Homeland 3.10: Beards, Babes, Bullets And Bombs
Homeland's latest episode pulled off a juicy setup for a potentially satisfying conclusion to the season. Can they see it through? [spoilers]
Welcome to our Homeland recaps. This week’s episode was ‘Good Night’. Lots of spoilers (and an equal amount of beards) throughout.
There’s a moment in ‘Good Night’ that neatly encapsulates the fanciful eccentricities of Homeland. When Carrie Mathison, she of the ever-increasingly weird/unhealthy/inconsistent Nicholas Brody obsession, calls said ex-marine sergeant’s plea for a Carrie-led rescue “a fantasy”, it neatly describes (and condemns) the entire Carrie-Brody malarkey, and, well, kinda Homeland, too.
It’s pretty easy at this point in Homeland’s third season to sum up what the show is: it’s two parts dubiously intentioned, wannabe romantic-drama (hello, Carrie and Brody); one part political commentary (drones are bad, okay?); one part edge-of-your-seat thriller (SO MANY TWISTS!); with a generous lathering of ridiculousness as the garnish (we’re sending Brody to Iran to assassinate the head of Iranian intelligence!).
The trials and travails of Homeland have been well documented here, but it’s episodes such as ‘Good Night’ that allow you to forgive every weird seductive Israeli intelligence officer, evil Senator, and teary-eyed Carrie Mathison bottle shop visit. This episode successfully compressed the storytelling into a short time frame, turned the action up to 11, threw two ‘holy shit!’ moments into the mix, hit some moral grey area, and then let the bullets fly.
Discounting the idiocy of CIA Director Of Beard Saul Berenson’s plan — to use Brody to kill the Iranian intelligence chief, and replace him with your asset Javadi… even though he would no longer have anyone to answer to for the crimes Saul is nominally blackmailing him with — ‘Good Night’ wisely focused strictly on two story lines. Brody and his special ops pals (off brand-Gerard Butler and co from last episode) are trying to sneak over the border from Iraq into Iran — all military bonhomie and sock-related/goat ‘relaxation’ technique jokes on a brown and gold tinged desert tableau — while the CIA brains trust (Saul, Carrie, Quinn, et al) are back at Langley keeping the White House at bay and a comforting eye (ie: surveillance drone) on proceedings.
By subtly building up the tension of getting Brody and co. into Iran (seeing the soldiers hanging out, ill-timed Kurdish police interruptions), where the action quite literally explodes, it’s one of the few times this season that Homeland has got it right. For all its missteps — Quinn confronting Carrie about her pregnancy, Carrie lying about the baby’s father, Brody’s freakout when they’re forced to murder the innocent Kurdish Iraqi border police — ‘Good Night’ never let up, from the moment Brody and Off-Brand Gerard Butler hit a mine-shaped hiccup to the Langley debate about whether or not to use their handy drone and its hellfire missiles to destroy the evidence (read: Brody and Off-Brand Gerard Butler).
There’s a moment there — when Brody and the nameless special ops guys are pinned down by fire from the Iraqi military, with the strangely alluring orange and green tracers spitting through the desert sky, and Saul realises that his gamble (and his lucky ‘Black Jack’ chewing gum) has gone to shit — that Homeland really nails the clusterfuck of an op gone wrong, and it’s hard to not be completely invested in what’s happening. As Saul hands over operations to the military with a resigned “It’s no longer an intelligence operation, it’s a military one” and ‘evil’ Senator Lockhart almost-genuinely offers his condolences, Homeland achieves more character identification and pathos than a million scenes of suicidal Dana Brody or Carrie-Brody romance could ever match.
The best part of ‘Good Night’, though, was how it executed the environment that Homeland is operating in. Director Keith Gordon beautifully captured Brody praying to an adopted God as the sun set in the brown wastelands of eastern Iraq, and better still was the breathless way the camera lingered on the infrared display of a drone high above the action as a blob crawls out from under an upturned truck and goes back in to help pull another blob out.
We know the blobs are Brody and Off-Brand Gerard Butler, but we don’t know which is which, nor does the camera rush back to Iraq to explain what’s going on. For a moment, we know just as much as the characters at Langley, and it’s wildly terrific TV. It’s fascinating watching how the operation utilises both the human and technological assets of the CIA; it goes right to the heart of Homeland, showing just how complicated its own arguments regarding drone warfare are.
It seems that it’s settled on the idea that, sure, it’s probably not a good idea to just willy-nilly bomb American soldiers with American hellfire missiles, nor their Iraqi allies. The moment when the White House authority clamours for Off-Brand Gerard Butler and Brody to be bombed all the way to the bolsheviks, just so the government can claim it was ‘taking out’ a terrorist trying to claim asylum in Iran, was excellent.
The usage of the drone imagery so often and so well is a reminder of what Homeland can be: a look at just what powers and technology are ‘protecting’ us. Would a government really bomb its own covert team to cover up their actions? When is it justified? How easy is it to make those decisions when viewing the action on a computer screen? (it’s telling that shooting the hellfire missiles near the Iraqis takes just a flick of the wrist). They’re all riveting, disturbing questions.
By the time the action winds down and we’re left (again!) in a cell with Brody (he’s gotta be getting sick of them, right?), the body of Random Special Ops Guy, and the supremely murderous Javadi toting a handgun and telling Brody “Now, we go to Tehran”, Homeland has somehow managed to get us caring about Brody and Carrie again. Despite its dubious nature, Saul has somehow managed to get his cockamamie plan underway (he’s still “in play” as Carrie tells him), and now with Brody in Iran, Homeland has the potential to do what it should’ve done a while back and kill him off, while Carrie desperately tries to save her baby daddy.
(On a sidenote: With that in mind, wouldn’t it be cool if Homeland flipped the script and had Brody and Javadi decide “Fuck it!” and throw their lot in with Iran and become a dream team to go up against Saul and Carrie in Season Four? It’d be a nice change for Homeland to have characters to really own who they are: a pair of shady mofos whose motivations can only be hinted at, not understood. Sure, it’d likely bomb harder than a joke on Two Broke Girls, but at least it’d be true to both Brody and Javadi’s nature.)
Essentially, Brody isn’t meant to come back from Iran, and Carrie is only just realising it. Carrie asking Fara to put her family in harm’s certain way is the perfectly cold and calculated kind of move she’d pull to help her redheaded beau. This juicy setup alone ought to give the final two episodes of the season momentum enough to reach a satisfying conclusion. But, on evidence, do we have much to inspire confidence that Homeland can pull it off?
‘Homeland: What’s Their Mental State Like?’ big board
Carrie: Wondering how to get to Iran and ignore being pregnant some more.
Saul: Thanking his lucky stars he had enough lucky gum to go around.
Dar Adal: Enjoying hanging at the White House.
Senator Lockhart: Wishing he could grow a sweet beard like Saul’s.
Brody: Stuck in a cell again? Really?
Catch-up on the latest episode of Homeland on Ten Play.
Jaymz is a New York-based writer (originally from Melbourne, and the former Editor of triple j magazine), super-yacht enthusiast, hi-tech jewel thief and Bengal tiger trainer. He enjoys wearing monocles, finely spiced rum, constructing pillow forts, and zip-lining from Hong Kong skyscrapers. You can find him on twitter via @jaymzclements
Follow the rest of his Homeland recaps here.