I am starting at a juncture at which we have three episodes left if you don’t include tonight. For the sake of time, I will just get right down to this week for people who have been following the show. If you need to catch up, I know Xfinity has it on demand. It is by far my favorite drama currently airing!
The title for tonight’s episode could refer literally or figuratively to a couple different situations. Most immediately as we start the episode we are confronted with the aftermath of last week’s firefight (or so it’s called). As an FBI SWAT team zeroed in on Tom Walker at a mosque during early morning prayer a gunmen opened fire and two innocents were killed. The imam tells Carrie bluntly that he will not tell her anything (if he did know anything, hinty hint hint) unless justice is served and the truth comes out that Walker never fired, and the SWAT team shot first. This of course would be a PR disaster for the FBI. Or as one of the FBI senior officials eloquently articulates, “If you think I am throwing my men under the bus, you’re fucking high.” Fortunately for her she recorded that entire candid response on her phone, much to David Estes’ chagrin. He won’t let her embarrass a superior officer from a cooperating agency so she is back to the drawing board.
At a stalemate, Carrie starts to break down. Scrambling for her anti-psychotics in Saul’s office, awaiting his arrival, she begins to feel the stress from needing to be right all the time. Saul eventually appeases her, offering another alternative. It’s so refreshing not only to see the protagonist fail, but to see the hard-nose, do whatever it takes agent humbly except failure. I think Saul may be too wise-man at this juncture. His method of approaching the sources peacefully in their home, trying to meet in the middle works almost miraculously when the wife asks Carrie to meet her privately. But it is nice to see Carrie knocked down a peg by a more tolerant, level-headed person.
The real star of this episode is Brody. Carrie strangely felt like a distracting side dish for the real meat this week, as usually the sure-to-be Emmy nominated Claire Danes and Damian Lewis both embody paranoia to such an enjoyable uncomfortable degree that you want both to occupy the screen at all times. But because for this week, their need for collaboration was at its all-time minimum as the CIA became a clean-up crew, Lewis’ Brody became the lone scene stealer. From his confusion over what Vitamin Water is, to his perk-up at the mention of a voicemail from the VP, he nailed it.
Mugged in the parking lot of a grocery store (this is why you always food shop in broad daylight), Brody is stuffed in a car and wakes up with a few cracked ribs and a shiner to a nurturing Abu Nazir. Immediately, he starts prodding him with needles which elicit a dream-filled sleep where he recalls Isa, a name screamed by Brody two episodes ago in a twitchy REM sleep much to Carrie’s horror. Isa is Nazir’s son, a boy Abu entrusts to Brody for him to teach him fluent English. As we watch Brody earn the boy’s trust and love you know the child is bound to die, but what you are waiting for is how. After last week’s reveal that Brody had been released to the U.S while still remaining in contact with Nazir, the inevitable “turning point” had to be soon. Isa, seemed to be the answer. Unfortunately, that notion comes true. After a a true heartstring pull of a lesson on how to sing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame,” Isa runs off to school only to be killed by a bombing raid on the compound. Without his own son to hold in his arms, Isa was his son, and his death was a tragedy that could surely sway any man to see vengeance.
Some may consider the use of a child for the writers’ goal of justifying Brody’s turn as terrorist as cheap. I personally can’t think of one that would have felt more satisfying. To me it would have felt cheap if it was only politically driven, if he was simply a coward, or if it was pure brainwashing. This feels human. You see an innocent child, one you have grown to care about stripped from you by your supposed friends? How could you not consider revenge or at the very least a questioning of loyalties? Though I wonder what Nazir’s plans for Brody would have been if there was no empty seat vacated by a crassly named Dick Johnson (an Anthony Weiner parody), it feels like Nazir is truly seizing upon an opportunity. He has reminded Brody of how the US government covered up Isa’s death, claiming that the number of 83 children killed was a fabrication and no innocent civilians were killed, and now all he needed was a cause. Brody seems reluctant to act on his feelings of betrayal. This seems most exemplified by his briefly startled response when Jessica alludes to a message from the VP on the machine after he had finished resolving to spend more time with his family. Is he ready to take truly treasonous actions or will his affection to his rediscovered family overshadow his “love” for Abu Nazir. This man without a country conflict only conflicts to find more dimension and stakes each week.
The last plotline was a very minor one involving Tom Walker practicing his shot in the woods. Discovered by an avid hunter, Dan, Tom is initially indulgent and friendly, offering him to test out the sniper rifle, but instead Dan shuffles back to his car to consult his favorite rag, USA Today, which has plastered a huge mug of Tom on the front. The instance he moves to try and alert authorities, or maybe take on the terrorist himself, he is obliterated by Tom’s precision, his head Pollacked on the truck’s dashboard before Walker drives off with a newly acquired escape car.
This is most certainly not the sharpest “Homeland” to date. We are largely deprived of the gray-bearded teddy bear, Saul (played by the regally modest Mandy Patinkin) and that is not a good barometer for the episode’s focus as there is a lot of pain to address as Mira just left on a jet plane for India never to come home again. Although not as negligent, the editing could be considered jarring to some. For a show with such deliberate, drawn out tensions this episode felt compelled to continue erratically skipping back and forth between Brody’s flashback of the least friendly of fires, and the stray bullets in the mosque, potentially undercutting the dramatic impact of either or both in the process.Though the end ending cut to black after Jessica’s nonchalant reveal of Brody’s political destiny is particularly awesome, with a lead-in to Leonard Cohen making it potentially the most hipsteriffic ending of the season. Also, one can’t deny the possibilities that await as Carrie stakeout the Saudi diplomat that the imam’s wife warns them about.
Clearly as we begin to sympathize for treason, and the leader of Al-Qaeda comes across as a loving father with good intentions yet horrendous rationale, we are treading into the bold dramatic territory where eventually all these people “trying to do the right thing” will be judged and tested. For setting the table extravagantly and shining the Emmy spotlight on Lewis’ inspired portrayal of a man emotionally scarred by his own brothers-in-arms, this episode garners my props. But for a mostly useless, timekiller plot in the woods with Walker, and Carrie’s fairly tame accessory plot that felt like a mere head-scratcher compared to the straight-up Freudian psychoanalysis of the last couple weeks, I believe this particular episode achieves a lesser greatness.