Monday, October 22, 2012

"Homeland," Season 2, Episode 4

Posted By on Mon, Oct 22, 2012 at 10:28 AM

SO, ARE YOU A DOUBLE AGENT HERE OFTEN? Claire Danes and Damian Lewis
  • Coutesy of Showtime
  • SO, ARE YOU A DOUBLE AGENT HERE OFTEN? Claire Danes and Damian Lewis
“Homeland” creators/showrunners Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa don’t lack for confidence. Rather than tease out potential storylines as long as possible, the way one expects of one-hour dramas, they’re not wasting time hanging around. “Homeland’s” second season has been moving at a remarkable clip, with surprisingly few twists or “24”-style delaying tactics. Will they write themselves into a corner regarding plausible outcomes for Brody’s arc? Stay tuned!

“I am your father. Do not make me destroy you,” says a boy wearing a Darth Vader outfit when Saul visits Estes’s house at the beginning of the episode. The irony is that avuncular Saul is the father figure, with news that could represent the destruction of Estes’s career if handled the wrong way. Saul asks Estes if he remembers last year’s assassination attempt, when Walden fled to the secure location with his cronies. Estes: “Remember? I was one of the cronies.” Saul plays him Brody’s confession, which kind of freaks him out.

On Estes’ patio, they decide to put Brody under double-secret surveillance without notifying the higher-ups, like Vice President Walden. “No one knows shit but you and me.” “And Carrie,” Estes says, but it’s not clear whether he’s confirming that she already knows, or urging that she be kept in the loop. Estes insists that the mission be run by one of his loyalists. I know Carrie couldn’t be expected to do it, but why not Saul? Or Estes himself, since he’s worried that his support of secret terrorist Brody could cost his career?

At the Congressman’s house, Brody tries to make amends for killing a tailor missing the fundraiser, but Jessica tells him to either say something real or pack a bag. While he drives Dana to school, she notices his duffel in the back seat and says “Well, that’s a good sign.” Dana has one thing in common with her mother in that she wants more out of her romantic partner. Her boyfriend Xander merely asks, “Do you want to get stoned?” but her study-buddy Finn Walden, as the vice president’s son, can take her on a private tour of the Washington monument as it’s under construction. Finn’s intentions appear to be honorable — at least, he says he wants to be her boyfriend. Dana isn’t sure what to do about Xander: “I don’t want to be a dick.” They kiss, the reflections of their faces floating creepily over the Washington Mall lit up at night.

Carrie reports to the off-campus base of operation for Operation Manchurian Candidate, or whatever they call the Brody surveillance detail. She’s pleased to be reunited with Virgil and his brother Max, but unpleasantly surprised to meet Quinn (The Young Victoria’s Rupert Friend), an analyst with a specialty in Venezuela and a tetchy personality that throws Carrie off balance. “So you were fuckin’ him, huh?” he asks at one point, understandably raising Carrie’s hackles. “Homeland” implies that Quinn could be an ally to Carrie or an adversary. I wonder if he’s related to Quinn the Miami homicide detective on “Dexter.”

Rather than simply arrest Brody, they decide to have him “accidentally” run into Carrie at Langley, with the hopes that he’ll believe the CIA has come around to her theory, and drive him to his terrorist handlers. (It’s like the saying that the best cover story cuts as close to the truth as possible.) Brody drops off his car at a cleaner to remove the smell of the tailor’s cigarettes, and takes a cab to Langley: ironically, both the car cleaner and the cabbie appear to be Muslims, making them suspects in the terror cell. Finally, they run into each other outside the building, initially separated by a grate-like metal sculpture and their interaction is... surprisingly friendly. They joke a little about the awkward circumstances — what’s an accusation of treason between friends? — that forced them apart. They part shaking hands, and saying “Peace?” The question is, how much is Carrie playing a role with Brody to manipulate him?

There’s a subplot with Lauter, the crazy Kevin Bacon-looking guy on crutches, showing up at the Brodys. Jessica can’t reach Brody so she calls her old flame Mike, who helps drag Lauter away after he zonks out at the Brody kitchen table, a can of Pepsi next to him. Lauter keeps espousing a theory that Brody has inside knowledge of Walker’s conspiracy, and Mike starts to consider it. The prospect that Mike and Jessica will hook up again strikes more sparks than Mike and Lauter’s theorizing, though

The CIA group — I’ll call them Team Quinn, since he’s the theoretical boss — starts assembling one of those bulletin boards of suspects and evidence. They keep track of all the people Brody encounters in a given day, but can’t investigate all of them, so Saul suggests they emphasize the ones who look like Muslims. “Racial profiling?” “Factual profiling.” They chose the car detailer, the cab driver and Roya Hammad, unaware that they actually filmed Brody and Roya talking about Carrie, with Roya suggesting that Brody cozy up to her to find out what she knows. Oh, and Estes apologizes to the now-vindicated Carrie, admitting that it’s inadequate.

Kicked out of his house, Brody checks into a nice hotel: I can’t tell you how much I wanted to see Virgil under cover, dressed in an old-school bellhop uniform. Virgil identifies Brody in an empty hotel bar, so Carrie and Quinn watch him on the bar’s security camera. Brody picks up his phone, they pray for him to call his handlers and instead... Carrie’s phone starts ringing. Brody asks her for a drink and Carrie agrees, making a quick interrogation strategy with Quinn before she leaves. They have a friendly visit at the bar, with Carrie hinting that she’s getting closer to “My goal,” i.e., Abu Nazir (or maybe Brody himself). Brody asks about her ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), throwing her off her stride and making her feel self-conscious.

Carrie thinks he’s seen through her ruse — “He made me” but is that what really happened? She calls the others with orders (suggestions?) that they bring Brody in, then goes to his room like a perfect coquette. They flirt, then she drops the bomb that she knows about his intentions as a potential terrorist. Lewis makes another one of those stricken, barely-controlled faces and approaches her menacingly. The cavalry bursts in. Brody: “I liked you.” Carrie: “I loved you!” They arrest Brody, throw a terrifying hood over his head and drag him away as the camera backs up on a distraught Carrie, looking alone and devastated in the hotel room.

So how will Brody wriggle out of this one? Will Team Quinn "turn" him against Abu Nazir?

One of the fascinating things about “Homeland” is the complexity of Brody and Carrie’s feelings for each other. Danes and Lewis completely sell the idea that these two feel a strong personal connection, conveying a sense of ease with each other, however briefly, that we never see in scenes with other characters. When Carrie explodes at him in the episode finale, she’s not only contemptuous of a traitor, and not just outraged at how he discredited her, she’s also a spurned lover. There’s a deeply personal element to all of their interactions, beyond espionage story requirements.

I was amused when Dana needled the vice president over getting “gentleman’s C” grades. At the same time, I can’t see James Sheridan without remembering him playing Randall Flagg, the de facto Antichrist, in the miniseries of Stephen King’s The Stand.

Speaking of which, Estes worries that Walden will fire him if and when the truth about Brody comes out. I know Walden is presented as having a Dick Cheney-like level of control and influence in this particular executive branch, but can a vice president do that?

While Finn seems nice, the fact that he texts Dana “Good night, Sally,” referring to her as Thomas Jefferson’s slave/baby momma Sally Hemings, has a highly unsavory undertone. Dana doesn’t call him on it, though, and texts back “Night, TJ.” I’m not crazy about the implications of those pet names.

Speaking of which, “New Car Smell,” like the Gettysburg episode, features plenty of American iconography and historical factoids. The Washington monument seems present more as a phallic symbol and reflection of the Walden family’s political power than a source of historical resonance.

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