Oct 062014

Episode 401

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!


  19 Responses to “Homeland Season 4 Premiere: Drone Queen/Trylon and Perisphere”

  1. I loved the Homeland S4 premiers, but then, I love watching good actors play complicated, often-unlikeable characters. I turned to Robert and said, Wow, they’re really going out of their way to make Carrie even more unlikeable this season.

    I really liked the scenes with Quinn. I, too, was expecting a trite, fat-jokey story to emerge, and I kind of held my breath at first. I was pleased with the writing, on that front at least, and totally believed the pleasure each character found in the other: the property manager at being treated, by a man, with respect (even if having her honor defended meant Quinn wound up in jail for a bit); Quinn, at being in the enjoyable company of someone who has nothing to do with the job he so clearly hates (and who knows nothing of the horrors he keeps being drawn into), who can talk about normal, everyday things–exotic music to his ears.

    Obviously, I cringed at Carrie’s treatment of her mini-Brody daughter. But I get how that fits her character. At the end of last season, she was extremely conflicted about the impending birth: while most mothers, at that point in a pregnancy, have done at least a little self-education on Things Maternal and Things Baby-related, Carrie was shown as still being totally clueless. Not only did she not know how to strap together a Baby Bjorn, she didn’t even know what the damned thing was! Of course she would put the baby carrier in the front seat. Of course she would have no patience whatsoever when it came to feeding the child. Her sister, at the end of S3, seemed optimistically convinced that having the baby would “ground” Carrie, would make her take better care of herself, even, as she would be “astonished at the love” she would feel. That was some serious wishful thinking.

    We expect women to naturally grow into motherhood and nurturing, once a baby arrives. The vast majority of us do. What this show is exploring is that some people, people who are perhaps neurologically different, even if they aren’t textbook sociopaths with no conscience, can follow a divergent path, one that doesn’t always lead naturally into a nurturing state. And in Carrie’s case, she’s also on a career arc that puts her in ever-more-powerful positions, doing things (i.e. ordering bombing strikes) that were, until recently, done by men, and ruthless men at that. There was a reason for her encounter with the fighter pilot, where she is rude to him them checks him out and comments on him being “cute enough” for her to give him a moment of her time and attention. Carrie is doing and saying that which that our culture tends to think of as “male behavior”, and it is jarring. But real.

    It’s more likely for someone who has Bipolar Disorder to suffer with postpartum psychosis, to one degree or another, hence the awful bathtub scene. Carrie is a complicated character, though, not a flat, cutout monster. You get the feeling she doesn’t want to get away from the baby because she hates the dull work of mothering an infant. Rather, in a moment underlining a conscience underneath it all, she wants to get away from the baby because she knows, on various levels, that the ruthless person she needs to be to do what she sees is her job, is at the same time a cold, unfeeling, and even dangerous presence for a child to be around. She’s too narcissistic to admit this to her sister–that she’s a dark mess, indeed a total failure–on the personal relationship front. So she stomps around and digs in about her needing to do her job.

    Oh! From your Wiki link:

    The sphere housed a diorama called “Democracity” which, in keeping with the fair’s theme “The World of Tomorrow”, depicted a utopian city-of-the-future. Democracity was viewed from above on a moving sidewalk, while a multi-image slide presentation was projected on the interior surface of the sphere.

    Drone warfare is the “world of tomorrow” as we bring “Democracity” to the world. All “viewed from above”.

    • Newborns were, indeed, placed in the front, facing back. I remember doing this with Arthur. When I was looking for links on this, I found that recommendations had changed, because of airbags. If there is a passenger-side airbag (as almost all cars have these days) then the airbag could injure a baby placed in the front. Prior to that, the rear-facing seats were meant to be placed in the front.

      • I remember it being that way–in the front, but facing backwards–with my firstborn, back in 1992. With subsequent babies, though, they had changed the recommendation to putting them in the back seat, rear-facing, due, as you point out, to the danger posed by airbags.

        On another topic, something else occurred to me regarding the Carrie-as-taking-on-a-male-persona trope: when they brought out her birthday cake, instead of singing “Happy Birthday to You”, her team sang “For She’s a Jolly Good Fellow“.

        • Of course Carrie is following an old recommendation *in the present* due to her complete lack of knowledge on the subject. By the way, how do you get italics to show?

          • D.H., just use tags as below. For italics, surround the word on either side with opening and closing tags [i] and [/i], or else [em] and [/em], but instead of [ ], use . For bold, [b] [/b]. For indenting a quoted passage, [blockquote] [/blockquote]. Hope this helps!

          • It shows in the instructions just under the comment box, where it says “You may use these HTML tags and attributes.” The “i” and “em” in angle brackets are both italics. “Em” is used for emphasis, whereas “i” is used for titles and other, non-emphasis reasons–this makes a difference when using HTML readers for the blind and visually impaired. Similarly, “b” and “strong” are both bold.

        • They probably sang “For She’s a Jolly Good Fellow” because the royalties for “Happy Birthday to You” are too expensive. Producers don’t want to break the budget when they could use that money to improve the show.

  2. I had a sinking feeling when I saw the idiots in the restaurant that they would use the trope of The Hero’s winning The Girl’s heart by physical violence against her tormentors (cf. the ghastly Soul Man). At least they gave it an interesting twist by making his own reaction disturbing to Quinn.
    I certainly find the sister annoying and think that her insistence that Carrie’s following a demanding career makes her a bad mother has anti-feminist implications. Of course Carrie is also terrified of her own self-perceived incapacity as a mother and the baby evokes her profound grief over the love of her life, whom she saw strangled to death at the end of a rope five or six months ago.
    I actually thought the two episodes were excellent, far above the average level of past seasons. I got the World of Tomorrow allusion; that would have been a better title. It’s reminiscent of the Billy Joel song: “These are the Days of miracles and wonders/ The bomb in the baby carriage was wired to a radio”.

    “That’s were they all lived. And that’s were he and his wife had perverse sex whle Mommie watched through her secret spy camera.”

  3. This is the second colleague whose violent and gruesome death at the hands of a mob Carrie has witnessed up close within six months.

    Carrie is a walking zombie on so many levels. Her very methodical prescription drugging, drinking, earplugs, eyeshade, and her focused command coldness towards poor freaked out “a need a goddamned minute” Quinn characterizes her AS a drone, almost.

  4. Just chiming in to share the following comment, from Twitter:

    “Watching Carrie and this baby is like watching the first season of Mad Men when Sally Draper put plastic on her head.” (@kristenwarner)

    Nice recap, Deb. 🙂

    • Thanks! Big shoes to fill. I’m glad your keyboard is ready for Walking Dead!

    • After all, babies survived before modern recommendations. (Just slightly fewer of them?)

      • babies survived before modern recommendations. (Just slightly fewer of them?)

        Or perhaps slightly more of them.

        People (helicopter parents) imagine that all safety-related actions/policies/obsessions are all benefit and no cost – few actually carry no costs.

        One not so unusual example – strenuously avoiding childhood diseases (excessive hygiene) might in fact cause less-effective immune responses – and merely delay suffering those dieases until adulthood (which is worse in some cases). Some also believe obessive hygiene, along with changes in diets for children, might contribute to food allergies.

        The No Free Lunch platitude applies to more than only economics.

  5. I cannot find the name of the actress that plays the part of the motel manager. Can you help me??

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