Homeland "In Memoriam" Review: The Road to Recovery

By Tim Surette

Dec 10, 2012

Homeland S02E11: "In Memoriam"

Chances are, if you didn't like last week's episode of Homeland, that last night's episode, "In Memoriam," didn't do much for you either. Likewise, those of you who didn't mind Carrie being captured by Abu Nazir in "Broken Hearts" probably didn't have a problem with how things went down last night. Both sides now have more ammunition to lob at each other after "In Memoriam," an episode that continued the series' recent propensity for mixing the ridiculous and the excellent.

Is there any other show right now that embodies its protagonist like Homeland? This show needs to get on some Lithium or have its brain zapped because it's becoming just as bipolar as Carrie. And in dealing with Carrie, we all have to understand that questionable decisions and reckless behavior are tempered with brilliance and some sort of sixth sense that makes things work. But the results aren't always worth the headache it takes to get there.

Let's start with the obvious: Ding dong, the wicked terrorist of the East is dead! Abu Nazir, the stand-in antagonist for Brody, knelt before an audience of pissed-off Special Ops, reached for something (will we ever know what it was?), and ate a lead breakfast. I'm sure that was his intention all along, his version of, "Ain't no way I'm going to jail," since last week he seemed very aware that he was not long for this world.

But let's move backward to HOW he ended up on his date with 72 virgins. While everyone else declared the warehouse Nazir-free, Carrie brainfarted at a traffic light while remembering something Roya said during their chat about Nazir not running away from American pig-dogs. This somehow translated in Carrie's mind to "Nazir is still in the warehouse," despite the fact that trained professionals had swept the building the appropriate number of times as determined by protocol for dealing with the world's most-wanted terrorist. It was Carrie against the world, and she managed to convince a team of terrorist hunters who were headed out for their lunch break to stick around for one more flashlights-on-the-end-of-gun-muzzles tour of the industrial space.

And that's when Carrie saw what trained professionals could not; a cubby hole that housed evil's greatest mastermind and his dirty old sleeping bag. And that's when Homeland, once a crackingly smart thriller, devolved into a throwaway horror movie complete with a slasher materializing out of the darkness in Abu Nazir. I'd bet my last strawberry-flavored Starburst that the Homeland producers didn't intend for the audience to giggle when it became obvious that Nazir was stalking Carrie and her search-party buddy in the tunnels, but dammit, I let out a big laugh when Carrie turned back and found the Special Op's throat slit. I kept thinking about how silly it would be for Nazir's real-world inspiration—Osama Bin Laden—to do something similar, hanging from the pipes like a ninja in a South Park episode probably, and I couldn't contain myself.

Here was public enemy number one reduced to a C.H.U.D. and camping out in an abandoned building by himself with no plan or protection. Was there a plan B once his plan A to bomb the vets' homecoming was squashed? Were all his followers rounded up in the bust? Was he really the last man standing in the American terrorist cell? Apparently so, and Homeland is definitely not better for it. Add this to Season 2's growing list of misfires.

But Nazir has always been more of a symbol of evil than evil himself because Homeland has never been about catching Nazir. The series is about the relationship between a crazy CIA agent and a skittish P.O.W. turned sleeper agent. For all intents and purposes, this should be a huge development for the series and it is, but not because the main bad guy was bagged and tagged. Nazir never engineered a 9/11, he was the threat of another 9/11. And in the context of the series, his death certainly isn't as momentous as when Carrie had Brody captured at the end of "New Car Smell." And that's because the aftermath of Nazir's death is much more important than the death itself.

The best moments of "In Memoriam" came after Sandman was permanently put to bed. All these characters' lives had been scrambled because of Nazir, and with the threat no longer their top priority, it was the return to the possibility of a "normal life" that suddenly hit them in the face and returned the show to its greatness. When Brody was informed that Nazir had been killed, I don't know if he was stricken with grief over the death of a mentor or overly emotional due to a sense of relief that it's all over, but I'm leaning toward the latter. His reaction was wonderfully ambiguous and played marvelously by Damian Lewis; it was a fantastic scene that paved the way for the next, when Jess and Brody sat in the car and admitted that their marriage is irreparably broken and that Brody came back from Iraq with parts missing and Jess filled in the holes created by his absence with Mike.

With the scapegoat for the distance between them dead, Jess and Brody only had themselves to look at it, and what they saw wasn't a pretty picture. Carrie's confrontation with Nazir made her even closer and more sympathetic toward Brody, and when Brody showed up on her doorstep, it was tragically romantic. Nazir was an obstacle in all these people's lives that kept them in a holding pattern of ignoring the truth, and with him out of the way, life can go on as it should without the lies and denial. For Brody and Carrie that means consuming each other, broken pieces and all, as they fill in the emptiness. For the Brody family, it sadly means going back to the life they had when they thought Nicholas was dead. These characters' lives were, as Brody admitted, fucked once Brody left for Iraq in the first place. On the surface Homeland may be about terrorists, but it's really about recovery and how once it has started, it's a bitch to undo.

With one episode left in the season, Showtime's Emmy-winner sits on precarious ground as its foundation is eroded by tough-to-swallow plot points but hastily reinforced by award-worthy character moments that don't quite leave us in as stable as a spot as we were in Season 1. There's accidental brilliance in comparing the show's instability to its two central characters, their slow decay ultimately leading to their inevitable destructions. From an academic perspective, it's made Homeland the most fascinating series to unfold in 2012 as flaws and perfection clash. From a television viewer's perspective, it's rewarding and confusing. In the final moments of "In Memoriam," Brody knocked on Carrie's door and said, "What I did to get Nazir to let you go... It was you or Walden, Carrie. It wasn't even close." That was both passionate and disgusting because these two misunderstood and messed-up people belong together (positive romantic spin) and deserve each other (negative fed-up spin). In other words, it's perfectly apt for the current state of Homeland.




