A quieter episode of Homeland still features some fireworks as the truth about Dana’s (Morgan Saylor) vehicular manslaughter comes out.
Let’s bitch it out…‘The Clearing’ has a lot in common with the best episode of Homeland: S1’s ‘The Weekend’ (which I honestly feel like I reference every week). And that can only partially be attributed to the reappearance of Saul’s (Mandy Patinkin) informant, doomed terrorist Aileen Morgan (Marin Ireland), last seen in…’The Weekend’ (I swear, it’s the episode equivalent of Kevin Bacon).
Broadly speaking, the majority of ‘The Clearing’ is devoted to power: who has it, who wants it, and what it costs to get it. The entire episode is a series of one-ups as everyone scrambles to gain the upper hand, but the struggles are all taking place in stables, clearings, cells and they’re all hidden behind mundane conversations around the pool or a croquet game. There’s no need for Gettysburg shoot-outs, or scuffles in the woods, or chases in Beirut. Instead all the lying and power grabbing in taking place in ‘polite society’.
The most obvious example of this is the political wine and dining going on at the weekend politcal retreat. Brody (Damian Lewis) and Jess (Morena Baccarin) are there to cinch the VP ticket on Walden’s (Jamey Sheridan) presidential nomination, but doing so requires playing nice with intrusive questions about Brody’s time in captivity and, by episode’s end, compromising their integrity and refusing to visit the place about Dana’s role in the car accident from 2×05 ‘New Car Smell’. Oh, and Jess is forced to play croquet, which in itself is pretty terrible (I jest…I actually love croquet, but it’s such a WASPy game to play).
The Dana stuff is interesting in that the storyline has played out exactly how you expect it would. On one hand, it’s as hum-drum as we expected when it debuted two episodes ago. On the other hand, it’s a nice little plot device to highlight the stakes involved in this game for the higher-ups: Sheridan and Brody need this to stay hidden if they want their political careers to continue, and Carrie (Claire Danes) and the CIA can’t afford to jeopardize Brody’s relationship with Sheridan since Roya (Zuleikha Robinson) makes it clear that his usefulness is tied to the presidential nominee.
Unfortunately this means that it’s clear early in the hour that that Brody and Dana will never make it to the police station so all of the time and effort spent on the “will-they, won’t-they” more than redundant. Admittedly if there’s one good thing that has come out of this story, it’s the resulting conflict between father and daughter, the impact of which is far more significant than a random hit-and-run ever could be.
The Saul/Aileen piece is the less showy flip-side of the episode “powerplay” agenda. Since it fails to pay off (the terrorist from Gettysburg remains unidentified) it’s easy to dismiss it as a red herring. I would disagree with that claim, however, since this offers Patinkin a great opportunity to flex his dramatic muscles.
The connection between these two last season was powerful, and it remains so here. Actually, scratch that: it’s even more poignant because the two spend Aileen’s final day together, exchanging stories and breaking bread, before Aileen tragically takes her own life. It’s a reminder of the very real casualties of this war, as well as a physical representation of the dangers of allowing emotions to compromise professional integrity (*cough Carrie cough*).
Considering how ‘The Clearing’ plays out, though, I think this emotional investment can be seen as a liability, but it also serves to distinguish Saul (and Carrie) from the casual indifference and sense of superiority that oozes from the smarmy VP, his dismissive son Finn (Timothée Chalamet) and Cheshire-cat grin wife, Cynthia (Talia Balsam). And I’m not sure that’s a bad thing…
- Favourite scene of the night: Brody’s late-night dip in the pool. No dialogue, no double-agent madness or inquiring eyes. This may be one of the few times we’ve ever seen this man simply be without having to play an angle. It’s a perfect long shot that frames him at a distance. Pools and water are important symbolically, people. If you don’t believe me, revisit the scene with Skyler in the pool last season on Breaking Bad
- I love that Carrie is able to “empower” Brody in just a few minutes after meeting him in the clearing. She does the same thing in reverse in about the same amount of time at episode’s end when she reminds him their deal is reneged if he reports Dana’s crime to the police
- Also love how Carrie handles Mike (Diego Klattenhoff): a quick “cease and f*cking desist” due to the impending terrorist attack and an empathetic jab about Mike’s love for Jess is all it takes. Of course, Carrie could just as easily be speaking about herself when she references how Mike isn’tover Jess. What did you make of Carrie’s comment that Mike should wait in the wings in order to be available to Jess and the kids, though? Do you think she expects Brody to die…or is she still hoping Brody will leave his family to be with her?
- I think Danes and Lewis have crazy chemistry, but every time they make-out all I can think of “oh god no, make them stop!” These two hooking up = the end of the world. Terrible things always happen in the wake of their lips touching
- Clearly Quinn (Rupert Friend) is not okay after being shot in Gettysburg. The repeated shots of him popping pills does not bode well
- I quite like Morena Baccarin, but Jess frequently swings back and forth between bitchy wife and complete idiot. Did she honestly believe that Cynthia would simply agree to go to the police? She’s like a doe-eyed idiot who doesn’t realize how high up she is in these political circles
- Quinn (after Carrie complains he’s changing in front of her): “Like you’ve never seen a dick before.” I’d argue she’s looking at one right then…
- Quinn (about Brody): “He’s our only play here. He’s everything.” File under: disconcerting
- Brody (about being a hero): “I was shoved in a hole. All I did was not die.”
- Brody (to Carrie): “I do feel used. And played. And lied to. And I feel good. Two minutes with you and I feel good.”
- Dana: “We killed someone. Hit and run. A week ago.” The frank delivery of this line was unintentionally hilarious
- Saul (about his wife, Mira): “She is in Mumbai.” Eileen: “And you are not.”
- Saul: “We’ve had enough losing lately.”
What did you think of this “quieter” episode of Homeland? Are you surprised that Dana’s accident ended up factoring into the bigger picture? Did you like Saul’s day with Aileen? And will Quinn continue to bleed out for the remainder of the season? Hit the comments below.
Homeland airs Sundays at 10pm EST on Showtime