Hey everybody. Tim somehow locked himself in the conference room, so I'll be taking the Homeland reigns this week. Don't worry, we called facilities and they're handling it. I don't want to spend too much time on Season 3's failings, but I would like to give you a little context as to where I'm coming from. It's only fair right? Although Tim's reviews have been pretty representative of the general malaise that's set in with Homeland this season, I came into "Gerontion" ready to defend the show. Homeland is facing a lot of external pressures that are clearly keeping it from being its best self—the writers can't get rid of Brody, there's a sense they have to keep topping themselves with twists, etc.—but I've appreciated some of the stuff the show has done this year. I didn't even flat-out hate Dana's story in the first six episodes. But after I watched "Gerontion" knowing I'd have to write about it, and thus think about it, it's much harder to defend what's going on in this show right now.
In theory, "Gerontion" should be the Homeland episode many of us were waiting for. Last week's final moments were at least partially shocking, and they set up some interesting possibilities for where Saul and Carrie's operation could go. AND MOST IMPORTANTLY: This week, there was no Brody family drama, no name-changing, no blank stares from sad Chris Brody. "Gerontion" was all spy stuff, all the time. Unfortunately, though, each time Homeland takes a tiny step forward, it launches itself two humongous steps backward. Whenever the show makes a big move, whether it's the reveal about Carrie and Saul's plan, Carrie being captured, or Javadi killing his wife, it almost immediately sucks the life out of that move. This week, the team had to deal with the aftermath of Javadi's violent rampage, but 'dealing with it' mostly meant throwing Javadi in a room so Saul could chit-chat with him while Quinn and Carrie took care of the murder scene at the now-dead wife's home. Somehow, the most interesting bits of those two stories ended up being Quinn and Carrie dealing with local detectives and not Saul talking to a murderous traitor.
Homeland keeps trying to sell us on Saul and Javadi's history and that's fine, but the decision to use Javadi's embezzlement against him to force him to return to Iran as a double agent (or, knowing this show, a triple agent) was ridiculous for a few reasons. First, I simply love how easy it is for high-level intelligence people from foreign countries the U.S. isn't particularly friendly with to travel across our borders. Javadi drove down from Canada like a champ and flew out of here on a private jet in style. I understand the need to bring threats to the domestic sphere since the show can't—or won't—send Carrie or Quinn to different countries every week, but the way it all went down was pretty lame. Second, sending Javadi back to Iran already mostly invalidates everything that the season has supposedly been building toward. Why does Homeland insist on making BIG MOVES, only to shrug them off soon after? Carrie and Javadi's convos last week took some of the energy out of Carrie and Saul's master plan, and this week's events only further deflated it. Saul burned Carrie in front of a congressional committee, she went to a psych ward, and Quinn was ready to admit to a double homicide just so Saul could convince an old friend/murderer—one who might not even keep his word—to flip on Iran. Not to go all Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler, but REALLY, Homeland?!
Worst of all is what the show clearly wants us to take away from these developments, as we saw in the aftermath of Javadi's luxury flight back to Iran. On a thematic level, Saul and Javadi's deal and the whole surreptitious scheme was meant to reflect Saul's old-school approach to spy tactics and the kind of impact those tactics have on the people carrying them out. The show has explored this kind of territory before; almost repetitively so. We've seen and continue to see what the job has done to Carrie and Saul, and this episode hammered all that home yet again. Saul couldn't even begin to get mad about his wife sleeping with another man, perhaps in his home, because he was so engrossed in the Javadi op. Carrie began to experience nausea from her pregnancy, and the baby is surely Brody's. And most interestingly, Quinn started to realize that his job is kind of awful—so much so that admitting to two murders he didn't commit just to clear his conscience a little was the best feeling he's had in a long time. All this stuff was fairly strong, particularly in the context of Season 3's big questions about what is the CIA does and whether or not it should continue to do those things.
Less strong? Saul and Dar childishly trolling Senator Lockhart in the name of restoring the CIA to its Cold War-era, long-game-style espionage. Lockhart isn't so much a character as he is an obstacle for Saul, and although it's interesting to think about Saul as sort of the hero of this show, his tete-a-tete with Lockhart has turned him into kind of a douche. The show kept Dar out of the secret op, which made me think he was going to turn and help Lockhart in the battle for the CIA's mortal soul. But nope. After Saul filled Dar in, Dar helped Saul close Lockhart in a conference room and turn out the lights. I didn't realize that the CIA was basically an uncreative college fraternity house. LIGHTS OUT, BRO. It was smart of the show to start asking questions about the value of the CIA in the aftermath of such immense attack, but the problem is that it hasn't created any real conversation about how to move forward, and in the process, that has damaged Saul as a character. Saul, Carrie, and Quinn are kind of awful at their jobs. Yes, Brody was framed, but their work still indirectly led to the CIA bombing. Saul should be fired. But Lockhart is such an empty vessel for lame rhetoric about change, and the show has positioned him as such, so it's almost as if Homeland is still suggesting that Saul's way is the right way. We're supposed to celebrate Lockhart getting hazed by the Greatest CIA Prank Ever. That doesn't make sense.
And of course, we can't forget the REAL reason why Javadi had to come to America and then immediately leave: So he could tell Saul and Carrie that it wasn't Brody who moved the bomb. Brody's been the specter hanging over this season, and if you weren't convinced before "Gerontion" that the show was simply screwing around until it could logically get back to Brody's story and the fated love between he and Carrie, you have to be now. In that regard, Homeland set up a half-season's worth of plot that involved breaking Carrie down even more, plus a couple of iffy twists, just to circle back around to something we basically already knew. I wouldn't necessarily call it stalling, but it's damn close. Maybe the writers have something cool in mind for how Brody gets more directly involved in the current stories, or how Carrie and Quinn go looking for him. However, it's hard to have any confidence in Homeland at this point, especially because it seems so dedicated to making everything about Brody (and Brody and Carrie), even when it's not. Could Carrie clear Brody's name, bring him back to the U.S., and set him up as the true new leader of the CIA? Why not.
Above all else, this season of Homeland is proof that making TV isn't easy, even when there are a bunch of great writers, producers, actors, etc. involved. "Gerontion" is the midpoint of Season 3, and it could have served as a catalyst for some interesting stories. Unfortunately, it seems like it served as a catalyst for a whole lot more of the same.
– Thanks for having me this week. Hope it wasn't too painful.
– Be honest, you missed Dana in "Gerontion." She's probably doing something so cool with Angela right now.
– Another problem with the show: Doesn't it seem like the only people working at the CIA are the characters we see? If Lockhart does take over and decide to clean house, he and that secretary Saul spoke to at the end of the episode will be the only ones on the payroll. At least they'll save money.
– Nice little guest spot for Clark Johnson as the frustrated detective. He's directed two episodes this season, so it makes sense that he would jump in front of the screen as well.
– I didn't see the preview for next week, but how quickly do we think Brody is back on screen? And is there any way that story plays out in an interesting fashion?
AIRED ON 12/15/2013
Season 3 : Episode 12