Homeland Recap: 302, The Big Lie

 Posted by on October 8, 2013 at 3:24 pm  Homeland
Oct 082013

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 11.53.31 PMSeason 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.

Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 12.13.36 AMConscience, 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.

Closing thoughts:

  • 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.

  11 Responses to “Homeland Recap: 302, The Big Lie”

  1. I love your recaps. Don’t always agree, but love them. Uh-Oh-Ah is of course, Thorazine-speak for Fuck-You-Saul. Love it. Loved Carrie still finding a way to speak through her Thorazine haze.

    LOVED Saul fighting with himself, more angry than he’s ever been, contradicting his own nature–why shouldn’t he hate a headscarf when he threw Carrie under the bus? He’s being everything he isn’t. But he still says Which is your right even as he seethes.

    I couldn’t understand Quinn’s reversal either until I was reminded that he actually reversed last season. He believes he’s a superhero who kills bad guys. When he began to doubt Estes he made the limits on that very clear. And now he’s killed a child, so that changes everything. I’m okay with that.

    But the security in a lockdown facility for self-endangering teens is EVERY BIT as good as the security at the CIA and the Senate isn’t it?

    Oh, and in Saul demanding that Fara be good enough and then better? I saw his first meetings with Carrie.

    • So, Saul and Fara: did you get the same they’re-gonna-hit-it hunch I did? Call it a strong sense of impending nookie.

      I felt it, I swear.

      • I don’t think they’re going be doing it at all, and I really hope the writers don’t prove me wrong. I felt that his reactions to Fara really rang true, especially when he tells her that she’s going to have to be better than good at her job. Deb just mentioned that Saul’s initial reaction to Fara touches on current right wing prejudices against all visible Muslims working for the US government. Mr. Venal Shithead looked at her and said: “That’s not how we do it in this country,” implying that she certainly ain’t ‘Murican. Yet the one who caused the most trouble was the Muslim that no one saw except poor, crazy Carrie. Notice, too, that once Brody’s true self comes to light (at least to the CIA), he’s no longer the maniacal bad guy. We know he didn’t blow up Langley.

      • I see him replacing Carrie. What I mean is, he has a beloved protegé whom he has groomed since she started at the CIA. Now he’s thrown her away and he’s grieving. At the same time, a young, unsure woman starts at the CIA. She’s his new Carrie. I don’t think that involves shtupping.

        • I like this theory.

          And while I’ll put The Shtupping Theory on the back burner for now, I cannot dismiss it out of hand. A show that’s put a CIA manager, a terrorist, and a bottle of wine in an interrogation room together would put that same manager in a relationship with his own new analyst. (And still might!)

  2. Re Dana:
    I’m afraid that the Homeland writers have contracted what I call Alan Ball Syndrome, the notion that the only moral truth to be found in the universe comes from sullen adolescent females (see Thora Birch in “American Beauty” and Lauren Ambrose in “Six Feet Under.”) I pretty much hate this (no matter how much I love Lauren Ambrose), and I hate it here, but I have to admit that her big confrontation with her mother got to me (credit also to Morena Baccarin’s great reaction.)

    Re Saul:
    I think Saul’s playing a deep game, some kind of long con. He wouldn’t have thrown Carrie under the bus so publicly unless he wanted to throw the enemy off the scent. That ending apology wasn’t just to salve his guilty conscience. He hasn’t abandoned her at all. But in her state it would do no good for her to know that. Not yet. So who’s the enemy (the mole. Remember him?) The obvious choice is F. Murray Abraham, but that may be too obvious.
    I don’t see Fara and Saul as a potential romance. I had the same thought as Deb: this must be a replay of When Carrie Met Saul. And he did back her when she ripped the venal shitheads, even though he obviously knew it was the wrong move. Or maybe not. I don’t know if he knew that Quinn would do what he did, but he has no problem with Quinn acting independently. He must expect it from him, as he probably expects it from Carrie soon. Saul knows his players and is thinking several moves ahead, I’m sure of it.

