So, here I am, my first Homeland recap, the two-hour, two-episode season 4 premiere: Drone Queen and Trylon and Perisphere. About three-quarters of the way through Drone Queen, Professor Spouse and I turned to each other and said “This is not fun.” We watched a Breaking Bad episode right before Homeland (yes, I’m finally watching), and waking up in the morning, I recall Breaking Bad far more clearly.
Don’t get me wrong; Homeland’s season premiere was wonderfully done. It was smart, visceral, real. In particular, the entire segment in the streets of Islamabad, from Sandy sneaking out of the office, through Quinn and Carrie attempting to save him, through his ultimate death, was brilliant. The director of this segment (part of Drone Queen), Lesli Linka Glatter, is well-known to Mad Men fans: Think 5G, A Night to Remember, or Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency, among others. And, too, it’s a show about international terrorism and homeland security; it’s not meant to be “fun.”
But three seasons of Homeland struck a balance between the personal and the political. The story taking place on the world stage also took place in the most intimate of quarters; it was the story of Carrie and Brody; of their personal demons, their tortured and unromantically romantic love, and their affect on the people around them. The season 4 premiere episode(s) gave us too little of the personal, too much of the political.
Which is funny, considering how much fun we have had criticizing Homeland for its lack of political acumen in episodes past. The security breaches in the Pentagon, Langley, and the U.S. Senate that defied even a wooden imagination. Secret Senate meetings held next to unguarded doors to the outside. CIA gatherings with no parking security. The acting director of the CIA with an unsecured laptop sitting out in the middle of his dining room. I mean, the zealous “goof” sleuth enjoys the most picayune of errors, but these are all HUGE. Last night felt a lot more real, although I do love that Carrie has a giant-sized, heavy-security government laptop that she starts up without typing a password. HAH!
It’s also funny considering how much complaint has been leveled at the personal side of the story, especially at the Brodys. No one loved the Angsty Teenage storyline. You know what I’m going to love less? Angsty Baby Mama. The primary personal story in these episodes is the story of the baby (Brody’s and Carrie’s) left behind with Carrie’s long-suffering sister while Carrie gallivants around Kabul. This culminates in Trylon and Perisphere, with Carrie seriously thinking about drowning her baby. (Which so upset Professor Spouse she jumped up and left the room until the sequence was over.) As dark and interesting as the sequence was, I cannot help feeling the storyline is going to bash my brains in. Seriously, week after week of Complaining Sister nagging Carrie about being a mother, while Carrie does her I’m Too Busy and Crazy thing? Shoot me now.
Other than the fact that Carrie is a narcissistic mother who doesn’t understand the effect she has on others, we also see that Carrie is a narcissistic person who doesn’t understand the effect she has on others. “How can you do this to me?” as a response to an obviously suffering and conflicted Quinn transcends narcissism and lands firmly into thick-headed and tone-deaf, neither of which describes—or should describe—Carrie Mathison. This isn’t smart writing; this isn’t someone who understands psychology writing it with any subtlety or depth. It’s a writer taking a narcissistic statement and hammering the audience over the head with it. Ouch.
By the way, that title? I got nothing. The Wikipedia entry for “Trylon and Perisphere” suggests that the title is ironic, in a utopian world of tomorrow kind of way, but boy, talk about working too hard at a reference!
So, what else have we got? Saul is back, and his marriage is momentarily intact, although Miri’s dissatisfaction is palpable even in her brief time on-screen. I love Saul, but his marriage miseries are not his most interesting feature. His meeting with Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham) is much more promising. If Saul is going to try to overthrow Lockhart (who is a dick and looks like Dick Cheney and is SUCH a dick) then I’m on-board.
Quinn’s story would be more interesting if Rupert Friend were not a charisma black hole. He has the opposite of screen presence, which works for the character, who has an ability to be invisible in a crowd and unmemorable to eyewitnesses. For character work, however, it’s kind of a problem. He’s beating people up and fighting with Carrie and being angsty and I longed for a nap. Despite that, I loved his little romance with the hotel manager. Quinn is a cute drunk with admirable performance abilities under the influence of alcohol. I thought we’d get a nasty sort of fat joke out of the story—a woman he’d have nothing to do with sober, that sort of thing. Instead, he’s defending her, and enjoying her company, which is more interesting and more laudable. On the other hand, if she sticks around I really have to hope she gets more characteristics than just appreciation that a hot guy hooked up with her sad fat self. Geez Pete. I can’t find the name of the actress, so feel free to drop it in comments.
So, Basketcases, who watched? Who loved? Who hated? Sound off!