I wrote about chaos in this week’s Walking Dead review, specifically about how cramming too much information into a 45 minute TV episode can mimic the chaotic situations that are developing on screen. There is of course the danger of stuffing so much into an episode that it becomes impossible to follow, and this week’s installment of Homeland straddles the edge of TV sanity, coming precariously close to tipping over but in the end maintaining its balance.
I found myself remembering the brilliant 15-30 minute stretch of The Departed which saw the demise of several key characters. There were so many unexpected twists that the viewer doesn’t even have time to process a major plot point before the next one occurs. Let it be known, this episode of Homeland is no where near as effective as The Departed, but just the fact that it brought such a fantastic film to mind goes a long way toward showing that the direction of the series has improved drastically compared to the debacle that we were presented at the season’s start.
Brody’s insertion into Iran was a rollercoaster, going from clusterfuck to success to fubar to triumph in a matter of minutes. The agents posing as al Qaeda operatives all reminded me immediately of the bearded guy from Zero Dark Thirty, and the writers did a good job of establishing them as individuals to be cared about in a short amount of time. When one took a Magician bullet to the head at the climax of the episode, I legitimately felt for him.
There are still flaws too obvious to be ignored. Saul sees his final mission begin to go belly up, so he bounces to have some reflection time at his desk? What the fuck, Saul? Carrie has basically been relegated to a passive piece of pregnant ass. She’s serving as nothing but motivation for Brody, and her entire existence now seems to hinge on his success. Yes, there should be some of that, but the first two seasons showed her as a troubled but capable savant. Now, she’s just standing on the sidelines, Brody’s psychotic cheerleader. It’s a little disgusting, but that’s what happens to strong female leads on TV shows.
This season has at least finally emerged from being unwatchably awful. But even its highlights are feeling more and more like transitions. While Majid Javadi is obviously a psychopath and a quite capable villain, he’s obviously not the endgame for the season, since he’s theoretically under CIA control. Perhaps his cold blooded murder of Brody’s agent buddy at the end of the ep signifies that he might have figured out a way to get out from under Saul’s thumb. Absent of that, I’d say we’re heading toward a transitional season finale, probably one that reveals to the viewer that there is a grand conspiracy featuring some combination of Jivadi, Senator Lockhart, Quinn, F. Murray Abraham, and the evil banker from a few eps back. I think this also ends with Brody’s surprise death, probably shortly after he successfully takes out his target.
That might not make for the most satisfying end to season 3, but I’d say at this point it would be nice to see the losses cut, setting up an exciting and breakneck season 4. Since this episode did a nice job of setting that up, I’ll rate it a little higher than I otherwise would have. But goddamn, they have to give Carrie something to do, other than just yell, “ooooo Brody, I looooooooooooove you, ooooooooooooo”.