There's been a bit of an uproar on the internet today over last night's episode of Homeland, "Broken Hearts," but come on, you all know what you signed up for the minute you didn't turn off the television when Brody comically murdered the bomb-making tailor in the woods to shut him up so his wife wouldn't hear him over the phone in this season's third episode, "State of Independence." Or when Dana and Finn ran over that woman in "Q & A." Or maybe even earlier, like as far back as Season 1's "Crossfire," the terrible episode in which we flashed back to Brody so we could see his excuse for turning against the country that groomed him into a Marine.
Complaining about this show now (calling it "a mess" or saying that the creators are "as crazy as their characters") seems a bit mistimed given the way Season 2 has progressed. I'm not saying the complaints are without validation, because a lot of the show's plots require us to not only suspend our disbelief, but to expel it outright and ship it off to military school on the moon. This is a show about a bipolar CIA agent who's in love with a P.O.W. who becomes a candidate for vice president after simply learning how to shake hands like a politician. This is a show about a man who was willing to turn on his country and commit suicide in order to exact revenge for the killing of his evil captor's son. This is a show where the drunk is the smart guy.
I too have been guilty of taking Homeland as serious as the subject matter it deals with, but as it's carried on it's also carved out a different path for me to follow. The series has trained me to accept the ridiculous because it's created its own unique universe for its characters live in; it only looks like the one we live in and it's easy to confuse the two. Abu Nazir is a contemporary ghost story, not the subject of a training video for anti-terrorist greenhorns. I've said something like this before, but what makes Homeland so fun to watch is two-fold. We're witnessing one of modern television's greatest high-wire balancing acts and waiting for it to fall off and crash to the ground without a safety net in a grand splat, and the show could very well get there. But the show is also genuinely superb in some of its character moments, its production, and its acting, and as long as it can keep up such a high level of quality in those areas, I'll continue to watch.
The two major points of contention with "Broken Hearts" were Abu Nazir's abduction of Carrie and Brody's passive murder of Vice President Walden. Make no mistake, both of these events were outrageous (I have more beef with the VP plot than the Carrie-napping), but they're nowhere near as ludicrous as Brody's woodland murder while he was on the phone with Jess and they're light years away from Dana's hit-and-run.
I feel like I had to get that out of the way because "Broken Hearts" was emblematic of everything Homeland is—or in a more negative light, everything Homeland has become?—in Season 2. It was pure insanity and full of the juice that has given this season such a kick as it recklessly rolls down a mountain at top speed, hoping it doesn't explode along the way. Stay with me here, but Homeland has become a television show. And it's a television show that has decided that its pace will be something like that of a hummingbird on speed that's test-piloting rocket cars on re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere.
The problem is, Homeland has become a slave to that pace and must maintain it, "whatever it takes," as Carrie says. However, I prefer that to the opposite, which would have us watching Brody deal with legislation and lobbyists and seeing Carrie tap away on a keyboard, filing reports. Okay enough of that, let's talk about what actually happened in "Broken Hearts."
There were two big character moments in the episode, Carrie and Abu Nazir essentially calling each other names and Brody and Walden dealing with failing technology. Carrie and Nazir's convo didn't exactly feel natural, but the content of what they were saying covered everything you'd expect them to bark about. It was also the kind of talk we've come to expect in television when a terrorist and a freedom fighter (you choose who represents which) come together. But what I liked about it was that Carrie, still in restraints, had no qualms about stating her case. That's exactly the type of all-or-nothing person Carrie is, and she was just true to her core when given the chance to debate the person she's spent so much time trying to hunt down and kill.
As for the kidnapping in general, it was a bit on the ridonk side for sure, but still in keeping with the show's rapidly difficult task of maintain its trajectory. Nazir could have easily gotten the information that Brody is bonkers for Carrie through Roya and exploited it, even if Carrie is CIA. It was reckless behavior on Nazir's part, but I get the sense that Nazir doesn't care because he doesn't feel like he's long for this world. And because Nazir's main beef is with Walden, he may be so focused on killing the guy that everything else doesn't matter as much. Nazir isn't your normal terrorist. His problems are more personal (getting revenge for his son's murder) than ideological.
The chat between Brody and Walden, however, WAS worthy of the "mess" label because no way in hell would Brody be stupid enough to play his cards like that before the veep was closer to dying. You just don't let a murder victim know you're in on the murder before you're absolutely sure he's going to die. For all Brody knew, that first hiccup out of Walden could have been a reaction to some extra spicy Thai drunken noodles and not a sign that Nazir's hackers were uploading malware to his ticker or signing his heart up for porn website newsletters. (And in case you were wondering, yes, wirelessly accessing someone's pacemaker and making it explode a heart is something that's technologically possible and has been in the news for years. But yes, it's more bad-movie plotting and very much the opposite of what Carrie has taught us is Nazir's modus operandi, which is something like "the louder, the better.")
Even with these problems, Homeland still comes off as more than competent television, and it's incredibly entertaining to boot. But if you are now complaining that some of the plotting in "Broken Hearts" was borderline stupid, have you not been paying attention up until now? Even with some of Homeland's not-as-good (I won't say bad) parts stirring frustration, it's those same parts that make the show enrapturing, and they're now part of the show's DNA. The pace and all that comes with such a high rate of speed may get tiring soon (and all signs point to something like mid-Season 3), but as of right now, this thing is still damn entertaining.
– Brody does not like to end phone conversations with "Bye," "Talk to you later," or any other parting salutation. The guy just hangs up. I wish I was that badass.
– Well, we learned a little more about Dar Adul. He likes waffles. But other than that, we're still not clear on why Quinn and Adul are involved in the operation other than Saul's theory that Estes wants them in to muzzle Brody on the topic of their questionable drone strike that killed hundreds of innocent children.
– Can Blackberrys Skype? And shouldn't Nazir be on a burner instead of a real phone? And should Brody REALLY be screaming "Nazir!" in a building filled with CIA protection?
– More Carrie listening to jazz on her car radio! Yes! Bee-bop-a-doo-wop-bom-dom-diddly-boo!
– Sooooo... Is Galvez the mole in the CIA? His sudden return and the obvious focus on his return (only to make it not matter at all in the rest of the episode) leads me to believe that something's in store for him.
– Dana: "My dad is like a super spy, and terrorists want to kill him or some shit." BEST LINE EVER EVER. Ever.