Season 3 is wasting no time splitting Homeland fans into warring factions. The second episode barely has a title (Uh? Oo? Aw? — use your words, Homeland!), and it’s as uneven as Carrie Mathison’s mental state. Yet for all of that, it’s doing the important things well.
Which is not to say that it isn’t often exasperating. This week, we got:
Lots of Dana Brody floor time. The kid pretty much carries the episode, which will not sit well with many viewers. Not that Dana would care: she’s too busy running decoy baths, hanging out in the rain, having sex with her institutionalized boyfriend Leo, and lying around on floors. And, of course, getting caught; teenagers are not interested in being subtle. For this, I salute them.
One major character break. Saul Berenson – the heart and soul of covert ops, a cautious and patient company man with three decades of field experience – would never do what we see him do in this episode. He would never chide a new colleague for wearing a hijab at work, much less call Fara’s headscarf “that thing on your head.” I’m disappointed in everyone on Homeland for this, and I’m surprised Mandy Patinkin agreed to it.
The Freaky-Friday flip of Saul and Quinn. This week Homeland asks us to buy Saul Berenson as agency bad cop, and Peter Quinn as good cop – a mere seven days after establishing Quinn as the guy who builds explosive devices and shoots people. It asks us to see Quinn as the conscience of the CIA. Which … I don’t know, you guys. I’m not sure this works.
But the episode works, thanks in part to its goalpost erratic females.
Dana Brody is the Homeland truth-teller, and this week she has a lot to say. From her brilliant takedown of psychiatric care to a neat delineation of who is and is not crazy in the Brody universe, she’s at her adolescent best.
I wasn’t looking for attention. I wanted to kill myself. Now I want to be alive. Leo is not crazy and I am not crazy, and in case you’re wondering, neither are you. – Dana Brody
Dana is very much a teenager; being sullen, sarcastic, and monomaniacal is part of that picture. She won’t talk when she doesn’t want to talk. She’s not interested in what you think of her. And yeah, her reason for wanting to live happens to be a boy. Deal with it, America.
Carrie Mathison is a very believable nutcase. In the scene where Carrie takes her fury at being thrown under the bus to Saul’s home, Mira mentions the lunch Carrie disrupted. Carrie looks confused for a moment (does she even remember doing that?), then annoyed: she doesn’t think her tantrum in that restaurant matters.
Like Dana, Carrie sees herself as the victim of duplicity. The difference is that Dana’s perception is correct. Carrie, on the other hand, is too sick to see either the limit of her importance or the fact of her responsibility for things she and Brody have done. And she does bear responsibility: to the colleagues who trusted her, to the nation she pledged to protect. Yet she insists that she’s more sinned against than sinning. If that’s not a symptom listed in the DSM, it should be.
Consequences matter here. In a nifty pair of scenes, Saul, Fara, and Quinn confront a banker whose company has authorized wire transfers between the CIA-bombing terrorists and their funders. We see the banker first flanked by his legal team, and later facing Quinn alone.
You know your bank? It’s been trafficking in human misery since the Opium Wars. – Fara Sherazi
Both times, the CIA analysts are dogged and eloquent, speaking the truth of what these people do to their faces. This isn’t a novel approach on TV (Scandal does it every week!), but it is refreshing. People in real-life Washington should give it a try.
I try very hard to put up with venal shitheads like you. – Peter Quinn
I wrote last week about this season’s apparent willingness to confront the ghosts of 9/11. It’s even clearer now: the attack on the CIA, which appears in similar shorthand (“12/12”), has not receded into the news cycle. It’s an open wound; it matters. This might be why Quinn’s crisis of conscience rings true: he’s seen how the intelligence sausage is made, and that knowledge exhausts him.
Conscience, weariness, loss: these are the lonely soldiers of season 3. In a lovely scene at the end of the episode, Dana finds her father’s prayer rug in the garage. In her imitation of her father’s prayers, we see her grief for the father she’s lost twice. Brave kid, this Dana Brody: she wants to live, even though she knows exactly how life feels.
- Those three guys who came for Carrie while she was speaking to the reporter: that was the Obamacare Police, wasn’t it?
- A “Psychiatric Detention Order”: is this a real thing? Is it some sort of natural consequence of using terms like “The Big Lie” around journalists? Do the Obamacare Police let you make a phone call? Should I have asked these questions back in 2009?
- On the matter of Saul v. Fara: I need to state for the record that I think these two will get together at some point this season. I just don’t know how I feel about that, Basketcases.
- The Dana Brody beatdown: I hate to break it to you, America, but most teenage girls are more like Dana Brody than Blair Waldorf. They speak in grunts and gestures, not complete sentences. They sulk and snark and roll their eyes while they’re texting at the dinner table. Oh, Dana annoys you for one whole hour a week? Try multiplying that by 168. And also, shut up.
- WHERE IS MIKE THE MARINE? Don’t make me report a Missing Person during a government shutdown, Homeland.