Review: ‘Homeland’ – ‘Still Positive’

A review of tonight’s “Homeland” coming up just as soon as I take a taxi to a CIA safe house…

“Still Positive” moves various plot points along (the plan to turn Javadi into an asset, Lockhart’s preparation to take over the CIA) and appears to move Dana out of the story altogether – though I wouldn’t be celebrating that one just yet, folks, given the creative team’s love of the character and actress – but I want to talk about two specific parts of it.

First is the Carrie pregnancy test, which I’m going to assume involves Brody until we’re told otherwise. (It’s been three or four months since she last saw him, and while she could be showing at that stage – especially during last week’s strip search – TV fudges pregnancy details all the time.) The idea of Carrie being pregnant could be deployed terrifically down the road, or it could be another mess, but what drove me nuts was that shot of a drawer full of similarly positive pregnancy tests, which Carrie would have had to have taken in the days and weeks prior to her involuntary commitment – meaning she knew she was pregnant while she was letting herself be made bait in Saul’s plan, and also while she was binge drinking, having casual sex and doing all the other usual self-destructive Carrie Matheson things. (And also while being given lithium under the care of doctors who would presumably have given her a pregnancy test, no?) In other words, it’s yet another case of information that drastically alters how we should look at earlier scenes being held from us only for the sake of a surprise. Again, bad storytelling, and if this is now going to be the show’s stock in trade, my hopes for a creative rebound plummet.

The second is Javadi murdering his ex-wife and daughter-in-law. It’s not so much that he does it – proving just how misplaced Saul’s confidence in understanding the man was, and also making this makeshift team look like rank amateurs for not bothering to check the whereabouts of Javadi’s family (Saul seems to know that the ex-wife shouldn’t have been there, but had no lock on the son, grandson or daughter-in-law) – but the way it’s presented. Last year, Abu Nazir randomly turned into a slasher movie villain, terrorizing Carrie through the dark tunnels under the warehouse, in a gambit that may have generated temporary suspense but damaged a lot of the work the show had put in to establish Nazir as a three-dimensional villain. Here, the show wallows in the brutality and misery Javadi is bringing, in a way that wasn’t necessary just to illustrate Saul’s miscalculation and the huge cost of it. The build-up for Javadi hasn’t been nearly as strong as it was for Nazir to begin with, and now I’m much less interested in the man than I was before he went on his rampage, leaving the crying baby behind.(*)

(*) Also, given the show’s linkage with “Dexter” (first as Sunday partners, now with the use of the actor who played Zach Hamilton to be Leo), I imagine I’m not the only one who pictured that poor kid growing up to be a vigilante serial killer. “Born in blood!” 

Mandy Patinkin remains fantastic – just watch how barely he contains Saul’s heartbreak in the scene with Mira, or his rage in the first confrontation with Javadi – but this was a fairly bumpy hour as a whole.

What did everybody else think?