A quick review of tonight’s “Homeland” coming up just as soon as I offer you a stick of my lucky gum…
“Good Night” was one of the most overtly “24”-ish episodes “Homeland” has ever done – and I mean that in a good way. Though I don’t think it takes place in real time (at minimum, there has to be a gap for Lockhart and the general from JSOC to get to Langley), it feels like it could, and events are largely confined to two locales: Brody and his military escorts moving along the Iraq/Iran border, and Saul, Carrie and Quinn watching them from CIA headquarters. The border crossing isn’t remotely as simple or bloodless as planned, and it will lead to complications – including Carrie, rather than a bunch of bearded soldiers we don’t know very well, now being crucial to Brody’s exfiltration – but the operation achieves the most important goals of getting Brody into Iran and under the protection of Javadi.
And by keeping things so simple, even in the midst of Saul’s insane plan to use the world’s most famous terrorist to stage a secret coup of Iran, “Good Night” is a very effective hour of television. It’s not trying to spin 17 plates at once, not trying to convince us that Carrie shouldn’t be barred from all national intelligence work(*), not paying a visit to Dana’s job at the motel, not trying to do any of the many things “Homeland” has struggled with for a while. Even Lockhart isn’t there as a schemer attempting to undermine Saul, but a pragmatist who recognizes that their best interests are for the moment aligned. It’s a basic action and suspense story, and apart from the occasional difficulty presenting action under cover of darkness, it works very well.
(*) There’s a brief moment of that, when Carrie starts cursing out the White House chief of staff (and the way Mandy Patinkin played Saul’s quiet but enraged response to that was fantastic), but it was brief, and was compensated for by Carrie’s later interactions with Brody, and then with the way she manipulated an understandably reluctant Fara into using her uncle for the mission. Carrie can and should be a prickly character; the problem is that way too often, the show depicts her as someone who would be fired after every minute of every day she works for the CIA. Giving us her strengths alongside her craziness is badly needed, and we at least got some of it here.
And the mayhem led to two very strong Carrie/Brody moments: first Carrie listening to Brody take control of the situation after his escort’s leg is blown off, then Carrie trying to talk Brody out of crossing the border on his own. The first scene was a reminder of what she sees in Brody beyond her own emotional ties to his case, and also a good payoff to all the talk last week (and some previously) about Brody wanting to feel like a Marine again. The latter, meanwhile, seemed like it was going to play into the delusions that Carrie, Brody and “Homeland” itself sometimes have about their relationship, but the way Claire Danes played Carrie’s protests had such a hard, effective edge that Brody’s request comes across exactly as she describes it: “It’s a fantasy.”
Now, we’ll see what kind of wacky shenanigans Brody, Carrie, Quinn and the others get up to in the season’s final two episodes, but “Good Night” was a fine example of the power of keeping it simple, especially for something as potentially stupid as this season’s major arc.
What did everybody else think?