Spoiler Alert: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 3, Episode 2 of Showtime's "Homeland," titled "Uh... Oo... Aw..."
You know how they say that when you're crazy, the more you try to convince other people you're not crazy, the less likely they are to believe you? That's exactly what the entire second episode of Season 3 of "Homeland" was like: Carrie trying to convince others that she wasn't crazy, Dana Brody saying she wasn't crazy, and that Jessica wasn't crazy, but Nicholas Brody? Totally crazy.
The issue of "crazy" also led Peter Quinn to question Saul Berenson and lose his faith in the CIA, and left Dana so desperately praying for life in the sun-filled garage, arms outstretched on the same praying mat that her father had stowed away from his family as he grappled with his own demons.
We're not going to lie: this season of "Homeland" has kind of been a drag thus far. The bounty of tortured characters has removed the initial thrill of the show's radical dramatization of conflicts within the CIA. The first two seasons felt taut and disciplined because viewers were faced with a number of big questions that defied easy resolution: was Nicholas Brody a good man or a bad man? Would there be an attack on America?
Now that the attack has taken place and many of the questions around individual characters' motivations and integrity have been answered, things are starting to fatten out and the show is losing some of that early discipline. Many of the big "reveals" have passed and we are now dealing with the aftermath of the 12/12 attack and wading through an internal affairs investigation that is beginning to feel like a soap opera.
It's not that we don't care about Carrie or Saul or even Dana, but more that the psychiatric treatment and teenage melodrama of Season 3 feel like a distraction from the more action-packed episodes that (we hope) will return within the next few weeks. The first two seasons were like the build-up to a major car crash; so far, Season 3 feels like the equivalent of filling out insurance forms to claim money for the repairs. If "Homeland" has taught us anything, however, it's that the slow rewards are worth it. (See: last season's finale).
Carrie's attempt to outsmart the CIA by disclosing agency secrets to a reporter -- in part, to defend her reputation, but also to rehabilitate Brody's (it's always, always about Brody with her) -- backfires miserably as Dar Adal and Saul get wind of her actions and send over a psychiatric detention order as she's mid-interview about the "Big Lie." "Despite what they said, Nicholas Brody is not responsible for the explosion at Langley," she swore.
For us, the show started to lose its struggle for verisimilitude during this scene with the newspaper reporter -- the dialogue felt stagey and unrealistic, like a high school student's version of what journalists sound like when they're interviewing sources, or like some kind of camp, chamber music version of "You can't handle the truth!" As Carrie was hauled away to the hospital, it was difficult not to wonder: Why is she still dressing in work clothes? She's been out of work for months now but still seems to dress exclusively in the drab gray slacks and suit jackets of the first two seasons. Maybe there's a larger point to be made there about her iron dedication to her work, or how much difficulty she's having letting go. Or maybe we just need to stop picking on the characters' clothing choices because there are bigger issues.
Carrie admits to the hospital doctor that she's been off her medication but has replaced it with a steady routine of running "every day, six miles, sometimes more, singing helps, go figure, and I meditate to stay calm." She's "f*cking zen," which has to be one of the most ironic statements ever uttered on the show. The irony becomes fully apparent at the administrative hearing into her psychiatric detention that follows; her sister and father arrive to support her, but she becomes visibly upset after they attempt to convince her to start taking her medication again. The hearing runs for all of 30 seconds before Carrie, convinced her family is also now trying to betray her, attempts to march out. Guards restrain her, she kicks out, there is turmoil.
Meanwhile, we are introduced to a new character, Fara Sherazi (Nazanin Boniadi), a transactions officer who has been working at the CIA for eight days. She is beautiful. She is also dressed in a head scarf. Saul and Quinn stare at her open-mouthed, in one of the many scenes peppered throughout the episode where it is difficult to figure out the precise motivations behind characters' open-mouth staring. One of the strengths of "Homeland" is that it has never hesitated to explore the complex interaction of Muslims and non-Muslims in America, especially within the intelligence community (although it's arguable that, in some instances, the dynamics of the interaction veer into melodrama and cliche). Here we see Fara greeted with suspicion as she enters Langley, purely on account of her head scarf; later, after she tells Saul she is having trouble extracting relevant information from the transaction records relating to the 12/12 bombing, he questions her decision to wear the head scarf: "You're wearing that thing on your head. It's one big f*ck you to people who would've been your coworkers."
