Homeland recap: The New Normal
In the last two weeks, Homeland has delivered back-to-back, rock-’em-sock-’em episodes that re-calibrated the show’s central story and our expectations for just how much of our own brain matter a television show could splatter on our couches. This week’s episode? Not even a nosebleed. Things downshifted significantly, allowing the characters (and the audience) to soak in their new circumstances. Brody grappled with his sudden status as a double agent. Carrie struggled to reassert herself at the CIA, and decide how far she could allow herself to trust Brody. Dana faced the lethal consequences of her hit-and-run escapade with Finn. Jessica and Mike both reassessed their feelings about Brody, and came to very different conclusions. And Chris, um, played videogames instead of brushing up on his Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Though the episode did conclude with what’s become de rigueur for this show — the I-did-not-quite-see-that-coming shocking plot turn — it drew the first half of the season to a close by behaving more like a standard serial-procedural drama than it has all year. It wasn’t exactly the best fit.
We opened with an extended sequence tracking the CIA’s surveillance of Roya Hammad, who has continued to be Homeland‘s most stubbornly enigmatic character. She’s savvy enough to try clocking anyone tailing her by checking the reflection in the glass at a bus stop, and to arrange to meet her new mysterious contact in front of a roaring fountain, stymying any attempts at recording their conversation. (She did get a wee bit of help in this regard thanks to the semi-bumbling efforts of Virgil and Max, the closest thing Homeland seems to have to doofus comic relief. Silly Max! Wake up!) But Roya’s motives, her personal wants and desires — why she is in this fight to begin with — remain a mystery beyond the vague close connection between her family and Abu Nazir’s when they left the West Bank in 1947. By the end of the episode, we learned that the man Roya met at that fountain was definitely no one to trifle with — and, by extension, neither is Roya. Given how much she has been driving the main story forward, though, I would just like to know more about her other than her taste in impeccably tailored pantsuits.
With no lead on who Roya was meeting, Carrie convinced Quinn to let her bring in Brody to help identify Roya’s new contact, which, alas, he couldn’t. (He could at least had said something like, “You know, he kinda looks like David Boreanaz’s cousin,” but then again, I wouldn’t peg Brody as a big Buffy or Angel fan, and Bones premiered while he was in the hoosegow.) It wasn’t quite clear to me precisely how much time had passed since Brody’s interrogation — at first, I thought it was the following day, given Jessica’s morning-after bedside caretaking and the “50 million” questions she had about Brody’s work with the CIA that she ultimately didn’t ask. But after Brody revealed that the Gettysburg tailor had, er, “died” while in Brody’s custody, Quinn blew up, screaming that Brody had wasted his team’s time with such vehemence that it felt like they had been working for longer than 12 hours. Or maybe Quinn’s just really taking his bad cop role to heart. He trusted Brody about as far as he could stab him, but he did trust Carrie enough to heed her instincts about asking Brody to go back to Roya to sniff out more info about their contact.
NEXT PAGE: “What is this? Sex? Understanding?”
Really, though, Quinn’s biggest concern — and Saul’s, too — was how much Carrie was willing to trust Brody, a sentiment that really got under Carrie’s skin. “[Quinn] said not to trust Brody, Saul,” Carrie told her mentor. “If you’ll remember, I’m the one who came up with that theory back when everyone else was calling him the patriot of the century.” Carrie’s also the only one who, you know, slept with Brody when everyone else was calling him the patriot of the century, so when Carrie told Saul that it was hard “having everyone assume you’re at your worst, like you can’t see straight,” it was hard to know whether by “everyone” Carrie was speaking about her CIA colleagues, or herself. She told Saul that Brody’s suicide tape had opened her eyes, but Saul’s response — “that’s all I wanted to hear” — sounded less like a man genuinely reassured and more like a man in need of just enough reassurance so he could go on denying what was staring him square in the face.
