The second episode of Showtime’s Homeland finds Carrie (Claire Danes) firmly entrenched in the field – and under fire – as Brody (Damian Lewis) navigates some murky moral issues. Naturally, though, it’s the development that ends the episode that will have tongues wagging.
Let’s bitch it out…
Let’s address that ending first, because it’s a doozy: Saul (Mandy Patinkin) discovers the taped confession that Brody made before nearly blowing himself up in last year’s season finale. It’s a crazy move for the show to make because it so clearly marks a point of no return – Saul now knows the truth and this secret is about to come out. How can the series possibly continue?!
Rather than speculate or fret (as several critics are already doing), all I’m interested in doing is sitting back and watching the next few episodes unfold. The series has hit this threshold before (see: 1×07 ‘The Weekend’) and has proven itself adept at handling game-changers without compromising on the integrity of the show (or viewers’ intelligence). If anything, it’s as though the critical kudos has now put a bullseye on the series and it’s now fair game to critique every little element. I’m not suggesting that the series is infallible, but let’s have some trust in a show that has yet to let us down, shall we?
For me, the greatest strength of the episode isn’t the ending; it’s the incredibly tense Special Ops in Beirut. It helps that this is the centerpiece of the episode: a unifying moment in which nearly every character gathers to see (or listen) to the unfolding events as the task force engages in a “capture/kill” mission as Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban) surfaces. Is it convenient that Brody sends a text message at the exact moment that Nazir is about to be assassinated? Sure. But it’s also believable, and it continues to elaborate on Brody’s conflicted feelings of his role in both the US government and, conversely, a mole for Nazir.
The chase scene that follows the failed mission – as Carrie searches her informant’s apartment for clues about the impending attack – is incredibly tense. Earlier this week on Grimm, I noted that there was a lack of drama in the near-death of a central character because we knew that he was never in danger of dying. The same should be true here as Homeland would never dispose of Carrie in such an arbitrary way, but I was still genuinely anxious watching Carrie dodge bullets and smash an assailant with a brick. It’s a testament to Joe Hobeck’s editing and Michael Cuesta’s direction that the scene is as intense as it is.
- Jessica (Morena Baccarin) is getting into political wife mode under the careful guidance of Cynthia Walden (Talia Balsam), aka Mrs. Vice-President. This seems like a perfect role for Jessica, who is all about appearances, as evidenced by her fretting over daughter Dana’s (Morgan Saylor) behaviour while they visit the Walden McMansion (which looks appropriately stuffy)
- Is anyone excited to see Mike (Diego Klattenhoff) again? As I mentioned last week, I think the show is better off without him, so re-introducing him AND questioning why Walker – who was such an ace marksman – missed his shots in the finale, don’t have the same narrative urgency as other elements of the show. Here’s hoping I’m proved wrong and this isn’t a misstep
- I personally love how Tim Guinee – here playing an advisor to David Estes (David Harewood) at the CIA – pops up on every television show (he’s sporadically appearing on Revolution, and has been in The Good Wife, as well). He’s definitely a character actor who deserves his own show because he’s always excellent. ‘Beirut Is Back’ is no exception
- Finally, I think that the portrayal of the VP (Jamey Sheridan) is interesting. I’m unsure whether we’re meant to consider him smarmy and untrustworthy, or if he’s meant to be a patriotic military man. At times his discussion with Brody at the fundraiser seems laughably caricature-ish (as though we’re meant to identify him as a war monger who detests anyone without the balls to make a genocidal decision), but the show doesn’t traditionally feature flat, one-dimensional characters
What are your thoughts: is the VP simply undeveloped, or do you think he’s meant to be an easily identifiable villain so that Brody comes across as more sympathetic? Were you excited to see Carrie back in the field? I thought the show did a great job of reiterating how much more alive she is in the field, even if she is suffering from panic attacks and causing all kinds of problems. What about Jessica: do you care about her storyline? And finally, how will Brody- and the show – survive his exposure? Hit the comments below with your thoughts.
Homeland airs Sundays at 10pm EST on Showtime