Review: ‘Homeland’ – ‘One Last Time’

A review of tonight’s “Homeland” coming up just as soon as I can spell the centerfold’s name…

“Please. No more. I’m done.” -Brody

“One Last Time” is, like much of season 3, utterly nonsensical. If you think about Saul’s insane plan to stage a secret coup of Iran, about Carrie’s ability to take the world’s most wanted terrorist on two separate field trips to see (and then talk to) his daughter, about the mechanics of Alain Bernard seducing Saul Berenson’s estranged wife so far in the past, about Brody’s ability to go from heroin-addled husk to useful fighting man in the space of a few weeks, it doesn’t make a damn lick of sense. 

Yet despite that, and despite the ongoing trainwreck that is the show’s writing for Carrie, I enjoyed it more than a lot of this season.

It’s a big episode in a number of ways. It’s the first time Carrie and Brody have been together all season, the first time Brody’s seen Dana all season (and perhaps the last time he’ll ever see her, whether he survives this crazy mission or not), the episode that lays out exactly what Saul’s scheme entails, and the episode clearly laying out the season’s endgame.

It’s also the longest episode since the season premiere; where most of this season’s installments have clocked in under 50 minutes (last week’s was less than 47), “One Last Time” ran practically a full hour. I’m not a believer that more automatically equals better, and am often grateful when premium cable dramas don’t insist on filling all 60 minutes just because they can, but this one made good use of the added time, allowing us to get a better sense of Brody’s struggle with kicking heroin, and then the attempts to physically and psychologically rebuild him as something resembling the Marine he used to be. It’s an absurd compression of time – Nazir spent years tearing Brody down and building him back up – but every character on the show is aware that they’re doing this much more quickly than they should be (just as they were last season in “Q and A”), and you could at least feel the passage of this short period of time, even before the “Sixteen Days Later” subtitle.

And it helps an awful lot to have an actor like Damian Lewis to play Brody’s pain and recovery. Lewis has, at times, played the role a little too big (most notably when Skyping with Nazir and assassinating the vice-president – which somehow has not been discussed of late by anyone with or around Brody – last season), but he was dialed in just right throughout this one, whether Brody was dealing with the pain of going cold turkey, or the hallucinations(*) brought on by Dar Adal’s illegal wonder drug, or simply trying to tune out Saul and Carrie. For the most part, it’s clear the creative team (or Showtime executives, or both) made a big mistake not killing Brody two years ago, but from time to time, Lewis is so good you can at least understand the reluctance to sever his employment. Brody’s return to America also breathed new life into Dana, who’s always been a vastly more interesting character when dealing with her father than on her own.

(*) Jeffrey Reiner, directing his first episode of the series, has a kinetic visual style that worked well for an episode where Brody spent the first half being wildly disoriented.

After I watched “Tower of David,” I felt like I’d be fine never seeing Brody again, but “One Last Time” did a good enough job of setting him up for this final, almost certainly suicidal, mission, that I accepted his return to the center of the narrative. Again, the plot makes no damn sense at all, but I think the “Homeland” logic ship sailed a long time ago, and I viewed the this week’s gibberish as the cost of getting to watch Lewis do what he does so well.

Of course, at the end of that episode I was also wondering if I ever wanted to see Carrie be a major part of the show, and “One Last Time” was much less effective at changing my mind on that score. Carrie remains so blinded by her feelings for Brody, and by her general sense of victimhood, that I’ve reached the point where everything she does initially strikes me as stupid and self-destructive, even if at times (like taking Brody to talk to Dana) it doesn’t turn into a disaster. At least the other characters repeatedly acknowledge what a disaster she is – I particularly liked Saul responding to one of her indignant queries with, “You know, the assumptions behind that question are so misguided, it frightens me.” – but I can’t imagine the series continuing for years with this person as its central character. It wasn’t a good thing when so many viewers were happy to see her get shot last week, and though she helps get Brody back on track – and resists the urge to tell him she’s carrying his baby – I don’t like having to grit my teeth every time the heroine appears on screen, bracing myself for whatever dumb thing she will do or say next.

But the Brody material was strong enough to make “One Last Time” one of the more satisfying hours of season 3, and the first one in a while that has me interested in seeing what comes next, even if I believe none of it whatsoever.

What did everybody else think?

NOTE: Due to the Thanksgiving holiday and the recent delivery schedule for screeners, I don’t know if I’ll get to see the next one in advance, in which case there won’t be a review until sometime next Monday.