The prime brilliance of Homeland is its duality, which is part of every aspect of the show. It’s Schrodinger’s Cat on TV — things are both alive and dead, so to speak, at the same time until the next related action confirms the choice — an impressive narrative feat. It’s also what makes it just more than a spy show or a thriller or even just a mind fuck, because everything is (seemingly) planned and connects and has reasoning. Homeland is a lot like its Emmy competitor Breaking Bad, in which nothing is ever arbitrary or accidental. Whereas Breaking Bad uses color patterns and visual references to enhance its story, Homeland keeps us guessing by leaving every major action open to interpretation, which is a particular kind brilliance. Brody and Carrie are the two most caught up in this internal conflict (and their relationship is another example of duality), but it also encompasses the minor characters as well. What is truth? How do we find it? Will we even recognize it once we do? For the specifics of the episode and why “I’m not your guy,” hit the jump.
Starting with Carrie, one of the best and saddest bits of her struggle is how not only is she outwardly dismissed because of her mental illness, but that she doesn’t even trust herself because of how wrong she was about Brody. Was she wrong because she misread the signs, or because her bipolar clouded her judgement? The worst part is, of course, that she wasn’t wrong at all. It would have been easy, even natural, to have Carrie question herself to Saul by asking “am I crazy?!” Without knowing about bipolar, Carrie’s grip on truth and reality would still be skewed because of the Brody experience. But the bipolar is a major part of things, which complicates Carrie’s understanding of the events even more so.
Until the end of “Beirut Is Back” we couldn’t be sure if Carrie’s informant had played her or not — in those long moments before Abu Nazir appeared it could have gone either way. As frustrating as it was to have Estes interrogate and dismiss Carrie’s information about her informant initially, it was also completely warranted. She has been proven to be unstable, she met with Fatima alone, without a second pair of eyes to determine the veracity of the statement, and the entire thing revolves around Abu Nazir, who Carrie is known to be obsessed with. Plus, there was no confirmation about how Fatima got the information. This all had to go on gut feeling, something Carrie emotionally appeals to Saul with. It would have been too cruel to have Saul not believe Carrie at this point, or to have it play out that Fatima was working against Carrie this whole time. It was perfect, then, to have Carrie not only be right, but to (once again) have Brody sabotage things. Still, as Saul reminds her, “the victory here is that you were right.”
But what now for Carrie? Her return to “normal” life after such a heart-pounding excursion was not met with warmth and relief (despite her fears about leaving in the first place), but rather with hopelessness and despair. Obviously her days assisting Saul and the CIA are not over, but it will be interesting to see how she gets back into the swing of things. Hopefully it happens soon, too, because her few moments on the couch were suffocatingly depressing.
As for Brody, he is also struggling mightily with his old life of the past eight years versus his new one. His text to Nazir was a little too neat of a trick, but the point of it was really to bring Brody to the edge of what he is willing to do. As he tells Nazir’s aid later, “I’m not your guy.” I believe him. He’s worked too hard to normalize his family again, and in doing so seems to have chosen them and their happiness over revenge for Issa. And here, he saved Nazir’s life so that he can continue his machinations, which though Brody can support morally (as in his quips to Walden about bunker busters and the like), he is getting more and more frightened of committing too physically.
This season’s premiere reminded us that Jess and Brody are two regular people who got caught up in extraordinary circumstances. Brody is not a genius or a mastermind, he’s just a regular guy who got thrown in to something way, way beyond his ability to cope. Jess not being able to deal with his conversion to Islam makes a lot of sense, and part of the great thing about Brody’s treachery is that it’s not done by someone you would expect — it’s someone who is by all other accounts normal, almost unbelievably so.
When Brody replies to Dana that as for big mistakes, “it happens,” what was he referring to? Not allowing Nazir to be killed? Swearing revenge for Issa and helping Nazir in the first place? Not blowing up the heads of states when he had the chance? Brody is so exceptionally complicated and confused, and it keeps us on our toes because not only can we not be sure what he’s thinking, he doesn’t seem to know what he’s thinking either.
But if he’s trying to get out of the game, things just got a lot more difficult after Saul found the chip with the video confessional (which I knew would resurface!) Somehow it was a Hezbollah operative that picked up the video card, gave it to Ali Abbas who was going to pass it on to Nazir, who presumably was going to use it to blackmail Brody in continuing to do his bidding (Although why it would have been left on the apartment floor I know not, maybe I’m putting things together that shouldn’t be). Coincidence aside, it was a fantastic reveal because it opens up the possibility of Brody being called in as a triple agent. I have no idea where things might go from here, but once again, Homeland proves that it is unmissable television.
Episode Rating: A
— Two of my favorite character actors appeared in this episode — Tim Guinee as the Special Ops Commander, and Jonah Lotan as Saul’s Beirut assistant (who helps save Carrie).
— It looks like Tom Walker isn’t going away any time soon, either, with Mike and the other Marines still questioning it. Also, why did they expect Brody to give Classified information to them anyway?
— I like the development of the Waldens getting so close to the Brodys, both with Cynthia (Mona from Mad Men, i.e. Talia Balsam, who — fun fact — is married to Roger Sterling i.e. John Slattery in real life and used to be married to George Clooney) and Jess as well as Dana and Finn (who were cute together).
— Interesting that Dana would sell Brody out a little bit to Jess, then regretted it, but it was such a natural moment, too (which she made up for again by warning Brody about the fundraiser issue to pacify Jess).
— If that war room scene watching Abu Nazir looked familiar it’s because it was staged I’m sure to mirror the real-life Osama Bin Laden capture scene.
— Another dual moment: when Carrie risks everyone’s lives to get some random stuff from Fatima’s apartment, taking things too far once again. Except the bag turned out to be rather important …!