Chill, people. Granted, "Homeland's" recent episodes have marked a puzzling change of direction to a more conventional TV espionage series, compared to the show's first season and a half. My fellow critics seem all too eager to throw out the baby with the bathwater, as if they've become clones of Ratatouille's Anton Ego, demanding perfection at every turn. I don't want to knock high standards, and a show like "Breaking Bad" certainly sustains a level of excellence, but most serial dramas have creative peaks and valleys.
Last week's episode ended with Carrie stepping from a darkened corridor into a room. This week we see that she finds ... more darkened corridors, but she glimpses a distant figure in the dimness and hears distant footsteps. With blood over nearly half of her face, she goes in the direction of the person she assumes is Nazir, only to nearly get shot by stepping out of the building in front of every SWAT team in the vicinity. But where did Nazir go? Quinn approaches to help her out and asks how she got away from the world's deadliest terrorist. Thinking of Brody's Faustian bargain, Carrie none-too-convincingly says "I escaped. I was lucky. I'm freezing!"
Back at the safe house, Brody has a quiet talk with Jessica, who says "It's all changed, isn't it, now that Bill's gone." (It's as if she's speaking for the episode promo.) "I think this is maybe a time to stop and think," she goes on, and Brody seems to be groping for a reply when his cell phone goes off: saved by the hum. Carrie calls to compare notes about the assassination of the vice president and all, and Brody says, "All that matters to me right now is that you're safe." Wearing The Nightie of Disappointment, Jessica stares at Brody on the balcony.
Over at the CIA headquarters, Saul remains in a time-out, but receives a familiar visitor: Larry the polygraph tech played by terrific character actor James Urbaniak. Larry speaks philosophically about the polygraph tests as an occupational hazard for intelligence employees, but adds that he's not asking the questions. Instead Saul gets grilled by a big mean-faced guy who asks "Are you sometimes called 'The Bear?'" which is, fortunately, false, and "Did you provide the weapon Eileen Morgan used to kill herself?" which is technically true, although we don't see Saul answer the question. Saul points out that he's a stumbling block of a plan to assassinate a United States congressman.
At Azir's evil abandoned factory, Carrie can't figure out how Nazir got away, and seems obsessed to the point where one wonders if she's having a relapse. They've had a leak at the CIA: did an inside man get Nazir out? They discover that Danny Galvez just left the scene and wonder if he's the mole. Carrie thinks the timing lines up and besides, "He is a Muslim." Carrie Mathison - profiling? Say it isn't so! Danny gets pulled over at a roadblock and shoved to the ground, but he's innocent and bleeding. He was only going back to the hospital to get his stitches closed. Of course, the shot, bleeding guy is the last one we'd suspect ...
The next morning at the safe house, Brody watches his son eat cereal in a loving/creepy way, until Dana bitches about a lack of milk. Jessica enters with a fresh carton, but Dana exclaims, "Oh fuck! This is leaking! It's disgusting! Go live with the crazy woman! We're better off with Mike!" before anyone can make a "Don't swear crying over spilt milk" joke. Dana may be a petulant teenager, but at least she says what everybody's thinking.
Back at the CIA HQ, Estes and Quinn plan to interrogate Roya and want to keep Carrie away from her, after what she's just pulled. (You know, survive a kidnapping from the world's most wanted man and reveal his most recent location. What a loser!) Carrie goes to the ladies' room, washes off her blood and contemplates her battered face and handcuffed-bruised wrists. She gets an idea and enters Roya's interrogation room, where she shows her injuries and tries to appeal to Roya's gentler nature. "Have you ever had someone who takes over your life?" Roya asks. Carrie agrees, clearly thinking of Brody. "Well, I'd never be that stupid," Roya replies. Carrie: Pwned! Roya raves in a blood thirsty fashion until Quinn hustles Carrie out of there.
Quinn sends Carrie home and at an intersection she takes a pill and thinks, even after the light changes. She calls Quinn and reveals her conviction that Nazir never left the shadow factory, but still be there in hiding. She returns to site and stops the remaining tactical team from leaving.