Brody, however, wasn’t interested in Carrie’s reassurance. She stole a moment with him in a car garage to arrange his meeting with Roya, telling him to tell her that he’d overheard a phone call at Carrie’s apartment during their fake affair indicating a Hezbollah agent had just entered the country. Brody wasn’t sure it would work — Roya always contacts him, not the other way around; the Hezbollah element was just a best guess — and Carrie turned on the empathy, stroking the back of his neck and taking his hand. In another show, this would’ve been the end of the scene, but thankfully, the writers are keeping Brody’s instincts as sharp as a bayonet. “You ask me to approach Roya, I say it’s a bad idea, and then you do this,” Brody said, holding up Carrie’s hand. “For what? What is this? Sex? Understanding?” Brody wasn’t going along to get along, and he wasn’t about to slip easily back into an actual affair with Carrie, either.
Since its very first episode, Homeland has kept a fundamental distance between Brody and the audience. Because of the nature of who he is, Brody has never been able to be completely honest with anyone — not Carrie, not Jessica, not Abu Nazir, not Roya — so why should he be allowed to be completely honest with us? We saw him chafing at the constant observation by the CIA, even when driving Dana to school. We saw him lie to Jessica about working with Carrie again. We saw him hesitate over giving Carrie and Quinn more info, and then lie to them about snapping the tailor’s neck. And when Brody did approach Roya, and spin Carrie’s story about the Hezbollah agent, there was a moment when Carrie wasn’t entirely sure if Brody was communicating with Roya — and neither was I. Virgil noted that Brody and Roya appeared to clam up when they saw a man on his phone within earshot, but Brody’s back was to the security camera, and we stayed with that shot until the stranger left. Could Brody have mouthed something to Roya? Well, probably not, but I appreciated the uncertainty — I like Nicholas Brody ambiguous.
When Roya and Brody did start talking again, however, Roya mentioned that she knew the FBI (with Peter Quinn) had moved into the tailor’s shop and had started nosing around. “Will they find anything?” asked Brody. “They might,” said Roya with a whiff of significance. It was enough to pique Carrie’s interest, though, and when she phoned Quinn with an update, she passed on her concern that there was something big at the tailor’s place. “What did she say?” asked Quinn. “It wasn’t what she said, exactly — it was…” Carrie trailed off. “Another one of your hunches?” asked Quinn, which Carrie took as a dig, but Quinn had learned to take seriously. He asked Danny to call in reinforcements, just to be on the safe side. Danny obliged, reporting that they were about an hour away from arriving.
NEXT PAGE: Bye bye, Danny Galvez
Too little, too late. Now, I knew something bad was going to happen. It’s Homeland. Bad things always happen. My hunch was that there was some booby-trap that Quinn was going to unwittingly cause to go kablooey — the tailor was a bomb-maker, after all. Instead, just as Quinn began eyeing a mysteriously bare and hollow-sounding wall, there was a tinkle at the front door, and seconds later, four black-clad men in SWAT-style gear unloaded a hailstorm of gunfire, mowing down every single agent in the place. Danny picked off one of the gunmen with a choice shot to the back of the head, but then he went down too. R.I.P. Danny Galvez (Hrach Titizian). I should’ve known you were a goner with your sudden spike in screen time this week. We hardly knew ye, but at least we can be pretty sure ye wasn’t the CIA mole after all. (Nope, I’m not giving that up.)
After the shooting stopped, Roya’s D.C. contact took off his helmet in a pointed close up that said Meet Your Newest Bad Guy, Everybody! He Looks Like A Swarthy Angel/Booth! The other two surviving gunmen, meanwhile, cut through the wall Quinn had been eyeing, and did indeed remove a large, heavy, black case. (What was in the case? My theory, for now: A dirty bomb.) Swarthy Angel slung their fallen comrade over his shoulder, and the three of them walked out the front door. Because the fine people of Gettsburg are just so over sounds of gunfire that they couldn’t be bothered to snap a camera-phone photo?
Quinn appeared to survive, just barely, but seven other agents went down, and Carrie had only one place to put her rage. She stormed into Brody’s congressional office and demanded to know if he knew about the ambush — without explaining that there was an ambush. She screamed at him, accused him of tipping Roya off, screamed at him some more, slapped him, and screamed at him about how he’d better not be lying to her. Brody kept his cool, looking appropriately baffled. “I don’t know what you’re saying,” he said, slowly approaching her as Claire Danes turned on the ugly cry. He took her hand, and she began sobbing into his shoulder. It was all very tender and sweet, unfolding like a lover’s spat, and suggesting the Carrie/Brody relationship had taken its first big step back to the bedroom.
