time out (does anyone really think this will stop the tantrums?). I now think this might be the best time to watch. The upside-down feeling of American life right now reverses the impact of Homeland’s central conflicts: there’s a contemplative beauty to the opening scene of a guy building a bomb, while the Congressional-committee scenes feel like fantasies from a well-lit wonderland where people in power get along. I felt like I was watching everything happen from inside a bottle. Which is appropriate, because of …

Crazy Carrie. She’s back! Lying under oath, refusing her meds, energetically banging a hot ginger from the supermarket, Carrie Mathison is at her nutty personal best. “It’s all good,” she insists, when her worried Dad mentions the empty bottles of tequila in the trash. He’s right to be concerned – a quick glance at Carrie’s notepad tells us that – but she swears she’s under a doctor’s care. We haven’t met Doctor Tequila yet, but I sincerely hope we will.

The Brody children are also back. Dana Brody’s still doing her 50 Shades of Grumpy bit, with much more feeling this time. She reacted to her Dad’s departure with a suicide attempt, and she’s been in some kind of residential care ever since. While the reunion of the Brody siblings is sweet and genuine (“Hey dingus.” “You are”), Dana’s not all the way better yet. The moment she’s alone, she sends a topless selfie to the boy she met in group therapy. As we know, the topless selfie is the International Distress Signal for kids on TV and in movies: there’s trouble ahead for Dana.

Saul Berenson. With Brody off Unabombing in the Canadian woods or haunting a souk somewhere, Saul is firmly in command: of both the CIA and Homeland itself. And Mandy Patinkin seizes the moment, letting us see what covert operations would look like in the hands of someone with a conscience. “We’re not assassins,” he tells his wife. “We’re spies. We don’t kill our targets, we redirect them.” Saul. Darling. Have you met the United States intelligence community?

The rise of the wives. Jessica Brody is now a single mom, having to work for the first time since before the kids were born, still fighting the intrusions of paparazzi and government surveillance. Mira is also back at home with Saul. Despite their issues, she’s a gently rational presence in the mess his life has become. And it is a mess: he’s leading a government agency in the aftermath of a disaster, grieving the loss of hundreds of his colleagues while defending the agency from accusations of enemy collusion. He has no good choices left.

Life on the downside. The sense of dilemma is strong on Homeland. In every scene, we’re watching people move through their lives under the weight of non-negotiable burdens. Dana, Chris, and Jess don’t want to be associated with disgraced Brody, nor do they want to still love the man who left them, but there they all are. Quinn doesn’t want there to be any collateral damage when he hits his targets, but he still ends up killing a kid. Patient Saul (“I’m waiting for the right answer to present itself”) wants to do the right thing for the agency, but he doesn’t want to throw Carrie under the bus. None of these people will get what they want. They all know it. It’s a dark view, but it feels honest.

Look out, Central Intelligence Agency.

Look out, Central Intelligence Agency.

Angry Carrie. The one person who has never betrayed Carrie Mathison is Saul. When he brings up her mental issues in his testimony before Congress, she is at first incredulous, then hurt, and finally furious. Unmedicated, manic, brilliant, and furious. Hurricane Carrie is going to hit Washington with everything she’s got. You think the CIA bombing was bad? Wait.

The promise of an enraged, untethered Carrie coming after her old colleagues is a fine reason to tune in for this season of Homeland. A still better reason: the oppressive darkness of The Days After. Since 9/11, no contemporary drama has dealt head-on with the fact of the lives we lead in the aftermath of something that actually was worse than we imagined. We have preferred to let grief and dread infuse our stories, to let sadness stand in for the real horrors of dead people and our shattered integrity. In angry Carrie, frustrated Saul, and broken, darkly funny Dana, I see the first hint of change.

At the dinner table, Dana tells a joke to ease the tension between her mother and grandmother. “What did the optimist say as he was jumping off a building?” she asks. “So far, so good.” She repeats it, her face lit with a spooky smile. “So far, so good.”

Homeland is back, and so am I.


  20 Responses to “Homeland Season 3 (Ep 301): So Far, So Good”

  1. Thank you so much for this! I had a feeling that the S3 premiere was written with you in mind. Glad you agree. I’m loving how Brody’s absence is making him the empty main character in everyone’s lives, and I love how the Brody family parallels Carrie.

    OTOH, WTF with the absence of security anywhere? The thing about blowing up Langley last season wasn’t the explosion itself, it was the blind stupidity of imagining the CIA HQ didn’t have a secure parking lot, that someone’s car could just be moved like that without a dozen guys with earpieces being all over it. Hell, the Vice President’s family was there–where was the Secret Service?

    So this season, we’re promised a top secret, behind-closed-doors, ultra hush-hush hearing, and Carrie just gets up and steps outside for air? The hearing room is a few feet from an unguarded door to the outside? WTF!

    I live in New York. You can’t enter any building without ID checks and/or metal detection and/or escorts. I go through airports all the time. And now, in the aftermath of this fictional ADDITIONAL terrorist attack, there’s no security? Crazy.

