With Nicholas Brody out of the picture (temporarily), Homeland had a couple of options with Season 3. It could continue on with the CIA's hunt for terrorists, with Carrie Matheson hanging from rafters by her knees double-fisting pistols and lighting up bad guys, but that would turn it into any other flag-waving action show. Instead, Homeland focused on the second-most interesting aspect of the series (the first being Carrie ad Brody), which is the way Carrie's mental health issues affect her job as a CIA agent trusted with national-security level secrets. Well, it's interesting of you are perfectly okay with the idea that a government agency would employ crazies who need a steady diet of meds lest they turn into secret-spilling wide-eyed grinning goons.
"Uh... Oh... Ah...," a phonetic reference to Carrie's final line of swollen-tongue dialogue in the episode (translation: "Fuck you, Saul"), largely repeated the themes and events of the season premiere, but louder. The rift between Saul and Carrie went from the size of a crosswalk to the vastness of the Grand Canyon, the hunt for the man responsible for the Langley bomber intensified, and Dana continued her post-suicide struggle and medication through stripping off her clothes. So if you didn't care for "Tin Man is Down," you probably didn't love this one. On the other hand, if you enjoyed the premiere, "Uh... Oh... Ah..." probably worked for you as well.
I've resigned myself to accepting that the CIA would continue its relationship with Carrie and her bipolar disorder because we've seen what a valuable asset to the team she can be when she's well. Well, that and Claire Danes' amazing performance. But we all know Carrie's mania, which could be responsible for her analytic gifts, kept her at a safe distance from being a central player in the CIA and could also be used to discredit her whenever the CIA wanted to. The idea of the CIA using her illness against her only made Carrie more manic, and the engine became self-perpetuating until Carrie was hopped up on tranqs watching crappy daytime television in a psych ward while the CIA swept her and her "crazy" accusations under a rug.
It was terribly uncomfortable stuff, which has always been Homeland's strength. Of course, Homeland's previous dabble into that kind of nerve-racking material dealt with the unseen terrorists and the idea that anyone, even your elderly neighbor, could be plotting to destroy America from the inside. That's not what has been going on in the quieter Season 3. In fact, Season 3 could almost be a continuation of the Season 1 finale when we last saw Carrie getting her brain zapped with electro-shock therapy. But even then, the security of America and the invisible threat of terrorism was the driving force of the series. Doubts remain about whether Carrie's struggle with her condition is really what Homeland should be, but it's what we got.
However, Homeland has found a way to make Carrie's inability to chill out fairly riveting stuff in Season 3. Carrie went to a reporter to tell her side of the story but was countered by Team Saul, who issued a Psychiatric Detention order thanks to some manufactured doctors' reports of Carrie going off her meds. I'm guessing this was the work of Dar Adul, who vowed to stop her. Saul went to Carrie's family and convinced them to side with him because Carrie was off her meds, which didn't sit too well with Carrie. And the tough part wasn't watching Saul betray her, it was watching Carrie inadvertently prove–through kicking and screaming tantrums and crazy talk–that gathering her up and hiding her away was necessary. Whether it's her heart of her brain driving Carrie, Homeland wants to make sure we're never fully able to trust her, just as the CIA can't. She's our unreliable narrator, prone to both excellence and error. Again, a lot of what makes it watchable has to do with Danes' performance. No one makes angry screaming faces like Danes. I must have watched the scene when she told Quinn, "Leave me alone!" about five times in a row and it freaked me out every single time.
This descent into conspiracy-theory-spewing madness (though we know better and the CIA should, too) was, of course, all designed to shatter one of the series' most fractured relationships in Saul and Carrie which started splintering last week. As the new director of the CIA, Saul was pressured into results and damage control, and drove the bus right over Carrie before the Senate hearing by saying she concealed information about Brody when Saul's whole team knew all about it. It meant Saul will get no "Have a Cool Christmas" Christmas Card with a picture of Miles Davis on it from Carrie this year. It also meant that Saul was acting like a huge jerk, and you're allowed to wonder, "WTF, Saul?"
