Last Night’s Episode Of Homeland Pretty Much Saved The Entire Season
The penultimate episode of Season Three delivered a more kickarse set up for the finale than we could have ever hoped for. [spoilers]
Welcome to our Homeland recaps. This week’s episode was ‘Big Man In Tehran’. Lots of spoilers. So many.
Between the tension-building teases, eye-opening reveals and the last-second twist, the main thing conveyed in Season 3’s excellent penultimate episode was that when Homeland fires on all cylinders, it’s really, really, awesome. Oh, and that Carrie Mathison’s inter-personal communication skills could really use some work.
The question of why Carrie is still employed by the CIA is a good one, and a better one is why the CIA would send her to Tehran to help her baby-daddy Nicholas Brody in his quest to assassinate the head of Iranian intelligence and then escape, y’know, rather than somebody more suited (which at this point would be anybody)? Surely, Quinn would be better off running around Tehran than our blonde-and-white-as-a-ghost, pregnant heroine?
Sure, Carrie has proven to be highly strung in the extreme (hey, remember when she used to like jazz? Yeah, me neither…), but now she’s talking to a pair of Iranian nationals-cum-Mossad agents like they’re idiotic children, and barely concealing her eye-rolling and almost piss-taking agreement while talking to the CIA’s man in Iran, Javadi. It happened last week too, when Quinn expressed his concern about her pregnancy and the suitability of her working 20-hour days in freakin’ Iran, and she told him in no uncertain terms to ‘go fuck himself’.
Carrie’s disposition towards those giving her orders has always been dismissive, but you can’t help but feel that all this disdain for Saul, Javadi and the rest is setting up the character to go rogue and break away from the US and CIA next season, while she and Brody go on the lam. If that proves the case, then Carrie’s haughtiness and contempt for everyone around will have been warranted. But in the meantime, the HR department at Langley probably has a binder full of passive aggressive emails Carrie has sent to Iranian Mossad agents, Fara’s Iranian uncle, Fara, Quinn, Saul, Senator Lockhart and anyone else she’s ever worked with, plus a raft of complaints about her rolling her eyes dismissively at everybody while they’re talking.
And as for our ‘big man in Tehran’, Homeland has never quite known what to do with Nicholas Brody. As an actor, Damian Lewis is basically impenetrable emotionally, and here it tends to work, as we have very few — if any — indicators as to Brody’s motivations from scene to scene. He’s flipped from being a US marine sniper to a devout Muslim hellbent on assassinating the Vice President of the United States to conflicted Dad of the world’s most annoying teenager (miss you, Dana!) to murderous congressman, innocent mass-murderer, and on-the-run heroin addict (well, he says he wasn’t addicted, but still). Now, after his supposed defection to Iran, he’s become a feted celebrity of the jihad against the evil American empire.
After all this, the fact that we never know his true intentions until the last possible moment — where he almost perfectly reenacts his VP Walden killing, down to the wood-panelled office setting and weakly-resisting arms of his victim (but, thankfully, minus the stupid ‘wireless pacemaker’ motif) — is a testament to how duplicitous and confusing a character Brody is, and how inscrutable Damian Lewis and his tiny mouth are. Lockhart himself even states at one point, “This is a guy who changes his mind…”, and it’s never clear what side Brody is on, until he makes up his mind at the last second, bringing his brain-washing circle to a violent close.
What it all added up to was one of the best looking and best executed episodes of the entire series, thanks to HBO alum, director Daniel Minahan (Game Of Thrones, True Blood, Deadwood), and that tremendous final scene was just the icing on the proverbial cake. All the cutting back and forth from the surveillance and overseeing going on in Langley to the on-the-ground bustle of Iran is becoming a signature and effective Homeland move. And twists and shocks be damned, the fake backdrop of Tehran makes for a hell of a palette.
The highlights here were many: Brody and Carrie looking at each other across a fountain in front of a mosque, while Saul and the CIA brains trust back at Langley were ordering Brody be “taken out” (it’s hard not to appreciate just how unflinchingly American Homeland can be without even realising); the crowd of Iranians on the street scrambling to take pictures of Brody on their mobile phones; the way Minahan closes in on Javadi’s sweaty face during his meeting with General Akbari; the anti-American graffiti on the streets of Tehran; and that sardonic line from Saul to Dar Adal, while watching Brody on TV: “He’s learnt enough Farsi in a week to denounce us on state television. Standard ‘Death to America’ fare. I’m told his delivery is pitch perfect”.
The initial Brody/Akbari sequence in ‘Big Man In Tehran’ stands as one of the best edge-of-your-seat moments of this season, too. All you need is a Mossad-supplied cyanide needle (!) and Carrie scrambling as the planned assassination and her extraction of Brody falls apart, and by this point of the episode, no one has any fucking clue what’s going on, and it’s glorious.
That Akbari is simply vetting Brody via Abu Nasir’s widow is by the by. As with Carrie being summarily escorted into a dark alley by a pair of Iranian toughs to meet Javadi, or the excellent depiction of Javadi dealing with the tedious bureaucracy of Iranian intelligence (complete with disinterested secretary), Homeland can still take almost-mundane scenes and imbue them with a strange sense of alien familiarity and heightened tension.
Amongst all the building anxiety, though, there’s still a hint of political humour that sneaks through. As Brody is interviewed on Iranian TV and asked why he defected, he replies, “There’s a wide gulf between what America says it is, and what it actually is”. That’s about as obvious as saying, “Tony Abbott has a weird thing about asylum seekers.”
All that’s left now is to see how Homeland depicts the CIA response to Carrie and Brody going off the reservation. Here’s hoping it’s all set up for Carrie and Brody to elope and spend next season evading a vindictive CIA and Senator Lockhart, with Saul and his beard somehow helping them, while Quinn tracks them down amid a cloud of confusion and feels.
And now, as always, it’s time for the:
‘Homeland: What’s Their Mental State Like?’ big board
Brody: “Man, I hope Carrie can sort this out.”
Carrie: “How the fuck am I meant to sort this out when everybody sucks but me?”
Javadi: “I hate that this is being sorted out.”
Saul: “Fuck this. You guys sort it out.”
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.