We knew that Saul's grand scheme involving Brody, Javadi, and an Iranian coup was never going to go as planned. Homeland's schemes never work out exactly how they're plotted, even when they're developed by seemingly smart, capable analysts and agents. With Brody involved, instability and even flat-out anarchy are more likely to happen than not. Armed with that knowledge, I went into "Big Man in Tehran" assuming that all hell would break loose sooner rather than later. That more or less came to pass. Yet, amid some strong moments for the leading trio of actors, this episode underscored something else we all know: Brody has to go.
Homeland has actually done a better job of using Brody in Season 3 than I ever thought they would. Season 2 showed me that Alex Gansa and his team seemingly couldn't help but pull Brody and Carrie back into one another's orbit, constantly reinforcing their fated love story that I'm not sure many of us in the audience have truly bought into since the first few episodes of the second season. When Brody appeared in the third episode of this season, I figured that meant he'd be back in the States by Episode 5 and the show would return to doing the same sort of "We'll make it work, somehow!" stuff with Carrie and Brody. Thankfully, that didn't happen, and weirdly, it now sort of feels like Homeland waited a little too long to bring Brody back into the fold. Although keeping him away permitted Saul's multi-level operation to unfold methodically, Brody's road to redemption has been a bit rushed, particularly in "One Last Time" and tonight's "Big Man in Tehran."
On one hand, Brody's story this week was a victim of the show's weirdo pacing. After last week's balls-to-the-wall get-Brody-into-Iran operation in "Good Night," "Big Man" started by following a similar framework. Though the show jumped ahead a bit, we were quickly caught up with Brody making it through the first rounds of interrogation, Carrie landing in Tehran (because of course she had to be there), and Saul setting up the operation in Langley. From there, the development of the plan to take out Akbari worked relatively well. As is so often the case with Homeland, we just had to believe that Javadi could so easily convince Akbari to meet with Brody in the first place (even if it was a partial swerve), and that Fara and her uncle in Iran are really just living, breathing plot devices. Nevertheless, I didn't totally expect Abu Nazir's wife to show up and completely derail the plan. I knew the plan would derail, but that was a nice touch, as was the following scene, with Brody embracing his newfound celebrity in Tehran. But then, the episode immediately jumped ahead in time again, moving us away from what could have been some really fascinating moments. Who wouldn't want to watch Brody make awkward speeches and kiss babies? And why wouldn't we want to see more of Saul and Carrie squirming for nearly a week, without any real contact from Brody? Homeland enjoys zigging and zagging with its pacing—sometimes drawing things out way too long and leaving us desperate for them to be over, and sometimes zooming through cool stuff because, well, I don't know why—but this was perhaps the most egregious example of the latter, because it robbed us of more interesting stuff that it preferred to wave away with a quick clip of Brody on TV and Lockhart doing some half-assed gloating as Saul admitted that the operation had gone belly-up and there was no way out but to end the Brody experiment once and for all. So, by the time "Big Man" reached its climax and Brody ultimately made the choice to enact the worst possible version of the original mission and kill Akbari, it felt like yet another sudden choice where we didn't have the right kind of information leading up to it.
However, on the other hand, there's a chance that, had we spent more time with Brody, Iranian Idol and YouTube sensation (again), that time would have just been yet another frustrating chapter in the Brody experience. The character is fundamentally flawed to the degree that it's now mostly impossible to tell the difference between his character traits and problematic writing. Brody has swapped allegiances so many times, often in an instant, that it's really, really difficult to determine what he cares about, other than some vague sense of redemption. This episode sent us down memory lane with him, allowing us to see him reflect on his time with Nazir, and on his family, and come to the realization that he could close the circle on his destructive existence by killing Akbari in the same room where the now-dead Iranian first spoke about Brody with Nazir. There was a sense that this was Brody's moment, perhaps his final moment, where he finally took control over his own life and did what was "right." The problem with that narrative is that Brody's still serving outside masters in killing Akbari, no matter how villainous the show wants us to believe that Akbari (and certain sects of Iran) are. Brody still did what Saul and Carrie told him to do, just like he did what Nazir or the vice president told him to do before that. Not to mention that he did it at the worst possible time, with no logical extraction possibilities in site, perhaps blowing the lid off the operation, and after cutting down America on worldwide media for six days. Like, the dude's not coming home a hero; he's not getting his life back.
So the questions still remain: How does the show really view Brody, and was this moment truly his redemption? I legitimately have no idea, and that's the problem. He flip-flops more than a politician during primary season, shifting his allegiances onto whomever wants to give him some attention and adulation in the moment. That's why he probably has to die, whether he gets a hero's death or not. Homeland cannot—I repeat, cannot—move forward with Brody in its world. Not after what people think he did, not after what he did that we didn't see much of during those six days, and not after whatever the heck he's going to have to do to escape that room at the
Republican Revolutionary Guard.
The real redemption we should care about is probably Carrie's, considering she's our lead character. Unfortunately, Homeland's wonky plotting and characterization has had similar effects on her as well. In theory, Brody killing Akbari makes Carrie RIGHT, and at the moment when it matters most. She trusted Brody and constantly put her job and life in jeopardy to prove that he wasn't the monster Saul and the media bonanza around the CIA bombing made him seem. But we've seen so many angry Carrie-Saul conversations where the latter is frustrated with the former for being deliberately insubordinate, and these things have gone so poorly so often (I really appreciated Brody's resigned "What are we going to do, come up with another f*cked-up plan?" line) that there's very little believable reason as to why Carrie should still have her job, nor is there much of a reason why we should care that Carrie scored this big victory. I'm especially skeptical, considering there's one more episode left for Homeland to allow her to try something especially troublesome to save Brody. The fact that she suggested she and Brody could go on the lam again didn't instill me with a lot of confidence in the future of Carrie's character. She too needs Brody to go away, so she can move on—or at least try to move on.
After quite the uneven season, Homeland has one more episode to do what it's needed to do for a while, and what many people working on and around the show have probably wanted to do: Let Brody go. He's served his purpose for this season's primary CIA narrative and he's made enough silly last-minute decisions. It's time.
– This show is so off sometimes with regard to what's right and what's wrong that at times during this episode, I couldn't help but agree with Lockhart's assessments, especially since he wasn't being a total prick. Is that what I'm supposed to be doing?
– I have to say, Quinn's "What about Carrie though?!" moment during the operation pep talk was pretty great. You can see the show wanting to set up that relationship so badly, it has to get rid of Brody. We certainly don't need a love triangle.
– When Brody picked up the Blackberry after killing Akbari, I experienced terrifying flashbacks to last season, when he spoke with Nazir via Skype. I hope the show was intentionally trolling us.
– Mira's side-piece joined Fara's uncle as a pure, living and breathing plot device in this episode. That was definitely time well-spent, huh?
– After Brody's actions throughout the course of this episode, there's no way that anyone involved with this operation keeps their job, right? RIGHT? I'd be in for a Season 4 of Homeland if it were Saul, Carrie, Quinn, and Dar running ops out of a van. A van that Virgil is driving.
– Real exciting batch of press photos this week. Hope you guys really enjoy grainy shots of people staring off into the distance.
What'd you think of this one? Will Brody live? Should he live?
AIRED ON 11/22/2016
Season 5 : Episode 13