About halfway through the deeply flawed last season of Homeland, I started to fight with it. A year later, here I am again: not so much watching episode 6 as tearing it apart, tacking its pieces on the wall, and stringing red yarn between the few things that matter.
I know that Homeland is at its heart an espionage drama, and it’s good at being that. But if I’m going to stay invested in it, it has to spend its time on stories that matter. The state of Carrie Mathison’s uterus is just not one of those things.
The title of this episode is Still Positive – a far-too-cute wink at the one-off scene of Carrie taking a pregnancy test. Yes, we get a pregnancy-test scene, instead of a flashback on the relationship between Saul and Javadi. We don’t need the former, but we could really use the latter.
The most important ingredient is trust. – Javadi
Interesting concept, trust. We could all use more of that: I want to trust this season of Homeland to lead us to places worth going, and I need the show to trust its viewers to follow it.
It already has most of the important things. We’re homing in on the “who” and “what” of this season, thanks to Saul’s investigation of the 12-12 bombing; this week the team captures Javadi (literally) red-handed at a suburban Washington home. This makes me think we’re headed in the right direction.
But the “why” and “how” of the bombing — the motivation for and mechanics of the 12-12 attack — are missing. I’m hoping the seething antipathy between Saul and Javadi will reveal at least some of this. So is Carrie: in fact she’s pushing for it.
Carrie’s tired, freaked out, and secretly pregnant, but she is also doing the one thing she loves more than anything else: confronting someone who’s probably dangerous. She’s done this in a postcoital haze with Brody, drunk in a bar with an aggressive redneck, and with Roya after a faceoff with Abu Nazir, and now she goes after Javadi: yanking off the polygraph sensors (“we’re done,”) and calling him out.
You are now an enemy of your own state. – Carrie
Still, something’s missing. Around this time last year, Abu Nazir’s team invaded the Gettysburg tailor’s shop in a slick, brutal matter of minutes. It was this ambush that told us something bad lay ahead. This year, there’s no indication Javadi and his team are planning anything. What’s an espionage drama without danger?
It’s a soap opera, that’s what. Here’s the evidence:
Villains are two-dimensional. Senator Lockhart shows up at the CIA two weeks early — not to measure the curtains, but to threaten and gloat. He wants to clean house. He wants to restore “the respect, and the fear” the CIA once inspired. Homeland, I’m starting to think I shouldn’t like this guy!
Villains are also inconsistent. Until this week, Javadi was a careful criminal who moves between locations as unobtrusively as possible, refuses to carry guns, and plans his meetings as if they’re chess moves. Why would this methodical guy grab one of the guns he said he didn’t want, take a detour from an important meeting, and kill his ex-wife and daughter-in-law in their home? Would such a man really do this in front of his toddler grandson?
Interpersonal drama is everywhere. Mira and Saul are another thread this fabric doesn’t need. As is often the case in espionage fiction, Saul’s married to his work; Homeland viewers aren’t new to this concept. We’ve met the classic lonely man who’s in love with the game. We know how often his woman gets fed up and leaves him to it. I’m surprised Homeland still needs to explain all of this to us.
The Brody-family fallout continues. Dana Brody isn’t Dana Brody anymore: she’s taken her mother’s maiden name, and is now Dana Lazaro. She’s also moved out of the family home, a development the show treats as something shocking.
You know how not-new a story that is? My Dad did the same thing, in his own mid-teens, some 70 years ago. People leave the places that remind them of painful things, if they can. Dana obviously can.
Houston, we have a
narrative non sequitur FETUS. In the messiest scene of this mid-season episode, Carrie is lazily tracking a pregnancy. The pee-stick test she takes is positive, of course; she tosses it in a drawer (ewww) with a whole bunch of other pozzies. Those other tests in the stash, 50 or so, indicate that she may have been checking for a couple of months now.
My problems with this go waaaaay beyond the Brody-daddy question. Carrie just got out of an inpatient facility: while there, she took daily doses of very serious prescription drugs. I just can’t believe a medical facility would do this without having tested her for pregnancy first.
What do you think, Basketcases? Is it worth our time to keep watching? Will Fara ever get a real storyline? And should I be interested in the brochures Mike the Marine keeps sending me from his witness-protection suburb of Omaha?
This week’s Closing Thoughts:
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to celebrate the short life and long fade of Chris Brody. The character of Chris finally lost his long, brave battle against invisibility, lapsing into total silence in the arms of the sister he adored. He is survived by his mother, Jessica; his sister, Dana; an unborn half-sibling to be named later; and his terrorist father. Services will be unbelievably private.
Saul’s once-tiny secret team of Javadi Hunters is growing! Now that Max is on board, the team can convert Virgil’s van into the Mystery Machine, pack some Scooby Snacks, and start solving mysteries!
Jessica finally hugs her daughter. Does not say to her, “You stole and traded my car. You are grounded till you’re 45.” Does not say, “Change what now? Your name?! You can start by changing your attitude, Grumpy McSulkyPants.” And waits for the kid to announce that she’s moving out, to live with Angela, before bleating, “I love you so much.” Um. Okay.
Security: still a low priority in Washington, D.C.! The safe house to which Mystery, Inc. takes the bloodied Javadi may be “safe”, but it’s hardly secure. Dude could literally crawl out a window, and probably will: $50 says he’s in the wind again, 10 minutes into episode 7.
Saul Berenson can land one hell of a punch. He comes across as thoughtful, never threatening. He speaks softly even when he’s angry. When he’s upset he withdraws or works. But don’t be fooled: get up in his face, and he’ll flatten you with one swift move. If only the rest of this show had such force and economy.