    • I also think that Saul’s rough road is a bit easier to travel if Carrie’s not blocking it. Solution: the loony bin! It’s expensive like a hotel, dreary like work, and it’s got better security than the Senate!

      I thought for the longest time that Quinn was the mole; then I was sure it was Estes. Now I’m thinking it’s Saul, because I love him. Alan Ball Rules (Six Feet Under, True Blood) further dictate that the one you love most will cause you the worst pain.

      And yes: I watch too much TV.

  3. I didn’t mind Saul going all xenophobic on the bank analyst. I would regard an actor who refuses to do a gut churning scene like that as not having enough artistic ballsiness(?).
    I run into ‘well-meaning’ people all the time at our friendly neighborhood airports, as my Arab looking Dominican ass always gets a wary look from passengers, and invitations from sensitively trained TSA personnel, to please come have a conversation with em in a small quiet room.
    Its the world I, we, live in/have to put up with, as I roll my eyes for the kabillionth time, in a poor imitation of Dana the Sullen One.

  4. Okay, I have to defend Carrie. I have to.

    Yes, she is mentally ill (no-one ever suggested she wasn’t). But she is also supremely morally centered. Carrie does what is right, based on the evidence available to her as well as her superior “sixth sense”. That intuitiveness, that ability to see connections and yoke together disparate bits of data, is her gift. It’s an expensive gift, though, coming as it does at the cost of her sanity.

    And Carrie doesn’t get to choose whether or not to have the gift. She simply is who she is. Moreover, the same brilliant talent for seeing connections that no-one else sees can–when taken just a micro-step beyond rationality–causes her to be conspiracy-suspicious. She is so intuitive, in other words, she has a hair-trigger “conspiracy sensor”, one which was set off to devastating effect in this latest episode.

    Quod me nutrit, me destruit. That which nourishes me, destroys me.

    I know everyone loves Saul–*I* love Saul–but let’s be honest: this season, he is actively sinning, actively causing harm to someone who trusts him, admires him, and in many respects, depends on him for her very identity. It is a fascinating duality of motivation, and I relish watching Mandy depict Saul’s buried dark side and struggling better angels. I totally bought his sadness in the final scene, as he weakly apologizes to his über-drugged protégé.

    Carrie, on the other hand, wears her duality much closer to the surface. We all know she’s bipolar. We all know she has a very dark side. But it seems to me she sins against herself, not others. She aims the destruction at herself (tequila binging, random picking-up of men). When it comes to how she treats the rest of the world, though, Carrie strikes me as one seriously moral person. She risked everything to help Brody escape because she believed it to be the moral thing to do: in her mind, despite her immediate reaction (pulling a gun on him after the explosion), she knew he Brody didn’t bomb the CIA; she also knew no-one would believe that he didn’t do it. She did the right thing because she had to.

    All this, I think, is why she’s flown off the handle this season: she has been pressured by Saul et. al. to lie to Congress. She can’t do it. She knows what’s right, and she wants to tell everyone. The cognitive dissonance is what’s making her twitchy, angry, erratic, unstable-seeming. The cognitive dissonance, coupled with resurgent mania thanks to no meds, is what’s making her act out. And here is Saul–two-faced, venal Saul–lying to Congress and throwing her under the bus (because he knew all about her surveillance of Brody and even got her a FISA warrant by blackmailing a judge, remember?) (plus the suicide vest) (and the Lebanon incident) (plus all the other off-book stuff).

    I see so much potential in this season!

  5. Quinn refusing to kill Brody at the lake at the end of S2 was a big deal. He almost lays that on Carrie in S3 E2, but catches himself upon realizing that she really is not currently rational enough to process it.

    Who is taking advantage of the 12/12 crisis? Who benefits if Estes, Carrie, and Brody are all dead now that the VP is dead? Who is Dar Adal really? What is his deal? How did Quinn come to be Dar Adal’s boy? Is he still, or have his allegiances shifted to Saul enough that it is Saul he chooses to perform his “I’d never bail on you, but..” emotional ketchup burst all over?

    I want to think that Saul is playing a long game vs the Dark Side, but hard to see it is.

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