Except I didn’t quite buy it. I didn’t quite buy that Brody didn’t know what Carrie was talking about, and I didn’t quite buy that Carrie would fall to pieces so quickly. It’s both a blessing and a curse of this show that I always suspect that everyone has a secondary motive, whether their primary motive is genuine or not. That may have been the point with this scene, but it felt rushed, like we needed these two crazy kids to get together already, so why not have Carrie blow up in his office about causalities with his secretary within earshot? (Seriously: What must Brody’s staff make of their boss, with his sudden absences, frequent unexplained injuries, penchant for heated fights in his office, and, oh right, being considered as Walden’s running mate?)
NEXT PAGE: Mike investigates, Dana frets
Part of my meh attitude about this episode, I think, is because its other two subplots — Mike Faber’s investigation of Tom Walker’s death, and Dana Brody’s moral crisis over the death of the woman Finn hit with his car — didn’t really work for me. Let’s start with Mike. He and Lauder paid a visit to Walker’s murder site, with Lauder typically spouting off his paranoid theories about Brody, sounding more and more like a broken record. The cop told them the single shell-casing they found was 9mm, and the CIA swept in to take over the investigation — both pieces of information Mike and Lauder would have likely known already since they’d read the official report on Walker’s death, and knew large sections of it were redacted and classified. Lauder did at least have one moment of insight: Walker wouldn’t have met with anyone in that dark, secluded space unless it was with someone he knew and trusted. Like Brody.
Next, Mike paid a visit to a contact at the CIA, but his inquiry caught Saul and Estes’ attention, and they hauled him in to Estes’ office to make clear Mike was to drop his “unauthorized, freelance investigation into a matter of national security.” (This scene, by the way, is why you hire Mandy Patinkin; he could have handled that line perfunctorily, but instead he gave it a glint of amusement, since an “unauthorized, freelance investigation into a matter of national security” is exactly what he and Carrie were doing in season 1.) Mike, naturally, dropped nothing, and instead dropped by the Brody household to take a look at Brody’s ammo count, which was missing a single, 9mm bullet.
Setting aside for a moment that Brody also killed a deer with his gun in season 1 — and so should probably be missing two bullets, not one — Mike decided that was evidence enough of Brody’s guilt, and he told Jessica. She, in turn, was so happy that Brody was finally telling her what was going on with him that she didn’t want to hear anything that could spoil it. Besides, Brody said himself he was working for the CIA. “It’s not that simple,” said Mike. “Whatever he said, there’s gotta be some kind of cover up.” And that, ladies and gentleman, gets the sad trombone award for the hoariest line of the season so far. Wah wah waaaaaaah.
Beyond the cheesy writing, Mike Faber just isn’t an interesting enough character to counteract the fact that there is nothing that he’s uncovered so far that we haven’t known for weeks, if not months, already. If he doesn’t discover some element of Walker’s death that we hadn’t known before — or cause Saul or Estes to take action more drastic than a stern talking to in the principal’s office — then I can only hope this plotline comes to as swift and sudden an end as Tom Walker did.
As for Dana Brody, she has become one of the most complicated and compelling characters on this show — more so than her mother, in fact. Actress Morgan Saylor totally nailed her scenes; when Dana visited the hospital ICU and spoke with the hit-and-run victim’s daughter, she was at once vulnerable and sickened and even a little numb. Finn’s warning that he would rather die than have his dad discover his crime certainly raised the stakes, too. But, in the end, it all still felt like a really well-acted ABC afterschool special: My Boyfriend Ran Over A Woman, and His Dad’s the Vice President.
In the coming weeks, both these storylines could end up leading right back to the main story. Finn’s crime could be just as damaging to Brody’s career as the vice president’s, for one thing, and as Carrie and Brody grow closer, so could Jessica and Mike. But now that Homeland has demonstrated its ability to keep the story moving at a break-neck pace, I’m conditioned to expect these plot strands to tangle together much, much sooner rather than later.
Your turn! What did you make of “A Gettysburg Address”? Were you as ambivalent about this episode as I was? Do you think Brody knew about the ambush? Will you miss Danny? What do you think was in that giant case?