"Homeland" — "State of Independence": Mission Impossible
"Reality was thin here." (Neil Gaiman, American Gods)
When a television series has the kind of mind-bogglingly great first season "Homeland" did, it lends itself to being examined under the highest-powered microscope that both critics and the audience can find. And while picking apart the details has validity, this show is too good to let minutiae destroy our enjoyment. Let's face it, "Homeland's" entire premise is not based in reality; Carrie's bipolar disorder would preclude her from being a CIA agent. But suspending our disbelief has allowed us to go on an exceptional thrill ride, marked by brilliant performances and non-stop tension. Every week, I marvel that though I keep expecting it, there has been no filler episode. I can't think of a single other show that manages that achievement. Each hour starts out low key, builds to that crescendo where our emotions have been taken over by the characters' own, then ends with revelations--and sometimes a kick to the head. "State of Independence" was no exception.
At times plot points can be seen coming from a mile off and yet somehow, that doesn't take away from seeing them play out. We knew Saul was too smart to let the memory card be found by airport security, but it was still a relief to see him remove it from its real hiding spot. We knew after Carrie got back into the Beruit game she was high on the experience; we'd have to watch her deflate and float back down to Earth. Still, we cringed when she barged into the debriefing and her face crumbled as Estes told her she couldn't be there. Kudos to David Harewood for joining the mile high emotions club, doing his best to give Carrie credit, even as he had to let her down. And we knew as we watched Carrie down the pills with wine, lay on her bed and seemingly doze off, that she would be okay--but it was still alarming and heartbreaking to watch her go through the process.
Likewise, from the moment Brody is sent by Roya to transport the tailor--aka Bassel (Nasser Faris), we know something really awful is going to happen. While I was convinced one of the men would get his head bashed in with a tire iron, the writers had fun toying with a rock, or the possibility that Brody would get run over by his own SUV. (I'm still unsure whether that was a Nazir setup, but they certainly were hitting us over the head with that no jack business.) In the end, Bassel suffered a fall on something sharp and a snapped neck, as Brody mentally checked out and went back into full on soldier survival mode. Damian Lewis' ability to visually transform his character's mindset without uttering a word continues to dazzle, and Brody is forced to snap back to reality when he returns home to find his angry wife about to express her wrath by sleeping with his buddy Mike again.
Even with all the Brody madness, the high point of the hour was once again in its last quiet moments. Knowing exactly what it will mean to her, Saul ends his long trip from Beruit at Carrie's doorstep, on a personal mission to help her regain herself. Incredulous even as she watches Brody's video, Carrie's voice cracks as says what we all have known for quite some time: "I was right."
What exactly Saul and Estes are going to do with this information remains to be seen, but I'd guess they're going to keep an eye on Brody until he can be caught red-handed, in an act of terrorism or contacting Abu Nazir. It still remains to be seen in what capacity Carrie will be involved; I can't imagine she'll be reinstated as an agent, but if she is, we're right back where we started (and I won't complain).
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