Saul's mean interrogator gives Estes his report, which contains enough scandalous material on Saul to ruin his career. The guy mentions Saul's assassination theory and adds, "The machine says he was telling the truth." Estes goes to Saul and waves the file around, crowing that he can destroy Saul's life. Saul mentions Brody: "We have a deal with him," and Estes sniffs, "We don't make deals with terrorists." Like most white-collar bad guys, Estes never makes a particularly interesting villain.
Carrie and a SWAT guy search the tunnels and discover a hidden door. Carrie, who doesn't appear to be armed or wearing body armor (couldn't she borrow a gun and a vest), lets officer enter a bolt-hole with signs of recent occupation. He calls for back-up - "Bravo, come in!" he says, very Aliens - when Nazir appears and slits his throat. He chases Carrie and they have a little cat and mouse in the dark, then he grabs her from behind and knocks her head-first into duct work. The other SWAT guys run him down and Nazir kneels, hands raised, then seems to be reaching for a weapon. BLAMMO! It's unclear whether he had a weapon, or if it was a "suicide by cop" type of situation.
Later, at the scene, Estes tells Carrie "Good work" and adds "You must be happy." Carrie doesn't seem so cheerful or certain as she looks at Nazir's body being loaded into an ambulance. Having defined herself in terms of catching Nazir for so long, she seems at a loss in terms of what to do next. Estes also tells Quinn that it's time to kill Brody. Quinn objects that it'll be risky and Estes replies, "It'll look like blowback for Nazir's death."
At the safe house, Jessica gives Brody the news that Nazir is dead and Brody pauses, then weeps, although whether it's a sign of relief, grief for Nazir or just a reaction to accumulated stress is unclear. The Brodies get the all-clear to return home, and Brody watches his family go into the house, a happy-sad expression on his face. Jessica joins him in he car: "You coming?" "I can't," he says, and they have a lovely, quiet scene that amounts to a bittersweet eulogy marking the end of their marriage. Jessica claims that she really tried to make it work, and Brody says "There was nothing anyone could have done. I was fucked the minute I left for Iraq. We all were." It's like the Brody marriage was long-term collateral damage from the Iraq War.
Jessica leaves the car, and though I was totally convinced that Quinn was going to try and kill Brody, but snuff Jessica in the attempt, nothing bad happens. At Carrie's house, she receives a knock at the door, and it's Brody. He explains, regarding Nazir's bargain, "It was you or Walden, Carrie. It wasn't even close." (Frankly, he doesn't seem terribly regretful about murdering his political mentor.) Brody goes inside with Carrie and "Homeland" offers them an evening of peace. But Quinn's out the door: will he take Brody out, or defy Estes? Find out in next week's season finale.
Well, now what? Walden's dead, Nazir's dead, Estes has Saul over a barrel and there seems to be a paucity of loose ends. Is "Homeland" going to write the Brody family out of the show? I was convinced Jessica was on the verge of being killed off - which, conveniently, would leave Brody as a single dad of two kids - but they went another way. Would they kill off Emmy-winner Damien Lewis? If not, what's left for him to do?
It seems entirely possible that Nazir has a double-secret plan that has yet to reveal himself: the giant bomb hidden in the tailor shop's walls was a pretty big red herring if not. And it seems unlikely that "Homeland's" creators would have hired F. Murray Abraham to play Dar Adal unless he's going to play a bigger role later on.
I'll bet Estes will screw over Carrie and block her return to the CIA, since she's been an "off the books" employee all season. Maybe she and Saul will become wisecracking private detectives next season.
According to Wikipedia, this episode, "In Memoriam," had the working title "The Motherfucker in the Turban," which seemed to be a riff on the play The Motherfucker in the Hat. It's a moot point now, but I wonder if prior title was a wink at Zero Dark Thirty, which has a similar premise to "Homeland" (obsessed female CIA operative on the trail of an Islamist terror mastermind), and uses one of those words in a soon-to-be-famous catch-phrase. (Hint: the word is not "turban.")
Recently I've been listening to the complete back catalog of the "Thrilling Adventure Hour" podcast, and want to give a shout-out to James Urbaniak's hilarious work on the show, usually playing melodramatic villains like a mustache-twirling banker or a spoof of the killer clown from It. It has nothing to do with "Homeland," but it's still awesome.
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