Hey, remember Homeland's second season? I don't, really, and I wrote hundreds of words about each episode as part of my job. While some of that forgetfulness can be attributed to old age and a long break between seasons, not all of it can be. I'm declaring selective memory on this one, because even my foggy brain recalls Season 2 had its fair share of problems we'd just as soon forget. Like when Brody murdered the bomb-vest maker in the series' most ridiculous episode ever, or when Vice President Walden was murdered via Wifi-enabled pacemaker, or when Dana Brody and Finn Walden ran over a poor lady with Finn's car. Homeland's difficult Season 2 high-wire act of balancing forbidden romance with domestic terrorism, a character-driven drama with high-stakes and action-oriented government operations, and Dana Brody the insightful teen daughter with Dana Brody the teen terror stumbled and fell to its death almost as often as it arrived safely on the other side.
The Season 3 premiere, "Tin Man Is Down," mostly focused on Saul Berenson and Carrie Mathison. That was a wise choice on Homeland's part, because Saul and Carrie are the two characters who haven't made any missteps, story-wise, and Mandy Patinkin and Claire Danes can act their f*cking skulls off.
So what did that mean for "Tin Man is Down"? It meant a season premiere with a dominant storyline that was mistake-free and stuffed with fascinating performances. It also meant a more mature season premiere. And by mature, I mean more C-SPAN-ish. And by C-SPAN-ish, I mean sans fireworks. "Tin Man Is Down" wasn't particularly eventful compared to Homeland's bigger episodes; most of its shots were fired verbally across a courtroom during Senate hearings between cranky Senators and enigmatic CIA members, rather than in exotic places between the good guys and the bad guys.
It's been two months since the explosion at Langley, and "Tin Man Is Down" opened with a shot of Carrie, her right hand raised, promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help her big guy in the sky. And it was Carrie's version of the truth that immediately got her in trouble. Despite everyone else in the country believing that Congressman Nicholas Brody was a turncoat who's now responsible for the death of 219 people in "the worst attack on this nation since 9/11" (with Estes and Finn included in that body count), Carrie is still clinging to the idea that Brody had no idea his car had a bomb in it, that he had nothing to do with the bombing. That's a fine thought to think in private, but Carrie went ahead and blurted it out, undermining her credibility like a 9/11 First Responder spouting some Truther gibberish. That's Carrie Mathison for ya!
In the meantime, Saul was getting comfy in his new role as Director of the CIA, which changes EVERYTHING about his relationship with Carrie. Saul can no longer play the rebellious CIA higher-up who serves as Carrie's confidante. Now he's the highest-up, and with that gig comes more responsibility to the American people and all that jazz. That means hunches and loose leashes are a thing of the past, because foiled plots and dead terrorists are all that matters. It also means that Saul is now the guy who has to make difficult decisions and produce immediate results, and he gave the go-ahead on the assassination of six prime targets in the Langley bombing, all of them civilians who played their part. But none of them were THE guy who ordered the attack (it was someone named Majid Javadi). Saul, logical guy that he is, would've rather waited until he had a shot at real-prize Javadi, but pressure forced him into kicking the field goal instead of going for the touchdown. A small victory now outweighed the chance at a big victory later, and in a sweet scene showing just how awesome American intelligence and military technology can be, all six targets spread out across the globe got vaporized or shot up within minutes of each other. Sadly, it felt like a hollow win. Welcome to your new job, Saul.
And the CIA could really use some good news right now, because it is struggling these days. Senator Andrew Lockhart (Tracy Letts), chairman of the Senate committee that's investigating the bombing, has been digging through the trash, and he wants to hold the CIA responsible. In addition to trying to move on from the blast that killed scores of Americans, the agency is dealing with an accusation of gross negligence—the attack took place on its home turf, and Carrie can't believe it happened under her nose. Sad! Despite the C-SPANity of these scenes, the Senate hearings were actually much more thrilling than they had any right to be, and a large chunk of that credit goes to Letts as Chairman Lockhart. That guy knows how to act like a huge dick.
