Homeland "A Red Wheelbarrow" Review: A Shot in the Arm
Happy Sunday evening, party people! Although Tim found a way outside of that dark, locked conference room last week, he's now on a top-secret flight to South America to procure something really, really important. So you're stuck with me for a second week in a row. Hopefully it won't be any worse than getting your computer secretly hacked into by disenfranchised ex/probable terrorist.
Last week, Homeland made me laugh in an angry way: Saul's childish actions were just too much to handle. This week? I'm laughing because I've finally embraced the fact that the show is just flat-out trolling us now. Even when Homeland reveals a plot point that I (and probably most of us) assumed was coming, the show manages to do it in such a way—and to treat it so seriously—that I can't help but cackle. I'm of course talking about this episode's final moments, where Saul's secret flight overseas was not to Iran, where I assumed he was going, but to Venezuela, so he could rendezvous with Spider Tattoo Dude and retrieve our hero and our villain, Nicholas Brody, out of captivity. To give credit where credit's due, this was a fun moment, and it opens up a lot of weirdly fascinating questions about the long-con Saul has probably been running on everyone in the post-CIA bombing world. Does this mean that Saul has known of Brody's location from the very beginning, and he's simply let the guy lie until Saul thought he could be useful to an operation? Does Saul intend to use Brody to get the CIA director job, to further phase two of the Iran op, or simply to ruin Carrie's life for the 19th time? Has Saul gone completely rogue? And will this all just end with Saul locking Brody in a conference room and turning out the lights?
Frankly, I'm not sure I have much of an idea, nor am I totally sure how I feel about this twist. On one hand, I prefer my Homeland to be a little nutty and to feature a Saul Berenson who's the smartest and coolest dude on the planet. Whatever he's doing with Brody helps get the show back to those things, and hopefully keeps Saul away from his "No, your mother is going to be the new director of the CIA" bratfest with Senator Lockhart. The idea that Saul has known about Brody's location does lend credence to the fact that he's treated Carrie like garbage throughout much of the season, even setting aside that one cool time where he assassinated her character in front of a Senate committee and the American public. Earlier in this episode, he acted supremely shifty when Carrie asked about Javadi's information regarding the CIA bombing. And more than that, he did that Saul asshole thing where he turns Carrie's concerning questions against her, making her feel like a child. He apologized to Carrie later, but only when he was trying to build her up before the big op--and before he was about to get on the plane to bring back her TRUE LOVE and future father of the year. So I guess the more the show figures out a way to explain why Saul has acted like a prick for much of the season, the better.
On the other hand, this is the second time this season that Homeland has completely pulled the rug out from underneath the audience and revealed a slightly-out-of-nowhere twist. Some people have voiced the fear that the show has completely collapsed under the weight of its sudden plot "developments," and this maneuver certainly isn't going to alleviate those concerns. You never want ANY series to introduce twists just for the sake of having twists. I'm sure it's purposeful that this episode was named after a confusing, postmodern, proto-troll poem, but I also don't really know what that purpose is. I understand that Homeland is a show about lying and deceit, but Season 3 has withheld quite a bit more information than the previous two, and only seems interested in revealing new facts when it can create a confusing, gut-punch of a cliffhanger.
As you can see, I'm not really sure what to think. I don't really hate what Homeland is doing, even if I'm tired of the show screwing with us. We knew that Brody would be back once Javadi spilled the beans (and seriously, if the show doesn't really get back to the Iran stuff and Javadi's main purpose was to remind us that Brody was innocent, that's lame); it's probably better that he comes back this way rather than waiting until the end of the season with Carrie (and Quinn) going Seal Team Six on that high rise in Caracas. Now that would be amazing.
The good news is that much of this episode didn't make much sense, and in a compelling way. Watching Carrie, Quinn, and Dar try to work Leland Bennett and Paul Franklin into revealing the identity of the true CIA bomber was pretty fun because they were actually trying to do their jobs and the story made nice work of the prior connections that Carrie established when working toward the Javadi meeting. This season has tried to be about a different kind of villain—the money men and the power brokers—and this was one of the few times where I felt like that approach worked pretty well. The surveillance on Bennett and Franklin wasn't anything special, but it built nicely to that final set-piece where all hell broke loose and Quinn was forced to shoot Carrie to keep the larger operation going. It was in that moment where it finally seemed like the disparate threads, and Carrie's work, had meant something. Carrie couldn't disrupt Franklin's murder of the real bomber because it would reveal the Javadi deal, and now the team has some vague but important intel on whatever the hell it is that Franklin and Bennett are doing. And more than that, that sequence also made the best of Carrie's emotional journey thus far. She wanted the bomber alive because she needs to clear Brody's name before the baby is born. I'm not sure if she still really loves him and the pregnancy itself is still pretty ridiculous, but I can understand Carrie's desire and her stubborn willingness to put herself in the crosshairs to obtain the truth.
Again, this is another situation where it's almost entirely unclear what's really going on. Like Carrie, we listened in while Bennett told Franklin to get the bomber safely out of the country, so clearly something else is afoot that spurred Franklin to handle it i another, more violent way. Perhaps this means that Bennett isn't really aware of the kind of terrible people he's aligned himself with and he's some kind of fall guy that has been planned for a while. And honestly, I still do not trust Dar. It seems weird that the show would introduce such a fascinating character in Season 2 and then use him as an op leader and Saul cheerleader in Season 3. His ties to Bennett are probably even more important than what we saw this week.
Was everything in this episode good in the most truest sense of the word? Probably not. But it does feel like Homeland's disparate stories are coming together, and that the season is finally about something (even if that something is mostly Saul is playing everybody and uh, don't trust anyone). Alex Gansa has said that this season was planned in three distinct four-episode sections. The reveal that Carrie and Saul were working everyone came in Episode 4 and sent the show into a weird but not all together unwatchable second portion. I'm hoping that the reveals in this episode, the season's eighth, will kick-start a final stretch that is at least entertaining. I don't know if Homeland can totally reclaim "good" this season, but there's still a lot of time left to be fun and exciting, even if in dumb ways.
WACKO SCRIBBLINGS FROM CARRIE'S "I HEART BRODY" DIARY
– Good news! Senator Lockhart escaped the locked conference room. And he apparently immediately ran and told the White House Chief of Staff, as expected. The petty stuff between Lockhart and Saul is out of control, but it was kind of funny to watch the Chief of Staff begrudgingly throw Lockhart out of his office on a technicality.
– You guys, Fara is feeling weird about her job and her sick father at home is kind of a drag. Good on the show for reminding us that Fara isn't just Saul's data-crunching bot, but those scenes dragged. How soon until the writers kill her off to raise the stakes? Episode 10?
– Do you think Quinn has an "I HEART CARRIE" diary, by the way? I've heard that you don't really love someone until you shoot them in the arm with a sniper rifle to keep a covert operation going.
– Even with the return of Tim Guinee's Scott Ryan in this episode, it still appeared as if there were no human beings in the CIA HQ other than our cast members. What's the harm in showing a couple of people walking down the hallway?
– SHOCKINGLY, the boy toy of Saul's wife is only with her to procure information. You can't safely philander with anyone in this day and age.
– Episodes without Dana Brody or Whatever Her Name Is: 2. Anyone miss her yet?
– Brody stinks, apparently.
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