With this episode we move into the third act of the season’s best new show and go flashback heavy into Brody’s (Damian Lewis) time in captivity. Meanwhile Carrie (Claire Danes) flirts with a career in conflict management as she attempts to diffuse tensions in the wake of last week’s mosque attack.
Let’s break it down…
‘Crossfire’ was an understated affair in that the episode belonged almost exclusively to our two main characters and everyone else was shuttled off to the outskirts. This was also the first time that I found myself more interested in Brody’s story over Carrie’s. That’s not a slight against Damian Lewis (who has been doing amazing work this season), I just traditionally find myself drawn to Danes’ wounded heroine. It may be because Brody has been more of an enigma: a character saddled with the is-he-isn’t-he terrorist baggage. As viewers we’ve been on Team Carrie since the show’s inception. With Brody, it’s been a bit more murky.
To a certain extent, this week was a reprieve on the central question of whether Brody is or isn’t a terrorist. Instead we explored Brody’s motivations…for whatever it is that he’s doing. Present-day Brody is still very much a mystery, but we know from the extended flashbacks that Brody was ‘turned’ in his fifth of eight years of captivity when Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban) moved him into his North Eastern Iraq home to teach his son, Issa, English. This storyline comprised the majority of Brody’s narrative, and despite its simplicity, I was completely engrossed in Brody’s emotional connection to the little boy. There were a number of interesting tidbits that came out of these scenes: it was suggested that Issa taught Brody how to pray, that the boy was neglected and seeking a father figure, and that Nazir’s calm and kind exterior (briefly glimpsed in earlier flashbacks) may actually be legitimate. Finally (drumroll) we learned that Brody was turned against the US because of what happened to Issa.
What happened is the Vice-President and former head of the CIA (Jamey Sheridan) lied about an American missile killing Issa and the other children at the compound. He also suggested that Nazir planted their bodies. For those of you keeping track at home, this was week two of “bad America” after the FBI shootings in the mosque. While it’s easy to make light of these events, it’s somewhat of a relief that the show is engaging in a deeper debate about the moral grey zone associated with terrorism. The suggestion is that none of these players are clean and everyone is troubled, including both our protagonists.
These flashbacks did demonstrate quite clearly why Brody’s pissed: he spent a year tutoring a boy more affectionate than his own son only to end up cradling his dead body in a sea of destruction caused by his own lying government. It’s enough to turn a guy off the rah rah patriotism. And so, with the reminder of the US government’s role in Issa’s death, and a quick Skype from Nazir, Brody is now back in the game to destroy the VP.
Carrie, meanwhile, spent the hour putting out fires in the wake of the shooting at the mosque in 1×08. These scenes were a tad dramatically inert as it was clear that she would ultimately get information out of the imam (or in this case, his wife), so it was just a matter of time and what angle to play. I did thoroughly enjoy her conversation with FBI Agent Paul (is that his name? That’s what we’re gonna call him) in the greasy spoon diner as she tried to get the G-man to cop to the deaths of two parishioners:
Paul: Have you ever been in a firefight?
Carrie (immediately): Yes
This episode went a long way to reminding us that despite the fact that Carrie is bipolar, and prone to making horrible, horrible choices when it comes to sex partners, she’s actually quite good at her job. She knows the language and the protocols of the people in her world, and also when to follow her instincts. In the end these qualities paid off and the imam’s wife told her about Tom Walker’s (Chris Chalk) meetings with the Saudi diplomat, who will play a larger role in future episodes as we close in on another attack.
- In addition to whether or not Carrie would get the information she needed, the amount of obviousness at play in this episode was pretty disappointing. Was anyone surprised when Issa or ‘Dan’, our friendly woodlands hunter, bought it? Anyone? Bueller?
- While I admitted last week that Saul’s (Mandy Patinkin) domestic drama was a snoozefest, it was nice continuity to see him silently suffering in his few brief scenes. On lesser shows Carrie would have questioned him and it would have turned into a big scene, but instead Patinkin conveyed his pain with just some strategic body positioning (lying on the floor) and quiet line readings. Good show
- We knew from last week’s episode that Brody was being groomed for office and tonight’s episode ended with a quick reference to a message from the VP on the Brody answering machine. Fingers crossed that this will mean the return of political dynamo, Elizabeth Gaines (Linda Purl) in an upcoming episode.
- Although we know it was a combination of Brody taking responsibility for Tom’s death and the death of Issa by the American government that’s led to current events, we’re still in the dark about just what Brody plans to do. Any thoughts of his role in all this? Admittedly the narrative is going in a completely different direction than I had anticipated (I figured Carrie would bring Brody in to find Tom), so clearly I am as reliable as a crystal ball in predicting what comes next on this show.