Homeland "I'll Fly Away" Review: Breaking Brody

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Homeland S02E08: "I'll Fly Away"

Have you ever felt worse for a man who was once a key component in an attempted terrorist attack on the United States? Nicholas Brody just can't seem to escape captivity these days, whether it be physical, mental, or a nasty combination of both. He's become a game piece for both Team Stars and Stripes and the Al Qaeda All-Stars, confined between a set of walls constructed by the CIA and another set erected by Abu Nazir. And it's Brody's crumbling mental state that drove "I'll Fly Away," a strong follow-up to last week's low-stakes political cigar-smoking and hand-shaking.

Despite being one of Homeland's two leads, Brody is not and never has been mentally solid—or even able to exercise his own free will. When we first met him, he'd been brainwashed by Abu Nazir. His daughter talked him out of blowing up Vice President Walden. He was flipped again by the CIA a few episodes ago. And the political path he's on isn't exactly voluntary. Brody has had more hands up his butt than the Muppets, and he's finally realizing that he's not really into that.

So is it any surprise that an inciting event (Dana's hit-and-run, which in this episode finally became something more than just a showcase for Dana's frowny face) and mounting pressure from not just the CIA and Nazir, but also his family, has scrambled his brain to the point that he's ready to bury his face in a pillow and give up? When Brody was receiving a tongue-lashing from Jess about his half-truths regarding his role with the CIA, Brody exploded in a broken record of frustration with, "I CAN'T I CAN'T I CAN'T," television's greatest boil-over since Skyler White wouldn't shut up about saying "Shut up" on Breaking Bad. I know the guy was partying with the greatest threat to American freedom (the best kind of freedom AMEN), but I can't help but feel awful for him.

Brody is a victim of others' machinations, a nefarious car dealer's wet dream who just happened to find himself in every wrong place at every wrong time with a bunch of people ready to lead him by the hand and tell him his next move. Yes, he is partly responsible for a large chunk of his predicament, but part of me feels like going all Chris Crocker and making a YouTube video of myself screaming "Leave Brody alone!" because at this point he's being batted around like a ping pong ball.

But there is one part of his life that Brody believes he has complete control over, and that's his relationship with Carrie. That's why he can't stay away from her (especially since every time he turns around she's there), and that's why every single time the two are together it results in amazing television. In "I'll Fly Away," Carrie and Brody eloped to a romantic roadside economy motel to put Brody back together (and bang some headboards) after things got a little hairy. It's remarkable to see how much these two change when they're in their own bubble. When he's with Carrie she becomes his therapist, his mother figure... not to mention a convenient receptacle for his penis. Brody needs Carrie in his life because he isn't a congressman or a sleeper agent in her presence. And for her part, Carrie wants Brody in her life because she's unstable with a thing for forbidden fruit.

And just when Brody had calmed down a bit and felt like he had at least some grip on his life again thanks to the bang-and-chat session with Carrie, the CIA asked him to put his head right back into the mouth of Nazir's plan. What followed was one of the most exciting speed-limit-obeying car "chases" I've seen in a long time, as Roya had Brody drove out to a clearing in the sticks while Carrie was stuck in the Virgilmobile, forced to maintain about a mile between the two cars. Carrie had a meltdown and went rogue, a mystery man showed up, and for a second it didn't seem too far-fetched that Nazir had possibly had enough of Brody's sweating and ordered a "termination" of their contract. But then a helicopter showed up (these guys have helicopters in our backyard!?!?) and whisked Brody away to where else but an abandoned warehouse. And that's when a freshly shaven Abu Nazir stepped out of a fancy car to mumble something I couldn't make out. (I assume it translated to, "Dude, get your shit together.") It wasn't quite the shock it was meant to be from the point of being a "Gotcha!" reveal, because who else was it going to be, but the fact that Nazir is in the United States is frightening, and hopefully it means we're closer to receiving confirmation that a plan is in place.

"I'll Fly Away" played with Brody like a cat plays with a gourmet mouse dinner, sandwiching a cool and (relatively) collected Brody-in-the-company-of-Carrie between two slices of his life that are out of control. First he faced pressure from his family, the CIA, and Roya; later he was reintroduced to his abductor and old pal manipulator Abu Nazir. The contrast between Brody's two states of mind was enough to drive me insane, and once again Damian Lewis turned in a fantastic performance as a man who's being dismantled by pressure and reassembled by Carrie, only to be unraveled again. We've wondered which side he would play, but now we have to wonder whether he can play any side at all.



NOTES

– Saul eavesdropping on Carrie getting plowed by Brody might be one of the greatest scenes I've seen all year. The exasperation on his face was painful and hilarious, and he must have felt like father forced to listen to his daughter having sex. So very uncomfortable.

– I'm still wondering why Carrie got the okay to follow Brody and Roya in Virgil's car. After everything they heard, the CIA probably should have kept her at home base for this one.

– Though I'm still not sold on Dana's hit-and-run story, I did like how its importance has become its impact on Brody and the family stress that comes with it. As for how it impacts Dana, it seems like just a hard lesson about life rather than anything that will really affect the main story, unless she chooses to rat out Walden's family for paying the victim's daughter off.

– Morgan Saylor is kicking ass this season and giving Mandy Patinkin a run for his money as Homeland's third best actor. Her tearful collapse at the end of the episode made someone cry in my house but I swear it was my cat who cried and not me because I'm tough!

– Is anyone else now starting to feel really bad for Jess? Her daughter killed someone and ran away, and her husband fucked someone else and ran away. Time to put Mike on speed dial.

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