That’s right! After missing two consecutive weeks of juicy, thought provoking and downright sexy Homeland recaps due to Hurricane Sandy (and one night involving two dollar margaritas) I’m back. Sorry for the delay!
Surveillance is at the center of Homeland on every level. Season 1 focused heavily on Carrie’s semi-illegal surveillance of the recently reunited Brody family and Season 2 eventually brought the spy gang back together for some more wire taps and video feeds. Homeland is a show set in the realm of global politics (albeit it on a personal scale), terrorism and espionage. In the post 9/11 world those things are all symbolic of the ongoing debate over balancing privacy and security. Everything our characters do seems to involve outside eyes prying in on personal moments, and the instances where our characters are truly along (e.g. last season’s “The Weekend”) stand as stark juxtaposition to the show’s status quo of skewed morality and non-existent privacy.
All of these ideas, and what they mean to our deeply damaged leads, came to head in this week’s episode when Saul, Quinn and co. were forced to listen in on Carrie and Brody’s intense game of pelvic pinochle. And Lester Freamon thought his job was tough. This messed up brand of intimacy gains its power from what we know about Carrie and Brody’s impossibly muddled feelings for each other, Saul’s relationship with Carrie and the absolute wringer that Brody’s been put through by the writers. Carrie and Brody alternate between sharing genuine moments in which they cling to each other like floating wreckage after a shipwreck and manipulation at a deep level. Their all-encompassing game doesn’t even have the luxury of being private and that’s one of the show’s underlying tragedies. Brody hasn’t been able to be himself, just an honest person trying to figure life out, for upwards of a decade now. And when he does have confusing moments of sincerity, they’re monitored by the CIA.
This week’s superb episode brought a lot to the table and, once again, pushed Carrie and Brody’s relationship to another level of dramatic excellence. This was also the first episode where Dana’s hit and run plot started to feel like it fit into the show. While it’s introduction was a bit sudden and ham-fisted it’s given Dana room to grow as a character and her almost naive desire to “make things right” provides a nice counter point to the show’s ever complicated moral prism. With the recent devastation she suffered at the sight of her father bending to the CIA’s will when he promised her they’d do the right thing she fled to Mike, the stable father figure Brody is incapable of being. Her acknowledgment of the deep pain Brody’s return must have caused him was a sign of her increasing maturity and grasping of the complexities of adult life. This little coming of age sub plot might be less tolerable if not for Morgan Saylor’s performance. She comes across as a real teenager, sulky and uncomfortable but astute and trying to find out who she is. She has Mike take her to the daughter of the hit and run victim and her acting made that scene shine. Her face broke with such tragic power that Claire Danes might have some competition for on-screen crying. One personal quibble, Dana keeps saying “I killed someone” and that is just inaccurate. She wasn’t driving the car and while you can debate her legal duties (going to the cops being the obvious one), she certainly doesn’t qualify as a murderer, or even a manslaughter-er.
Meanwhile, Brody’s mounting lies and inability to do anything genuine, including take his daughter to the police station and allow her to move on, has left him unhinged. During an argument with Jessica he shouts “I can’t! I can’t! I can’t!” with such desperation and frustration that it seemed he might have a stroke on the spot. When Carrie comes in to the house (she was, of course, listening in) to rouse him for his meeting with Roya, he is sitting in the hall with dead eyes. As I’ve said in earlier recaps, Brody’s journey this season hasn’t been so much about motivation (at this point his motivation is survival and not hurting his family) as it has been the stifling prison of lies he’s in. When Carrie takes him to a motel later in the episode he speaks of his spider hole in Iraq with something resembling nostalgia. It’s hard to blame him as this new box he’s trapped in is taking a brutal toll on his sanity, and probably his blood pressure. Brody, while the CIA watches on in horror, goes off on Roya before essentially quitting. She tries to follow him and calm him down but he throws her off and storms off. Quinn orders they detain Brody and take him out of the game as he’s become unstable, but Carrie is convinced that she can save him as an asset and whisks him off the grid and into a love shack where she knows Saul can find them.
There was some twisted humor to the CIA listening in on Carrie and Brody’s ferocious sex, especially the hard cut to Saul’s quiet horror and Quinn’s use of the volume dial, but the motel sequence also threw more fuel into the fire between the two leads. Carrie does genuinely love Brody and see their deal as some sort of salvation for both of them (and their future together) but she can’t separate Brody the man from Brody “that asset” anymore than he can. It’s all tangled up and there isn’t going to be a way to untie it all in the end. Brody may not “love” Carrie, maybe he does but who knows, but he certainly feels different around her than the bevy of people he has to lie to all day long. He wants so badly to just tell the truth and try and live his own life without the agendas of terrorist cells and intelligence agencies and his relationship with Carrie, the great sex and moments of honesty, is the closest he gets. Here again we see how irrevocably knotted up everything is as the person with whom he gets his only escape is at the center of his problem.
In the end he concedes to returning to “the game” and he reaches out to Roya. The next day she finds him in a parking lot and takes him on an impromptu drive. She seems very aware of is double cross and the tension in the scene was magnificent. Carrie and co. frantically scramble to keep tail him and find out what’s going on. Carrie feels the same tension as the audience and repeatedly ignores Quinn’s direct orders and goes off to get a better look. What she sees is Brody whisked off in a helicopter. Finally, we’re treated to Brody dragged into some sort of warehouse or parking garage where Abu-Nazir himself is waiting for him. This reveal worked for me because it signals yet another change for the show. The Brody in the CIA angle never got a chance to be stale because now Brody is going to have to go back into survival mode and talk himself out of serious danger. Nazir’s appearance clarifies the vague threat of “an attack” that is constantly hanging over the proceedings and focuses the show as the second season begins its sprint to the finish. Last week Brody yelled, “None of this is fucking okay!” I don’t think he knew how right he was.