Spoiler Alert: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 3, Episode 9 of Showtime's "Homeland," titled "One Last Time."
For much of the first two seasons of "Homeland," it was reasonably clear that the whole show was guiding to us towards the answer to one central question: is Nicholas Brody a terrorist? Now that that question has been answered, attention has shifted to -- what, exactly? The search for the Langley bombers? The perilous future of the CIA as it prepares to be taken under the cynical, realpoliticking wing of Senator Lockhart? Dana? God, is the whole show now about Dana? Or is there now a shorter-term focus on Saul's plan to shuttle his plant to the top of the Iranian political structure?
It's never been entirely clear, and that lack of clarity has been part of what has made Season 3 unsatisfying. But it's also, importantly, what gives the show enduring promise: if the writers can tie all these disparate threads together in a way that seems plausible and not overly contrived, they will have the makings of a cracking conclusion to the season on their hands.
Last night gave us the clearest indication yet that the focus for the remainder of the season will remain squarely on Saul's multi-phase "Iranian project," with the show's switch from nuanced character study of the ambiguities and moral lacunae of the "war on terror" to full-throttle geopolitical thriller gathering pace. But what, really, is the Iranian project all about? We've been dropped hints of where it might all be heading over the past few weeks, but last night gave us the clearest indication yet of how Saul plans to tie Javadi, Brody and U.S.-Iranian relations together. Visiting an angry-looking Carrie in hospital, where she's still recovering from her gunshot wound, Saul convinces her to persuade Brody, who's being weaned off his substance addiction in a special ops safehouse in Virginia via a scary combination of ibogaine and tough love, to accept the mission of traveling into Tehran and knocking off the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
Let's take a moment to reflect on the simple ludicrousness of this plan: Saul is attempting, with a mandate that grows thinner by the day, to play Brody back into Iran, convinced that his status as "the Langley bomber" will be enough to found a plea for asylum and guarantee an audience with the head of the revolutionary guard, who Brody will then kill, leaving the political space vacant for the CIA's new asset Javadi to ascend to the head of the country's intelligence agency. And then what?
It's always a bad sign when a show reaches for the creepy music to lend extra gravitas to its characters' words, and sure enough, the creepy music came out last night as Saul attempted to explain what the installation of Javadi at the head of the revolutionary guard would mean for U.S.-Iranian relations. It was, he said, to a backdrop of scary violins, "something to change the facts on the ground, so that two countries who haven't been able to communicate with each other for over thirty years might be able to" -- and that was the point at which we looked away, because we were sure men in white lab coats were about to appear to cart crazy Mr Berenson off to the asylum. So, to recap: Brody will knock off Iran's head spy, Javadi will inherit the job, and then... then the U.S. and Iran will just be able to "talk" to each other, man -- like, really communicate? To paraphrase Senator Lockhart from two episodes ago, Saul sounds like he's fucking high.
Throughout "Homeland" Saul has often figured as the gruff, pragmatic voice of earthly wisdom; even his harsher moments have been driven by a fundamental empathy. But this latest plan sounds more like the renegade operation of a man gone mad by his impending departure from the organization where he's spent his whole career (and for which he has sacrificed much in his own personal life).
Nor were we convinced by the suggestion that Carrie would be so unquestioningly ready to get on board with Saul's plan. After all, she'd risked her life just the previous week to ensure the integrity of her own personal quest to prove Brody's innocence, and now all of a sudden her she is, ready to send Brody on, essentially, a suicide quest into Iran. From the crazy eyes of undying love as Brody crossed the border out of the U.S. at the end of Season 2 to this: That must be some very tasty Kool-Aid Saul's feeding her.
As for Brody... they say it takes three months to kick a drug habit; in "Homeland," rehab only takes three weeks. Brody gets whipped back into shape after seeing Dana [cue hoarse whisper: "DAY-NAH"] working as a janitor in a motel. He wills himself out of an energy-less slump and undergoes an intense training regimen of identifying jack of spades cards, jogging, staring at pornographic images and jogging some more. Sixteen magical TV days later and BOOM: Suddenly Marine Brody is back, shooting the shit about wives and babies with his fellow military brothers and asking sharp questions about his escape plan from Tehran during the boys' briefing on Operation Iran.
Brody's speedy recovery, though undoubtedly unrealistic, is in line with his character. Brody was never particularly intelligent, sly, skilled or even very likeable, both in his home life as a father and as a marine. Instead, as Saul quipped, what Brody does have is an amazing knack for getting himself into particularly sticky situations and somehow getting out of them alive -- like a cockroach, as the shady Caracas doctor once called him, a theme we're seeing resurface again and again this season. What Brody succeeds at is having a will to survive, even if he occasionally loses it and sinks down to the floor of the sea like a stone. He just needs to be reminded of a reason to live.
We'd like to end with a little PSA about Carrie's new habit of smoking cigarettes -- while 13 weeks pregnant, natch. So far her unborn child has been something that Carrie has ignored or sighed at, as if it's been a terribly distracting fly in her ear while she takes care of more important things, like clearing Brody's name. But the idea that Carrie would actually risk her baby's health by picking up smoking just seems so out of character to us. We get what the writers are implying: Carrie probably hopes the smoking will lead to miscarriage so that she can terminate it and not have it weigh on her conscious. Her inaction has led to action. But we don't buy that Carrie, a sometimes smart and definitely educated girl with ample access to pharmaceuticals and doctors, would rely on cigarettes for the off-chance of a miscarriage. Or at least, we don't want to buy it, because we thought so much more of Carrie than that. Seriously, you for real, girl?
Questions we have that were answered:
- Will Carrie's baby be safe after the gunshot incident? Yes, the baby is fine. Not that Carrie displays much interest in its well-being.
- What does Saul exactly have planned for Brody now that he's been returned to U.S. soil? A lot, actually. Saul plans on using Brody as a pawn to gun down the Head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard in order to install Javadi in his place as heir apparent. The mission outlined like basically like a scene from "Zero Dark 30."
- When will Carrie and Brody finally be reunited? Now. Carrie and Brody unceremoniously reunite as she visits him in rehab and asks him what he needs to redeem himself. Posing to be on his side, she actually gets him to commit to Saul's operation.
- Who is Mira's French boyfriend, really? Surprise! He's an Israeli intelligence officer who has been feeding notes on his girlfriend's husband's whereabouts to his arch nemesis. Ouch.
- Will Saul lose his position as acting director at the CIA in ten days? Not quite yet. In yet another schadenfreude-filled scene, Saul confronts a redfaced Senator Lockhart with photos of him and the Israeli intelligence officer, Alain. Knowing he's screwed, Lockhart agrees to give Saul more time until his confirmation hearing as the new CIA director.
- Where has Dana Brody gone? She is living and working in a motel as a janitor. And she apparently is very, very freaked out about seeing her father again.
Questions we still have:
- In that scene where Saul visits Carrie in the hospital, why is he walking so incredibly slowly?
- What wild and crazy nights has Dar Adal had with the CIA in the 1960s? The sudden mention of the "Nigerian drug, Ibogaine," with Dar's hands waving back and forth, was something straight out of Project MKUltra.
- Can someone do a mashup video of all the times Damian Lewis has muttered the word "Day-naaah" throughout the seasons STAT?
- And are we going to love or hate next week's episode? Judging from next week's previews, it looks like "Homeland" is going places we've never gone before.
"Homeland" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Showtime.
What did you think of "Homeland" season 3, episode 8? Share your thoughts and predictions below.