Peter Quinn spoke for us all when he told Saul he didn't like what was going on with the CIA's treatment of Carrie, but didn't it seem like Saul had something planned? Or is he just in "ends justify the means" mode? The importance of Saul's relationship with Carrie is just a tick below hers with Brody, and to completely trash that out of Saul's sense of duty to his job doesn't fit right. Maybe I'm over apologetic for Saul since I want him (or Mandy Patinkin) to be my dad, but I have to believe that Saul thought this out as he hinted to Quinn. I hope. I don't think I can stand to see Saul as a villain.
But would Saul even be a villain? Take things from his perspective: Carrie stopped taking her meds and wasn't being a team player. She wouldn't shut up about Brody being innocent to anyone who would listen, and her loud-mouthing was could cripple the CIA permanently. From where Saul stood, she wasn't playing by the unwritten rules of the CIA. She wasn't being covert, she was drumming up unwanted attention at the worst possible time. That's what makes the Saul-Carrie situation so fascinating to me. Both sides have their point, thickening up the drama. We want to see that father-daughter relationship between Saul and Carrie blossom, but it can't happen until Carrie stops acting like a tinfoil-hat-wearing lunatic, whether she's right or not.
Okay, so I guess it's Dana time. I'll repeat what I said last week, which was something like, "Why so much Dana? Why so much Brody family business without Nicholas?" In this episode, Dana and Jess pushed each other further and further away, exacerbated by Dana's runaway trip back to her treatment program to hook up with Leo in the laundry room. This was pretty straightforward teen angst stuff that was not specific to domestic terrorism and could have taken place in the house across the street because this is how teen girls act sometimes. I did like seeing Dana drag Jess into the bathroom where she attempted suicide and very lucidly lay out how she was feeling; it was the most powerful scene in her storyline this season and both Morgan Saylor and Morena Baccarin were solid. Dana wanted to be alive now, and part of that was because of Leo. She spoke from sanity, and Jess was paralyzed because the truth of the matter was Leo was the rickety crutch Dana needed when Jess wanted to be her support. And the realistic fear that Leo could leave as quickly as he appeared meant that Dana could go through her problems all over again. I wouldn't worry too much if I were Jess, Dana's boyfriends have a habit of blowing up in terrorist explosions.
But I'm not so sure I can believe Dana when she dismissed her dad as a psycho who messed up their lives given that she later went to the garage and found Brody's prayer mat and downward dogged on it. Dana is a very confused girl. Almost as confusing as the placement of this storyline. You know who we should be worried about? Chris! That kid is WAY TOO calm about everything. At least Dana is working out her feelings. Chris is just like, "What's up sis? How you doing?" I wouldn't be surprised if Chris shot up his school next episode. Too much bottled up inside, if you ask me. And that's more than enough talk about the Brody household.
Through two episodes of Season 3, Homeland is good television with some parts in the wrong places. The show is better when Carrie is on the job, and she's not even being let out of the gate. But Homeland has a knack for accelerating at a ridiculously fun pace, and we could be just warming up. Or we could be seeing a show that's scared to move fast and take risks after the backlash of Season 2.
– So Dana and Leo pulled out all the sheets from the laundry machines and then had sex all over them? That is just rude. Now someone has to wash those like 10 billion times to get all the teen sex off of them. Gross.
– One bit of behavior that really surprised me was Saul's early treatment of his new analyst Fara. She showed up to work in a head scarf and Saul told her, "You wear that damn thing on your head, it's a big 'Fuck you' to the people who would have been your coworkers." WHOA. That's not like the worldly Saul at all, is it? Maybe Saul is a jerk.
– I'm just going to have to trust all the paper trail stuff Fara is working on. But I like her so far. Any woman who can put a banker in his place is okay with me.
– Quinn asked Fara how long she's been working at the CIA and she said, "Since the first." Quinn asked if she meant since the beginning of the year. No, duh. First of the month. Who says "Since the first" and means the beginning of the year? C'mon, Quinn. And c'mon, Homeland writers.
– Homeland has some of the bets face actors in the business! Check out these very Homeland-y faces!
AIRED ON 12/15/2013
Season 3 : Episode 12