‘Homeland’ – ‘Semper I’: You’re in the picture

10.24.11 6 years ago 103 Comments


A review of last night’s “Homeland” coming up just as soon as I put out some soap flakes…

“I can’t help but feel I’m missing something.” -Carrie
“You’re missing him.” -Saul

“Homeland” spent large chunks of its first three episodes on Carrie simply sitting on her couch, watching Brody and his family go about their fractured but (so far) non-terrorist lives. And those scenes were more effective than you might expect them to be, thanks to Claire Danes and various choices in editing and direction. But we knew that wasn’t going to stay the statuos quo all season, not only because the warrant Saul blackmailed the judge into signing was only for a month(*), but because not even the slowest of slow-burning dramas (say, “Rubicon”) would spend the majority of a season on having one main character watch the other main character on TV.

(*) Having spent so many years working on “24” with its very specific format and timeline, I imagine Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa needed a few minutes to process the idea that they could let three weeks lapse between episodes. Though every minute of Jack Bauer’s life was interesting, not everyone’s schedule is quite so packed.

We see at the start of “Semper I” that Carrie has gotten so used to watching Brody that she knows his routine better than he does, and takes pleasure in pointing out where he left his tie in the same way a reality show or horror movie viewer might feel smug when one of the main characters does something stupid. But it’s become an addiction for her, and even though she’s probably right about Brody, her issue through most of this episode seems to mainly be about not having those big monitors to come home to at night. She’s become so hooked on watching this man that she has to start doing it from her car, and then finally contrive another meeting with him. When watching the show isn’t an option anymore, she has to make herself a part of it.

That meeting, like some of the earlier scenes with David and her new partner Galvez, shows us a very different side of Carrie than we’ve seen so far. To this point, she’s been a brittle, clearly disturbed person, one who has trouble even making small talk when she has important missions on her mind. But this week, we see she can have conversations, and flirt, and seem much healthier than she really is, and it wasn’t hard to understand why Brody would be so drawn to her by the end of their parking lot conversation.

We get another side of Sgt. Brody, for that matter. He’s been home a month now, and he’s losing patience with the secret he’s realized his adulterous wife and best friend are keeping. Until now, he’s seemed relatively normal in front of the family in the daytime; it’s only been in the bedroom at night where Jessica has seen what’s truly become of her husband. This week, though, his temper is shorter, his barbs more pointed, his sense of appropriate social behavior clearly skewed.

And yet… he goes to the meeting. I figured for sure that he was either going to go walk around a park or a mall and lie to Jessica about going – or even that we might get a more overt hint about what his plan is – but he does, indeed, go to the support group, seems to mean it sincerely, and only gets drawn away (maybe temporarily, maybe for the night) by the surprise appearance of the magnetic, mysterious woman from his CIA debrief. As angry as he is with Jess, and as fractured as his mind is with all the hallucinations, he’s still trying, still wants to see this marriage healed.

Then again, by episode’s end, he sure looked like a man who would be very happy to spend more time in the company of Carrie Mathison. And based on the dramatic sparks between Claire Danes and Damian Lewis in that scene, I sure want to see more of that, too.

Some other thoughts:

• The review screeners of the first three episodes didn’t have the main title sequence, so this was the first time I’d seen them. And… yikes. Conceptually, I think there might be something there (Carrie grows up in one era of geo-politics but has to operate in another, a weird collage of images and sounds from the series suggesting her mental state), but none of it works together. There’s a way to be thematically dissonant and yet artistically cohesive, and this isn’t that.

• Is someone from Nazir’s side watching the professor? That’s the only way they could’ve warned his wife about the tail. I do wonder why they were so quick to cross him off the list, given how detail-focused Carrie is and how weird it was that he would have taken a random detour through a neighborhood nowhere near his listed apartment without stopping.

• Speaking of multiple layers of surveillance, David understandably suspects Carrie has something cooking on the side, and I’ll be curious to see how much Carrie lets Galvez see, and/or where Galvez ultimately chooses to place his loyalty.

What did everybody else think?

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