The fact is, the CIA made some shady, top-secret, and not-exactly-wise deals with Nicholas Brody—including the promise of immunity—and with all this hand-raising and truth-promising, the truth was going to come out sooner or later. Asking one person to stay quiet is one thing; asking a whole department to zip its lips is another. Someone was leaking documents to Lockhart, and by the time the story hit the papers that an unnamed CIA agent was boinking Brody right up until the bombing, something had to give. Saul, without naming names (and that's the only saving grace in this situation), confirmed that a bipolar, erratic agent had been sleeping with Brody and concealed her actions from the agency. Gee, who could that be? And how long could it possibly be until Carrie's name is attached? With Brody out of the picture, the betrayal of Carrie was left to Saul, and it hit nearly as hard. But given the situation, it's hard to say Saul had much of a choice. His options were either to protect Carrie or to protect the CIA. "A win would be nice. Another fuck-up would be fatal," Saul said. Well, he didn't get the win, and he may have distanced himself and the rest of the CIA from the fuck-up (i.e. Carrie). Just another miserable day working for the CIA.
And just another miserable day being the teen daughter of a war-hero-turned-mass-murder-suspect, right? Despite a solid core, "Tin Man Is Down" was not without its questionable storylines. And Questionable Decisions may as well be the name of Homeland's upcoming Dana Brody spin-off. While everyone else used the two months that've passed since the bombing to mourn and lament the new sense of vulnerability in this country, Dana used the time to slit her wrists in the Brody household bathroom?! Whaaaaat!? Then she ended up at a treatment center with other troubled teens. Come again? And once she was mentally healed, she returned home and sent some tit pics to the cute boy she met during treatment? Ugh. At least her suicide attempt happened over the break. Can you imagine the uproar that would've ensued if we'd actually seen it?
Look, I've been as big a defender of Dana as anybody (Morgan Saylor is a tremendous young actress, I don't care what anyone else says), but is this really what Homeland needed? It's as if the Homeland writers Googled all their own characters names and saw that Dana was being talked about so much that they handed her a huge storyline without reading the adjectives that accompanied those search results. It's too early to write off this storyline as a terrible choice, but from what we've seen, it seems as though it's headed in that direction. If you ask me, the Brody family's relevance disappeared when Brody hightailed it into Canada. But here we are, still watching the Brodys (minus Nicholas and plus Grandma) eat dinner and talk too loudly. It's boring and perplexing, but it also means one thing: Brody will find his way back to his family somehow. Otherwise, what's the point? You're telling me that Homeland is going to split its time between stopping acts of terror in America and figuring out who Dana will take to prom? Something's up here, and we're right in that ultra-confusing gray area of not knowing what it is. We have to let this story play out, but I give you permission to complain about it at least until next week's episode.
I don't know about you, but I was looking for a big Homeland reinvention as the show headed into Season 3 Brody-free; instead, the premiere focused on the relatively quiet aftermath of the Langley bombing (perhaps Season 3 is going to be dominated by Senators senatoring?). The episode provided a solid setup for Carrie and Saul—we'll undoubtedly be examining their roles in the bombing going forward—but it didn't tell us a whole bunch about what we can expect from the season. Maybe a deep breath was exactly what the show needed. We'll see when it fully exhales.
– Wow, that Peter Quinn is quite the badass! He built a bomb, slow-chased a car while on a scooter, ID'd a kid in the car and aborted the bombing, infiltrated a heavily guarded house, shot up half a dozen guards, shot the target through a desk, AND killed the kid for good measure! Take that, kid! Seriously though, don't go soft on us, Quinn. That child would've grown up to be a terrorist or a telemarketer or something! Also, who let the youngster out of his room once the bomb exploded? Poor parenting! Who was he, Carl from The Walking Dead?
– I'm liking Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham) as the devil on the Saul's shoulder. However, I still barely know how his character got involved in all of this.
– So... Carrie is into gingers, eh? And having sex with her bra on. Also, here's my recommended name for the mystery redhead guy: Faux-dy.
– If they're so short on money, how could the Brodys afford to have their bathroom redone? Maybe a new shower curtain would have done the trick?
– Teenagers, help me out here: Is it really fair for a guy to send a return selfie of him shirtless when the original selfie from the girl was topless? That seems lopsided, if you ask me. Show a little buttcrack, cute boy from treatment!
UPDATE: Showtime has released the Season 3 premiere online for free, in hopes that it will compel you to subscribe. If you haven't seen it yet, now's your chance!
AIRED ON 12/20/2015
Season 5 : Episode 12