It’s the penultimate episode of Homeland and although the hour is filled with lots of interesting scenes, it still feels a bit like a filler episode because we’re not really any closer to finding out the plan for next week’s big attack. Instead we follow along as the Brody family goes on vacation before the campaign kicks off and address how last week’s explosion affects Carrie’s (Claire Danes) bipolarism.
Let’s break it down…Once again it is all about Carrie’s story for me this week. Brody (Damian Lewis) takes his family to go visit Gettysburg under the pretense that they are spending time together as a family. In truth, however, he’s in Pennsylvania to pick up a suicide vest made of C4 and ball bearings. In the wake of last week’s explosion, it’s hard to approach this development as anything other than validation that Brody is a cognizant Manchurian candidate. The vacation scenes, featuring a variety of hand held cameras that personalize the action like a home movie, have an otherworldly effect: this could easily be a family on vacation. Dad tells an engaging story about the Gettysburg battle to outwardly dissonant, inwardly rapt kids while mom celebrates the success of the trip (I do declare: bring out another flimsy nighty!).
The trip works for everyone, especially Jess (Morena Baccarin) who admits that it feels like they’ve turned a corner and that she’s…happy (I loved Baccarin’s surprised delivery, as though the feeling crept up on her after so long without). The trip even makes a believer out of sourpuss Dana (Morgan Saylor), although she remains suspicious of Brody’s actions, asking him several times if he’s okay. Upon returning home, Dana becomes even more aware of his eccentricities when she plays back the videotape from the trip and discovers Brody standing silently in the same place for minutes, or even hours, at a time.
And then there’s the strange package that she sees Brody hide in the trunk. It’s clear that if any family member uncovers the truth behind Brody’s plan (assuming that the emotional family bonding doesn’t derail his resolve to follow through as a human-go-boom), it will be Dana. P.S. Leaving the bomb vest in the trunk of the car at episode’s end suggests that someone will either drive the car away, or discover it before he can take it out. If this is the case, I call obvious and it two thumbs down.
Carrie, meanwhile, is off her meds following the explosion and her bipolarism is on full display. To the show’s credit, I thought that all of Carrie’s scenes were exceptionally well handled and accurate (bear in mind I have absolutely no authority to make this claim). I loved that this is simply another side of Carrie: she isn’t crazy or dangerous like so many shows that utilize mental illness as a narrative. Instead she is more on edge and more distracted, quicker to anger or cry. She’s manic, and it completely floors Saul when he visits her in the hospital. I think that Mandy Patinkin absolutely killed these early scenes as he tries to comprehend what’s happened to his protege. After Carrie’s sister, Maggie (Amy Hargreaves) convinces him that she needs his assistance to watch Carrie, Saul hastily makes an excuse and bails. It is fascinating to watch as Saul battles with his conflicted feelings of guilty; blaming himself for not recognizing that Carrie was “damaged” following her return from Baghdad. This is an interesting reminder – we saw Carrie in Baghdad in the pilot, and we know that she speaks Arabic fluently and understands the customs, but we’ve never clearly seen what happened to her beyond the vague description of her captivity. (For the record, I don’t believe the show will suggest she’s involved in the plot on the VP – that’s far too ridiculous, and would be beyond anything even 24 ever did).
The Carrie-Saul scenes 100% worked for me. I’ve complained about the attempts to humanize or round out Saul this season, but maybe it’s because I always felt that the heart of the show is in the relationship between him and Carrie (shades of Being Erica‘s Erica and Dr. Tom). I don’t need to know about his estranged wife, or his childhood when we’ve got scenes like these. I just need him to confess that he should have recognized she needed help, or for her to respond in a semi-lucid moment the following day that Saul didn’t do anything to her, she just “became this way.” The fact that Carrie is able to create a useful pattern in her manic (and medicated) state and that Saul spends the night colour-coding her “work” to form an Abu Nazir timeline tells us so much about these two. Early on, when he first tries to process her condition, Saul tells her “I can’t follow you.” Her satisfied joy when she sees the timeline broken between Nazir’s time of loss (yellow), his plan for revenge (green), and his efforts to see it through (purple) is a perfect demonstration that even despite her bipolarism, he actually can follow her. And that’s beautiful.
Unfortunately neither he, nor her sister or father can protect her once she decides she needs to call Brody for help figure out what happened in Nazir’s yellow period. Whether Brody feels threatened by her proximity to the truth, or he fears that she’ll ruin his candidacy chances are unclear, but her calls lands David and a group of agents on Carrie’s doorstep. After indicating that Brody confessed to the affair and Carrie’s surveillance, David more or less sacks Carrie, clearing away the timeline to a soundtrack of smoky jazz.
And with that we’re down to the final episoe…
- The VP (Jamey Sheridan) spent the episode locked up in a bunker. Apparently a lack of vitamin C makes him quite cranky, as he insists that David focus on finding Tom Walker (Chris Chalk) and fire someone. Dude needs to suck on an orange or pop one of Carrie’s sedatives.
- Which is likelier: Dana finds the vest, or Jess drives away with it in the trunk?
- Is Mike (Diego Klattenhoff) still alive? Poor guy has the worst role on this show!
- Final question (the obvious one): Is there any way that Brody actually goes ahead with the suicide bomb in next week’s finale? Or will he rescue the VP from Tom Walker and end the season as a hero in order to set up season 2?
That’s it for now. Be sure to check in next week for our recap of the finale, as well as the start of the Bitch Awards, our best and worst films and television shows of 2011. Care to wager that you’ll see Homeland on the’ best of’ list? I think the safer question is where it ends up. Tune in Monday to find out!