    • Remember how much it bothered me to see people jumping into each other’s cars, last year? This year’s version of that is Homeland’s open-Washington-after-a-major-terrorist-attack thing.

      I mean. No shutdown, AND all unguarded like that? Come on!

  2. I’m waiting for the episode where Salieri duels Inigo Montoya…

    • “National security. You keep using that term. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

      Holding out for that. 🙂

      • But it’s so simple. All I have to do is divine from what I know of you: are you the sort of man who would put the explosive vest onto his own body or his enemy’s? Now, a clever man would put the vest on his own body, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the vest in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the vest in front of me.


        Saul:Life is pain, Carrie. Anyone who says differently is selling something.

  3. While watching, I found myself wishing we could just jettison Carrie and the Brody famiy and make this season about Saul. The show is beautifully set-up for a version of LeCarre’s Honorable Schoolboy or Smiley’s People, with Saul as a perfect American-style George Smiley, both a spy of genius and a man of conscience, trying to rebuild an agency that has been ravaged while trying not to lose his soul.

    They won’t do it, but I can dream. 🙂

    • Smiley’s People. Yes. “Society is an association of minorities.”

      My Dad and I shared a fondness for espionage fiction. I read that book for the first time in grad school. When I finished it, I left my copy at home. My Dad read it, and told me later how much he liked my notes in the margins. “It’s as if you and I were reading the book at the same time.”

      Dad would have liked Homeland. (Without the energetic banging, perhaps.)

    • I am SOOO over Carrie–have been since the middle of the first season. Or rather, I’m over Claire Danes and the facial mannerisms. At this point, every time she makes that face (you know the one I mean) is like nails on a chalkboard. I was much more interested when it had something to say about national security (Anne, hah!) and our mindset than being about “The Many Loves of Dobie Brody.”

      • I think we got eight minutes into the new season before she started crying.


        • OK so kinda OT, but maybe you can answer this (or at least give you something non-GOP-hostage-taking-related to think about)…

          What is up with all the Quinns on TV last season and this season? Quinn on Homeland. Quinn on Scandal. Quinn on Glee (not so much this year). Quinn on Dexter.

          • I think it’s this year’s Jess: the blank slate of a name, on which we can impose all kinds of things. (The new Girl has Jess; Breaking Bad had Jesse; Brody’s long-suffering wife is Jess.)

            It’s androgynous and flexibly syllabic. It’s not demanding or descriptive, unlike “Olivia” or “Dexter” or “Harry”. Quinn is a name that can be anything, background or foreground. I’m not at all surprised that writers are fond of it.

  4. How on earth is Jessica Broady only having to go back to work now? I always had a hard time believing an MIA soilder’s salary would’ve been enough to take care of rip them all those years, not to mention the size of that house!

    • The house is huge, and in the DC area — one of the most expensive real estate markets in the country. Of course, I know lower income people who live in houses like that, and it’s always their parent’s houses. Maybe it’s the house Brody grew up in — we’ve never seen his parents. She was working before Brody was rescued, as I recall, and then she was living on a Congressman’s salary.

  5. Carrie crazy talk, crazy acting, crazy angry, I’m still not tired of it. Maybe….sometimes, but the Danes kid has this ability to not make it routine. It seems fresh……..most of the time.
    Am I the only one who loves that (T)Estes is dead and gone, Dead And Gone.
    Saul—— Man of Conscience——–Boss of CIA,$&*@#!!??.
    Never will I buy that.
    Quinn is the speed I believe in.
    What have they done with that gorgeous Roya, Raya?? Is she being water boarded, or is she managing a Cinnabon in Nebraska? Whoops, wrong show.
    When is Salieri going to ‘redirect’ our unhinged queen? I mean somebody that gelatinous woulda been whacked by now. Gotta keep up appearances and shit.
    Salieri will be gone. Wonder how it’ll be engineered.
    I get completely creeped out watching Dana Dana with Fame get her sex on. Jesus, she’s what, 11? Reminds me of the film Kids. Ugh.

    • I am fairly sure that Roya is now where Terrorist Aileen was a year ago: being held in indefinite custody, bargaining for a window, meditating on the use of glasses as weapons.

      Or! She’s busting a a Buick through a chainlink fence somewhere and speeding away, shrieking with joy. 🙂

  6. I’m back too. I can’t get enough of Crazy Carrie. Her face contrortions are endlessly entertaining.

    As part of your episode recaps, could you comment on Chris’ (Brody’s other kid, in case you forgot his name too and had to look it up) one line per episode? I think if we piece all his lines together, we’ll get a sonnet that will summarize the entire series in 100 words or less.

    Take this week: “Mom, Leave her alone”. And let’s not forget this gem from one one of the episodes last season: “Hey Dad. Mike made huevos rancheros”. It’s brilliant stuff.

    Thank you for making what will likely be a train-wreck entertaining…

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.