Review: ‘Homeland’ – ‘Tower of David’

A review of tonight’s “Homeland” coming up just as soon as I build a house out of popsicle sticks…

Nicholas Brody belatedly enters season 3 of “Homeland” at the start of “Tower of David,” and for a while, it seems as if the episode(*) will be entirely Brody-centric. Carrie doesn’t appear until the 31-minute mark, and though she’s in a good chunk of the episode’s second half, she’s the only other regular character we see. No Saul, no Quinn and no – to my relief and, I imagine, most of yours – Dana, Chris or Jessica.

(*) The script is credited to both the late Henry Bromell and his son William, who helped finish the episode after his father’s untimely passing.

And though I can imagine the power of doing an episode that only featured Brody through his adventures in Venezuela, his story and Carrie’s wind up working well in parallel, not only because they’re both prisoners of a sort, leaning on drugs (heroin for him, lithium for her) to feel better (or simply feel less) about their circumstances, but because they’ve both seemingly reached the end of their respective stories.

Brody is the world’s most wanted terrorist, and is at the final stop of his fugitive underground railroad, being kept in a cell and offered heroin to keep him quiet. He has nowhere to go, and nothing to do. Carrie’s position is slightly better, in that she has outside parties trying to liberate her from the hospital to serve their own ends, but her continued loyalty to Saul boxes her in: she won’t work for anyone else, and he very understandably doesn’t trust her to work for him.

In a way, the episode feels like a commentary on where “Homeland” has taken its two leads, and the very difficult spot both they and the show have landed in as a result. The writers could have had Brody’s suicide vest detonate back in “Marine One,” but they chose not to. They could have killed or arrested him at several points in season 2, and didn’t. They’ve pushed Carrie through so many cycles of mania, of going on and off her meds, of making bad decisions based entirely on her tunnel vision about Brody, that it’s a credit to Claire Danes’ performance that I find her sympathetic at all at this point. They are the foundation of “Homeland” – at least the foundation as Alex Gansa and the rest of the creative team see it, as opposed to a series where Carrie and Saul deal with an ever-changing collection of threats – and the foundation feels incredibly shaky at the moment, especially by the end of “Tower of David.”

I enjoyed this episode much more than the season’s first two installments. The overwhelming focus on Brody gave the hour more coherence (and kept us from spending more time on Dana’s love life), and Damian Lewis was terrific at showing Brody’s physical and emotional pain as he dealt with unofficial captivity. (I also thought Erik Todd Dellums – like Henry Bromell, a “Homicide” alum – was excellent as the pedophile doctor full of contempt for Brody the cockroach.) There were some clumsy bits, like Esme’s growing crush on Brody (would she not have asked him to take her with him well before they got to the mosque, or even before they left the Tower?), but overall it was a blunt, uncompromising look at what Brody’s options in life would be at this point.

And yet his situation is so hopeless, and Carrie’s only slightly better, that it’s hard to look at the episode and not wonder what the heck the future of “Homeland” looks like. I don’t imagine that Carrie is going to spend the entire season in the psych ward, nor do I expect Brody to stay trapped in his Tower cell, but can the show plausibly put either, let alone both, of these characters back in play at this point? Is there a chance that they’re about to really mess with us, ditch both of their Emmy winners and turn things over entirely to Mandy Patinkin, Rupert Friend and F. Murray Abraham?

I can’t imagine the latter is the plan, but the very things that made “Tower of David” as effective as it was will make it that much harder for the show to return to Carrie and/or Brody as its focus.

After I wrote this review, I spoke briefly with Damian Lewis about his season 3 debut and where he sees Brody’s position on the show. In the meantime, what did everybody else think of “Tower of David”?