Homeland review – 2×03: ‘State of Independence’

Courtesy of Showtime

Last week Homeland delivered a cliffhanger that most shows would sit on until the season finale. It delivered it in its second episode. So what happens now that Brody’s (Damian Lewis) secret is out of the bag?

Let’s bitch it out…We wait, that’s what.

‘State of Independence’ isn’t quite a “filler” episode so much as a near reboot of the series, but even with such high stakes, it doesn’t mean that it’s a great episode. As Saul boards a plane from Lebanon back to the US with proof that Brody is a terrorist, we watch as everyone goes through one helluva crap day. Unfortunately only one part of the episode is worthwhile, while the rest of it plays like a spy version of Meet The Parents as things just get worse and worse.

I’ve long maintained that Claire Danes’ Carrie Mathison is far more interesting than Lewis’ Brody. This episode does nothing to change my opinion as Brody is put through the proverbial ringer in a series of (increasingly ludicrous) unfortunate events. Sent by Roya (Zuleikha Robinson) to usher the bomb tailor to a safe house before the information from the Lebanon mission is decrypted, Brody gets a flat, then discovers there’s no jack, then chases the tailor through the woods, gets hit on the head, tries to patch up the fatally wounded tailor after he falls on something (a tree branch?) sharp, then finally kills the tailor when Jess (Morena Baccarin) becomes suspicious of the grunting noises she hears on the phone.

Ugh. Whether it’s parody, or a brilliant parallel to Carrie’s no good day, it’s simply not entertaining to watch. We know Brody’s just digging himself in digger (it’s Alanis Morissette ironic that it’s all for nothing since he’s about to get outed as a terrorist). We know that the tailor will ultimately be killed. The entire day is simply preparation for the pay-off between husband and wife at the end of the episode, which harkens back to the series’ early episodes when Jess was still schlupping Mike (Diego Klattenhoff) and he and Brody had a fight on the lawn. The resulting conflict between Brody and Jess is in stark contrast to their loving and intimate sexual encounter that morning, but the five minutes of pay-off doesn’t justify the 40 minutes of groan-inducing humiliation it takes to get there. It would have been better to have had Brody realize that there was no safe house and Nazir intended for him to kill the tailor the whole time. That would have been much more powerful.

Either way, chalk this up as a swing and a miss.

Courtesy of Showtime

The Carrie storyline is significantly more satisfying. Much like Brody, Carrie spends the episode revisiting her past. After a self-esteem shattering experience in which d-bag David Estes (David Harewood) shuts her out of the mission debrief (love the doublespeak about how much he appreciates her work, but doesn’t want her present), Carrie returns to her house to figure out what to do with her life. Initially this means falling back into familiar patterns such as sl*tting up for a night out (mirroring our introduction to her back in the pilot). Just before leaving, however, she changes her mind and commits suicide via pills and wine. It’s only after laying down and nearly falling asleep that she once again changes her mind (at the last second) and throws up.

This precedes the emotional end of the episode as Saul (finally!) shows up at her house to show her the Brody tape. In a powerful scene (that many think will secure Danes her second Emmy nomination), Carrie cries as she learns that her instincts were right. It’s heartbreaking when she turns to Saul and asks him – in near disbelief – if the tape confirms her suspicions.

And so the question from last week returns: where do we go from here? The irrefutable truth is now out there and there’s nowhere for Brody to go. It’s just a matter of how they take him down now.

Other Observations:

  • My knowledge of US politicians is lacking, but wouldn’t a vice-presidential nominee have some kind of detail following him around (or at the very least a band of hungry reporters)? How does Brody sneak away without anyone stopping him to ask where the heck he’s going?
  • While I more or less hate everything-Brody until he arrives home, I did chuckle watching him wash the murder shame off in a very public car wash
  • The aforementioned near-sex scene is beautifully shot. I particularly like the intimacy of the close-ups on Baccarin and Lewis’ faces with the halo lighting overhead, as though they’re awash in a golden hue of love. Contrast this with their darkened confrontation at episode’s end when Jess orders her husband to reevaluate their marriage or leave. Masterfully done
  • I particularly appreciate the continuity wherein Jess reveals to Mike that she knows all about Brody’s affair with Carrie via reference to “the weekend” he was with the CIA woman. Naturally that’s enough justification for Mike to agree to reignite their affair (which is what would have happened had they gotten inside for their “nightcap”). If we’re being honest, I’m still not psyched to see Mike back
  • Jess pulls her speech out of thin air, but can we all agree that it isn’t particularly standing-o worthy?
  • Finally, I’m on the fence about the success of the opening, in which Saul’s bag is searched and the USB with Brody’s confession is confiscated by corrupt airport officials. On one hand, I was irate watching it because it seemed like the show was pulling a cop-out (so Saul knows, but he has no proof?! Fail!). The reveal that he has actually hidden the real USB feels like the show is mocking us for thinking they would pull a cop-out. I’m unsure if that’s amusing anticipation of how critical some fans have been of the show, or a rude “settle the eff down” message…

And that’s episode three. What are your thoughts on the episode? Did you like Brody’s horrible day, or were you annoyed by it? Are you Team Jess or Team Brody in this disagreement? Why is Mike back? And what will happen now that Carrie and Saul know the truth?
Comment away below.

Homeland airs Sundays at 10pm EST on Showtime

About cinephilactic

cinephilactic is a university contract instructor in Film Studies. He is an avid TV watcher, particularly science-fiction, fantasy and drama series. His favourite shows currently airing on TV include The Good Wife, Breaking Bad, Justified, Hannibal, Game Of Thrones and a smattering of shows on The CW. He has a tendency to "hate-watch" particular shows and likes to think that his sarcastic voice comes through in his reviews, though sometimes he's just being bitchy

5 thoughts on “Homeland review – 2×03: ‘State of Independence’

  1. One point about the security detail … the VP just leaked to the press that Brody is in consideration for a possible VP slot. He’s one of many under consideration at this point in the show. He hasn’t actually been named the VP nominee. So there wouldn’t be a security detail until all of that happens.

  2. I never thought of the opening scene to be a mockery of the audience, but you definitely have a good point there. I was watching the episode with a few friends, and we seriously almost turned the channel because we were sure that this was some sort of cop out. Groans mixed in with sighs of relief shortly followed after Saul pulled the real chip from its hiding spot! Now I’m just dying to see what they do with that video! I really hope that tape makes it to the CIA!

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