NOTES

– Once again, we approach the end of a season of Homeland asking ourselves, "NOW where do we go from here?" What will Season 3 look like?

– While Brody and Carrie sit at the forefront of this episode as the Nazir storyline got its due, Saul was relegated to basement interrogation by Estes' men, presumably to give us something to sink our teeth into for Season 3. It's tough to see Saul out of the action, especially when he's away from Carrie.

– Meanwhile, Estes still wants Brody eliminated, which will likely be the bulk of next week's finale. Quinn's face as he watched Brody walk into Carrie's apartment was an interesting one: Was his expression an exasperated one because killing Brody just got more difficult with Carrie around, or was it compassionate because he saw a man he had to kill who was happy where he was?

– One of the most surprising moments of this episode came when Carrie was interrogating Roya and Roya asked Carrie if she'd ever been under the spell of someone who makes her do stupid things. Carrie thought fondly of Brody and the back seats of cars, and it appeared that girl talk was on. But Roya burned her, saying Nazir's followers aren't that stupid and she's in it for real.

– I've been a staunch Dana defender all series long, but even I wanted to slap her in this episode. Her bitching and moaning over spilled milk was too much! Only her plea for Mike to return to their family felt relevant to shaping the story. The rest was just teenage daughter angst that no one wants to see.

– Carrie was so convinced that Galvez sneaked out Nazir that I thought she was going to dig into Galvez's burst stitches to see if he had Nazir tucked inside.

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  • Misao_83 Jun 14, 2013

    Am I the only one that hates Brody and Carrie together?

  • iversonwings Dec 16, 2012

    Thank you Homeland for another solid episode!
    *Warning* Dana rant:
    And of course I have to mention how Dana and her crying over spilt milk scene was so clever by the writers. Even though throughout the whole thing she was an annoying brat who deserves a lot worse than she is getting. And now since Walden has died (her ex-boyfriend's dad) I bet she is still is going to make it all about her. Dana, stop being such a brat seriously, at least your dad is alive! (Knock on wood). And as for her acting skills, don't hate on the actual actress, she is playing a role, maybe too well, of an inconsiderate, egotistical, naive, and irritated teenage girl.

  • brianreilly Dec 16, 2012

    Has anyone seen the israeli version which the american series is based on?
    I would be interested to know if the american show is following a similar storyline or it has taken a different direction as the americans did with the killing?
    Also good review i have found since brodies capture its been a bit flat but to be fair how do you keep that level of suspense up.

  • xtnrg Dec 15, 2012

    Season 3 will start with Carrie in a mental institution and we'll find out that season 2 has all been in her head....

  • shadow_angel_01 Dec 14, 2012

    Homeland, like all shows, have its flaws, but it is still the best drama out there. Breaking Bad/Game of Thrones not so far away of course ;)

  • geoffmaze Dec 14, 2012

    I've enjoyed this season quite a lot. Sure a few implausible things but as the recap points out this show isn't about chasing terrorists. It's part of the subplot. I am very interested to see where season 3 goes, obviously it's going to have to be in a different direction as Brody's been outed. I expect he and Carrie will go on the run, just don't play it out like Prison Break!

  • bicelis Dec 13, 2012

    Also, Brody or Jess need to slap Dana on the face ASAP. They've explained it to you Dana: you are there to be SAFE, you IDIOT! Jesus effin Christ...

    How can children treat their parents that way? It's just not acceptable... Be moody, don't smile if you don't like, but that?.. I'm rooting for her to get a slap almost as much as Charlie getting punched in the face again.

    I used to like Dana and the actress is amazing.
    Writers. What are you doing? Writers... STAHP!

  • bicelis Dec 13, 2012

    For some reason I don't find these minor plot holes that bad. I merely noticed them before reading about them here. For me, the excellence of the show makes me trust it. When I'm watching Revolution for example, then plot holes are everywhere so you can't help but notice everything else that's wrong.

    Perhaps the stalking scenes in the industrial building were a bid to horror movie like, but that was a technical flaw of the shooting and editing, not the writing. How Nazir acted was logical. He became aware of Carrie's position, didn't let the opponent (Carrie) know he had the upper hand information wise and used that to his advantage - sneaking up on her. Exactly what I would have tried to do. I'm just not able to walk THAT silently. Movies and TV shows are really bad examples of how to sneak. I've tried to strangle my brother countless times and almost never succeeded, and he was playing Battlefield or something, with a headset, so...

    But yea, the most interesting question now is, where the hell is the show gonna go from here ?.. The finale will obviously deal with the assassination attempt on Brody by Ezio, oops I mean Quinn. But what's gonna happen then?

  • kevekev302 Dec 13, 2012

    Jess filled her holes with Mike... hahahaha yes she did

  • JohnKenny Dec 13, 2012

    Aw no he didn't!! You had to go there, didn't you? :)

  • bluemorphotat Dec 12, 2012

    Well I enjoyed this ep very much. Including the moment when Brody breaks down and we are not sure if it is relief or guilt LOL!
    I just can't wait for last ep! I hope it has an outrageous cliff hanger that will make some people scream with anger and others squee with anticipation LOL!

  • emmiegirl Dec 13, 2012

    Which breakdown? When he learned Nazir was dead? I couldn't decide if it was relief or grief. What made you think guilt?

  • bluemorphotat Dec 13, 2012

    With Nazir, guilt and grief are the sides of the same coin

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