"Two Hats" was an appropriately titled episode of Homeland because A) you needed two bring two hats because the intensity of the episode kept blowing them off, and B) it was a two-headed monster with dual gripping storylines. Not only did we watch two excellently crafted stories play "anything you can do I can do better" but neither one was resolved, leaving us only with the knowledge that two maniacs are still on the loose and that we can trust exactly no one. Except for maybe Chris Brody, and if apartments with flatscreen TVs in every room are on the table, we can't even trust him.
When Homeland is at its best, the person we can trust least is ourselves, and right now I can't help but throw the mirror a suspicious glance every time I walk by it. Homeland is great at giving us one side of the story and as much of the other side as it can without letting us know everything. As we examine all the information we have, or think we have, we fall prey to what we think we know or double back to anticipate twists and what we're left with is a viewing experience puts us in the same mindset as many of the characters onscreen. And that mindset is something like pogo-sticking in a room full of bear traps.
Brody's run-in with Nazir last week portended huge developments in Nazir's plan to ruin America's day, and we were not disappointed. Brody was quickly reunited with Carrie and the CIA to give them a download of his meeting with Nazir. The way that information was given to the CIA (and us) was brilliant. We never saw what happened directly with Nazir and Brody, we only saw the version Brody wanted to tell the CIA.
That seems like nice and clean story progression on the surface, but in the world of Homeland it only presents more possibilities (a euphemism for mind-fuckery). We don't know what happened back at Nazir's playhouse with Brody. We don't know if Brody's telling the truth or lying, and if you take those flashbacks at face value, then sorry, you're an idiot (though the detail he left out about praying with Nazir definitely falls under lying). Homeland has already set precedent for Brody's flahsbacks to be untrustworthy when he lied about Tom Walker's "death" in Season 1. We don't know if Brody is telling a lie but thinking he's telling the truth because Nazir used him as a messenger to deliver false information right into the hands of the CIA. We don't know if the successful raid on Roya's breakfast meeting thwarted a potential terrorist attack or if it was a diversion from the real plan.
All we know is the story keeps chugging along at a blistering pace while dragging us with it and keeping all these options very much still in play. At this point, nothing would surprise me from the developments in the Nazir story in "Two Hats." But I get the feeling that Brody, once a valuable asset to Nair, is now being used by Nazir to occupy the CIA's attention while the real plan takes place elsewhere. Nazir knows Brody is as stable as the plutonium he'd love to drop on the White House, and his closeness to the CIA is suspect enough for Nazir to really second guess his employ of Brody. When he had Brody in his possession it should have been curtains for Brody, even Brody thought so. However, Nazir kept him alive for some reason, and if he's as ruthless and hard to catch as Carrie makes him out to be then he wouldn't have reason to depend on a man who is fucking a CIA agent and recently tried to quit just as things were getting critical. If he covers his tracks with Brody so that Brody can't identify where he is and he suspects that Brody is in bed with the CIA, then the only reason he would keep Brody alive is if he was a decoy. That's a lot of "ifs" but "ifs" are all we have to go on at the moment. Normally that's a dangerous situation for a show, but Homeland has done a really good job of keeping all these situations plausible and our brains paranoid.
Normally, that alone would be enough fat to stuff an episode, but "Two Hats" packed in even more suspense with the mystery of Peter Quinn IF THAT IS HIS REAL NAME and no, it isn't. We all knew Quinn was a bit of a loose cannon but now we know he's a lot more than that. What exactly that is we don't know, but he's operating on a level even more clandestine than Carrie's group and he's doing it with the aid of CIA director David Estes and the mysterious Dar Adul (guest star F. Murray Abraham), a man who previously worked with Saul. The final moments, when he's about to be the worst limo driver Brody ever had, are among the season's most tense moments as so much crashed down around us.
We all knew that Estes only kept Brody around because they thought they needed him to catch Nazir, but sending a familiar face to murder him was a whole new level. The idea of good guys versus bad guys in Homeland has always been muddied, but now it's almost a free-for-all. Estes almost had Brody shot in the back seat of a car Pulp Fiction style and Quinn would have had to look for Dead Ginger Storage! Are we supposed to consider Estes and Quinn "bad" guys now? Because I don't. It's not smart to watch Homeland rooting for anyone because everyone has their own despicable ways of accomplishing their self interests. You're better off enjoying the controlled chaos from a safe distance so as not to get caught up in any collateral damage.
"Two Hats" was right up there with the best episodes of the season because it was able to simultaneously tell two gripping stories at a pace that would leave normal shows huffing and puffing. The near misses at the finish (Nazir not being in the raid and Quinn standing down) might feel like ends that weren't closed, but it makes "Two Hats" a compelling first half of a two-part episode block that I can't wait to see conclude next week. If there's one line in Homeland that really encapsulates the spirit of the show, it's a throwaway line that Saul muttered in this episode: "Until we know for sure, everyone's a terrorist."
– This was almost an episode off for Carrie, as the focus was on Quinn and Brody and Carrie wasn't much more than a fed just doing her job.
– I couldn't really extract much of importance from the Brodys being shacked up in a deluxe apartment in the sky, but it's fascinating to see what the procedure for people being protected by the CIA. I guess seeing Dana upset at Brody shows that she won't be able to talk him out of anything this time around, and Morena Baccarin naked, while not important to the overall story of Homeland, is really, really great for America. We can all agree that Jess is better off with Mike, right?
– We got some more inconsistent acting from Baccarin, who did her best work when Jess had to deliver an impromptu speech to veterans while Brody took a car wash shower but has since been more wooden.
– Virgil wins line of the night with "If Quinn reports to a guy like Dar Adul, he's no more an analyst than I'm in the hair club for men."
– Is the CIA codename for Nazir, Sandman, the best they could come up with? Not only is it slightly racist, but it's pretty damn boring.