A review of tonight’s “Homeland” coming up just as soon as it’s like the starship Enterprise in here…
“You think I really care what happens to me anymore?” -Brody
Abu Nazir spent eight years breaking Nicholas Brody down and putting him back together as someone else. Carrie Mathison spent a day trying to reverse that process. But at this point, it feels more like a Humpty Dumpty situation. All of Nazir’s horses and all of Carrie’s love can never really put Brody together again. And “I’ll Fly Away” deals with the realities of that. Even if he’s 100 percent on the CIA’s side now – which he isn’t, and the arrival of a clean-shaven Nazir in the episode’s closing scene should complicate his loyalties further – he’s not in the kind of emotional shape to be an effective triple-agent. He’s been lying for too long, to too many people, and he’s started to see the fallout of those lies in the way that his wife and daughter look at him.(*) This is, as Carrie and Quinn and Saul have said all along, a desperation play, and one that starts to badly unravel throughout this episode.
(*) Chris, though? He’s too busy with karate lessons to notice, I’m guessing.
While I would still put “Q and A” as Damian Lewis’ obvious Emmy submission episode, he’s pretty great in this one, as well. Claire Danes is usually the one asked to play the physicality of an emotional break-down, but here Lewis gets to show that he can play that game just as well. Brody is shaky, veering between catatonia and explosive rage, curling back up in corners of the house the way he did right after he came home from captivity, and Lewis captures every bit of the wreck his character has become. Even though he says the right words to Roya on the phone later, it’s hard to imagine her trusting him after seeing how he carried himself during their meeting on the park bench.
And Brody’s meltdown cues us up for another Carrie/Brody dysfunctional romantic getaway. This one’s even more twisted than some of the previous ones, because Carrie knows that she’s taken him to a location that Saul will find eventually, and that there’s a good chance their sex might be observed or recorded(**). But like their encounter last week in the clearing, this is a situation where the line between Carrie the CIA handler and Carrie the woman in love with Brody is so blurry that it might as well not exist. She has to pull him out of this spiral for the sake of the operation, but she also can’t resist an opportunity to be with this man who’s been her obsession for so long. Their every encounter at this point works on both levels, and though you can question the percentages in any given scene, both motives are always at play, which adds so much more tension and intrigue to their time together.
(**) Poor Saul. You can see on Mandy Patinkin’s face how little Saul wants to hear his protege doing what she’s doing in that room.
Once Carrie emotionally duct tapes Brody back into someone functional, “I’ll Fly Away” becomes a more straight-forward thriller. And, as has been the case for “Homeland” this season, the plot-y parts tend to be more questionable than the character beats. There’s certainly an argument to be made for Quinn not sending in the troops the second Max gets the picture of the head ninja meeting with Roya and Brody – Nazir is planning a major attack on America, and if these two aren’t essential players, then they’ve blown everything – but all I could think throughout this sequence was, “Go grab them, you idiot! This guy led an attack that killed six government agents, and you may never have a better opportunity to grab two of the leaders of this cell!” Again, you can probably justify it, but in the moment it felt more like an excuse to put Brody back in a room with Nazir rather than something Quinn might do.
And yet… I want to see Brody and Nazir together again. I want to see what happens when this version of Brody comes face-to-face with the man who transformed his life, for good or for ill. I want to see if Nazir is able to undo Carrie’s reprogramming as quickly as Carrie did his, assuming he even believes that Brody has been turned again. (And if he doesn’t, I want to see if just being in Nazir’s orbit is enough to change Brody’s loyalties.) So I’ll forgive a somewhat shaky plot decision if the character place it takes us to is good enough. And we’ll see what shape the broken man is in next week, now that Humpty Dumpty is back with the one who pushed him off the wall.
Some other thoughts:
* Brody walking around with his hands tucked deep into his pants pocket did a nice job of evoking how Dana puts her hands in her sleeves whenever she’s nervous (which is to say, all the time). Thanks, “SNL”! (On the plus side, while I noticed Damian Lewis not opening his mouth very much, it didn’t really distract me.)
* The Dana subplot was more interesting for reconnecting her with Mike – who, chronologically, was a father figure to her about as long as Brody – than in sending her to confess to the dead woman’s daughter. To Dana, it’s a shock that the Waldens have paid off the family to remain silent, but it’s one of those things that was obviously going to happen based on how the Waldens acted last week. I’m wondering if there’s more to this story, or if it was just there to set up Brody’s meltdown, which in turn put him back with Nazir. Still, good work from Morgan Saylor, and from Morena Baccarin in the scene where Dana tells her mom that she saw Carrie with Brody.
* Why is Brody’s car not also wired for sound? Given his importance to the operation, why aren’t there 17 surveillance redundancies to every aspect of his life?
Finally, a scheduling note: the later we get in the season, the longer it’s taking the episodes to be completed (where a lot of HBO seasons are in the can before a single episode airs, “Homeland” is still in production). So while I’ll see next week’s episode in advance, it may not be before the holiday, which means I may not have time to have a review done for Sunday night at 11. I’ll do my best, but no promises.
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org