Review: 'Homeland' - 'State of Independence': Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy
A review of tonight's "Homeland" coming up just as soon as I forget my jack...
"I was right." -Carrie
Three words, and they say everything.
I was right.
Carrie has spent the early part of the season believing the exact opposite. She couldn't possibly be right about Brody, because in her mind (and in the minds of "Homeland" fans who didn't like the season 1 finale), there's no logical explanation for Brody not blowing himself up if he had been turned by Abu Nazir. She was wrong — and, worse, she destroyed the only thing that gives her emotional fulfillment chasing down this wrong lead. If she doesn't fixate on Brody, he never comes into her home, never has the goods to point David Estes at her, and perhaps she and Saul are able to overcome her episode after the earlier bombing.
The new meds have given her some measure of peace, but it's been a very fragile peace, and one that's shattered by her brief foray back into the world she was cast out of. This work is all she's ever been good at, all she's ever wanted to do, and if she can't do it anymore — if she can't even be allowed in the debriefing session for a mission she was on — then you can understand why she might turn to pills, might try to end her difficult and messy life.
Carrie ultimately can't go through with it, and is rewarded with a visit from her friend and mentor Saul with the best news of all (for her, if not the country).
I was right.
"Homeland" is a show that's simultaneously driven by plot and by character. The plot end of things can sometimes be wobbly, as we saw last week with Brody's cell phone hijinks during the attempt on Abu Nazir's life. But the character side of the show always feels right, and powerful, and the show has rarely been as powerful as it is throughout "State of Independence," a great showcase episode for Carrie, but also for Brody and Jessica.
We have an early contender for Claire Danes' next Emmy submission. Even if you leave the suicide attempt out of things, she might have a good shot at winning another award just for the mortifying moment when Estes realizes that Carrie came to Langley hoping for reinstatement, and then the way she tries to stay composed in front of him and then in the elevator. Great, controlled acting there, and I love how the sequence leading up to the suicide attempt mirrored our early glimpses of Carrie in the pilot episode — again rifling through cocktail dresses in her closet, again putting on the fake wedding ring as a cover, but this time unable to go through with it, or any of the other distractions she uses when she's not at work. If she can't get back in, then there's nothing left for her, and you can understand why she would try swallowing all those pills and all that wine — even if, thankfully, she panicked at the last minute and vomited it all up.
Our first glimpse of Mr. & Mrs. Brody this week, meanwhile, deals with a subject the show hasn't dealt with in a while: their sex life (or lack thereof). Some of the series' most striking moments early in season 1 dealt with Brody and Jessica's attempts at intimacy in the wake of eight painful years apart. The show moved away from those graphic, disturbing sex scenes, which said much of what we needed to know about how little they were connecting — and how much he was connecting with Carrie. Coming into this season, we didn't know everything about the state of the Brody marriage, but the opening scene suggests there hasn't been much passion or spontanaiety between them — and that she still needs to prompt him to be with her, rather than using her body while contemplating something (or someone) else.
Dana ruins this particular fun sexy time, and the Brodys spend the middle of the episode apart, Jess trying to keep things together at her charity dinner, and Brody stuck running an increasingly complicated errand for Roya. You know from the beginning that the trip to fetch the tailor will surely prevent Brody from making it to the dinner, but it takes a while for it to become clear just how badly it will end. We don't know if the tailor is right to assume he's being driven to his death, but his paranoia and the complete lack of information given to Brody starts to put us into the man's mindset, and we understand why he'd contemplate braining Brody with a rock, or running him over during the most perilous tire-changing sequence in TV history. And what's both great and horrible about the manner of his death is how mundane it is. The tailor trips and gets a stomach wound, and then Brody has to break his neck to keep him from being heard by Jessica during an ill-timed phone call.
Brody has had to do some bad things since he came home. He came over to Nazir's side because he came to believe (under very extreme circumstances) that it was the right one, but the more he tries to do the right thing, the more people wind up getting hurt or killed. Brody has difficulty holding his emotions in check as it is, and I wonder how he'll deal with this latest thing to feel guilty about.
Brody's absence from the dinner also provided a nice opportunity for the writers to re-humanize Jessica, who's been unfortunately painted as shrill and unsympathetic in the last few episodes. Her improvised speech was a good reminder of all that she's been through, though as she was saying it, I kept thinking that this would probably not be good for Brody's prospects as a VP candidate. Everyone in that room can sympathize with what this family has gone through, but when she starts talking about Brody attacking her in his sleep, or their problems with intimacy, it becomes one of those things that everyone will start to think of first when they think of Brody, even if they can understand the causes of it.
But Brody may be about to have much bigger problems than one revealing speech from his wife at a rubber chicken dinner. Saul's comments to Carrie make clear that he doesn't intend to sit on this video, but bring it to David Estes and see what happens. Obviously, Estes — whose own career is tied to Walden's, and in turn to Brody's — could try to quash it(*), but it feels like the show entering new story territory here.
(*) Once again, let me remind you: NO TALKING ABOUT WHAT'S IN THE PREVIEWS in the comments. If the previews for the next episode reveal something about what happens when Saul shows the video to Estes, I don't want to read about it (or anything else from next week's episode) below.
Great episode. The plot on "Homeland" may occasionally not work, but these characters at the center of it are so compelling that it's often all that really matters.
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org