Review: ‘Homeland’ – ‘Big Man in Tehran’

Senior Television Writer
12.08.13 108 Comments

A quick review of tonight’s “Homeland” coming up just as soon as I ask if that’s a head scarf you’re wearing…

Plot-wise, very little happened in last week’s episode, which covered maybe a few hours in Brody’s attempt to cross the border into Iran, but which did so in tense and efficient style. An awful lot, meanwhile, happens in “Big Man in Tehran” – among other things, it’s the second episode in the last three to feature a time jump midway through – and while some individual pieces of it work (mostly, again, the suspense scenes where Brody and/or Carrie didn’t know what was about to happen, plus anything involving Saul cursing out other individuals), on the whole I was left wishing the creative team had compressed some earlier episodes of the season so the events of this one could have been spread out over a couple of hours.

In particular, I would have liked to actually see some of the events of the six days we skipped over – including Brody’s rise to Iranian celebrity (and American embarrassment) and Brody’s refusal to be exfiltrated by Saul – rather than simply hearing about them. After a couple of seasons where Brody has for the most part been an open book to the audience, here we finally had a scenario where his behavior could have been harder to read, and where we would have been reasonably guessing as much as Carrie and Saul – in other words, back in the emotional position where the series functioned best back in season 1. Instead, his mysterious motivation goes on for less than half an episode before he brains Akbari(*) with an ashtray and grabs a pillow to finish the job. Like the show burning through the “the CIA uses Carrie as bait to turn Brody” story arc last season in essentially an episode, this feels like “Homeland” having bad pacing issues and/or priorities.

(*) Okay, Vice-President Walden being alone in a room with Brody without bodyguards being present isn’t wildly unreasonable, but I’m having a much harder time with the ultra-paranoid head of the Republican Guard doing the same. Also, the show hasn’t done the best of jobs explaining who in both the Iranian government and Abu Nazir’s organization (including his widow) knew Brody was a patsy and who believed him to be the actual Langley bomber.   

In Akbari’s office, Brody talks about wanting to redeem himself, but we’re at a point in the series where his redemption is ultimately less important than Carrie’s. Whether he lives or dies in next week’s finale – and I don’t even want to think about the contortions that would be necessary to keep him alive – his usefulness to the show is at an end. Story-wise, there’s nowhere for a spy drama to go with a man this (in)famous, but the series clearly still fancies Carrie as the heroine here. So the fact that she’s ultimately right about Brody is a good thing, in that it’s the only way for her to be this obnoxiously insubordinate without getting fired, and/or without making Saul look like an even bigger fool than he sometimes does for putting up with her. That said, there are ways to show her disagreeing with Saul and company without being as insufferable as she’s been for pretty much the entire season. She has this blind spot about Brody, and “Homeland” has it as well, and we’ve now built up to this moment where we’re meant to forgive all of Carrie’s trespasses because the blind spot is revealed to be correct intuition. The problem is that she’s been so grating for so long that her being correct in this situation doesn’t feel like a victory – at least not one I’m eager to cheer.

Showtime won’t be making the finale available in advance, just as they didn’t screen this one for critics, meaning my review of that episode will either be late Sunday night or sometime the following morning.

As for “Big Man in Tehran,” what did everybody else think?

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