What made Homeland so engaging in its first season was the question of whether Brody was really a traitor or not. There were atrocities committed by both sides, but whether he could be brainwashed against his own country — and even regardless of that, could he ever really come home? — ruled the season. Since then, the show has returned to this question a few times, even briefly regarding Carrie’s loyalty (which we now know was all a trick). But in the third season’s penultimate episode, the show once again returns to this founding tenet in a definitive hour. Hit the jump for more.
Homeland‘s third season has had its detractors (myself sometimes included, although I didn’t fault the show for the Carrie fake-out at the start like so many seemed to hate), and it’s likely that “Big Man In Tehran” will get picked apart and lambasted for purposefully being tricky, creating false stakes that weren’t really likely (such as Brody being assassinated), and basically — just like last week — moving at a breakneck speed when really, couldn’t some of this been drawn out instead of spending all of that time with Dana road tripping earlier this year?
Brody’s wishy-washiness is as irritating as ever, and because of it (as Lockhart aptly said, the one thing we know about him is how much he changes his mind), nearly anything was possible. Yes, it was likely that Brody was still on board and that Carrie would set him right if not — because, honestly, he might have truly been thinking of retirement in Tehran until the assassins showed up — but, it was still interesting to see how he would or would not execute (literally) the plan. His talk, for instance, with Abu Nazir’s widow felt completely genuine. He’s in a complicated predicament; it’s something we saw in Season Two, when he really tried to integrate back into his former life, but couldn’t help but lay out his mat and praise Allah in the garage. His experiences haven’t left him, they’ve just changed him. And that, the original premise of the show, is still worth exploring.
On the other hand, things do feel a bit tired. Once again, Brody goes rogue. And of course, Carrie defends him and then breaks protocol to reach out to him. No one believes her, or him, and an attempt is made to capture or kill him. He escapes, like the resourceful, weasel-like man he is, and makes a choice. And so forth.
But was Brody really brave? He doesn’t go into the mission as a suicide. He calls Carrie for help, and says “get me out of here.” She probably will. Still, the point is, Brody can ever only go so far. He’s always ultimately controlled or aided by other people. He’s a puppet, and Abu Nazir was his old master. Carrie is his new one. It doesn’t make Brody a very likable or honorable character, but Homeland has fallen down on much character development this year. Instead, things have gone more in the 24 vein in this last part of the season, and maybe, all things considered, that’s ok.
I said last week that Homeland may have written itself out of the top echelon of television (depending on your level of pretension and your patience), but as long as it remains entertaining, it has some value. These twists might not hold up on repeat viewings, but they do make for a topsy turvy hour of TV. Plenty of other shows do that, sure. And there are things about Homeland that are kinda laughable as they happen. But ultimately, one has to admit that “Big Man In Tehran” has set up a pretty great finale, one that makes us hunger for more. And that’s worth something.
Episode Rating: B+
Musings and Miscellanea:
— So when did you know Brody was going to kill Akbari? I like how they kind of subverted that superhero trope of the villain explaining all of his plans, then the hero escapes, whereas Brody tells Akbari everything and then kills him. Boom!
— “It’s a trap!”- Akbar. Akbari should have known better.
— Quinn, my favorite character, asking about where Carrie fits into everything at the meeting kinda gave me feels. I don’t necessarily see them or want them together, but I do like his concern and respect.
— Brody seeing that red door and it reminding him of his time with Nazir (and freaking out for one second) was a nice buried moment and good foreshadowing to the fact he was about to see Nazir’s widow.
— I like how the PR department apparently did not care about getting Brody any new clothes.
— “One thing we know about Brody is this is a guy who changes his mind” – Lockhart
— Lockhart was very gracious with Saul about the Javadi plant, wasn’t he? And very gentle when discussing Brody’s removal (from this Earth). Him losing his bite so easily seems out of character, but maybe I just miss their sparring.
— “I killed him. Get me out of here.” – Brody