The first scene struck us as overdone; the second was a masterfully controlled exercise in surprise character development -- the worst and best of "Homeland" in one three-minute stretch. Saul has been transformed from the fatherly figure he had once been on the show, where he mentored Carrie and called her his protege. Now he reduces Fara to tears. David Estes was never a sympathetic character and now Saul, as acting director of the CIA, is rapidly turning into a bully, professing sympathy and concern for others even as his actions show a total lack of either. Hmm, maybe it's the job, after all? Saul was sympathetic when he was on the periphery of institutional power within the CIA; now that he's been moved to the center of the action, he not only has to compromise on his beliefs as to how an intelligence agency should be run (to wit: the six-person strike in last week's episode, which he had originally equivocated on), he's also losing his sense of his own moral integrity.
Someone who is not losing his sense of moral integrity is Quinn. We said last week that we could expect to see more of Quinn's struggle to deal with the ethical implications of the job after he accidentally killed a child in Caracas. After visiting Carrie at the hospital, seemingly by his own volition, he decides he has had enough. He tells Saul that he is losing faith in the CIA and that he is resigning after the current mission is over: "Carrie's hearing, she was hauled off, kicking and screaming. I would never bail on you in the middle of something, but I want you to know that what's going on here is not okay with me." Quinn has always delivered for Saul and Dar and company, and now the prodigal son wants out. Will Quinn become a vigilante of the Alan Moore sort, a man guided by his own idiosyncratic and unpredictable moral code? Will Showtime offer the shirtless sniper his own spin-off show? Or will Quinn join Carrie in the future to start their own version of the CIA, bound not by government or some dusty legislative mandate but by capital J Justice?
We get a glimpse of what Future Quinn might look like when he approaches one of the banking figures who had refused to cooperate with Fara and Saul during their questioning. The bank had called in political support to kill the CIA's attempts to force them to disclose their clients, on whose behalf they had been executing prohibited transactions. Quinn, fresh from assassinating targets in Caracas associated with the tarnished bank, appears to view unsubtle threats of physical violence as a more effective avenue to the information than "the normal channels."
"I've tried very hard to be patient with venal sh*theads like you, but I can only do it for so long," Quinn tells the banker. The tactic proves successful -- the bank miraculously hands over all the requested data the next day -- but we're left to ponder, once again, the essential dirtiness of intelligence work, and the moral equivalences and compromises that have to be brokered in the pursuit of a purportedly greater good. If in going after the bad guys, you become a bad guy yourself, is it really worth the pursuit, in the end?
Perhaps the only character in the show that witnesses improvement in this episode is Dana, who finally comes into her own when she escapes from her home back to the rehabilitation center to steal away a night with her Ian Somerhalder-lookalike boyfriend. At first, the basement scene filled with laundry felt like a bad episode of "My So-Called Life," until we catch a glimpse of Dana and her boyfriend Leo cuddling in the morning. (Did anyone else cringe at their love scene, by the way? Damian Lewis certainly did. Dana Brody still looks 14 to us.)
"Leo is not crazy, I am not crazy, and in case you're wondering, neither are you. Dad was crazy," Dana tells her mother after the budding lovers get caught. The kid speaks some truth for the first time in the episode. She tells her worry-sick mother that even though Nicholas Brody ruined their family's lives, she suddenly wants to be alive again, and she wants to be alive for Leo. Jessica breaks down in tears. Where does a mother go from here? Where does this sub-plot go from here? The Dana story is starting to feel meandering and flabby. Next week should give us a sense of how much farther the show will wander before we can get to the meat again.
Questions we had that were answered:
Questions we still have:
What did you think of "Homeland" season 3, episode 2? Share your thoughts and predictions below.
"Homeland" Season 3
"Homeland" Season 3
"Homeland" Season 3