"Homeland"--"The Choice": Notorious

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"Homeland"--"The Choice": Notorious

By Cindy Davis | TV Reviews | December 17, 2012 | Comments ()


The mark of a great television show is more than the sum of its parts; exceptional acting and writing, a compelling plot, character development, its ability to take us to new or different places and to exceed our expectations. That's not to say it will be without flaws. Even as we have found fault with "Homeland's" second season, and the writers and producers have admitted their missteps, it's impossible not to admire their desire and ability to step outside the lines.

"The Choice" jumped right into distasteful waters with Carrie and Brody's exceptionally awkward romanticism. Of all the plot points people complain about, this is the one that truly grates, makes my skin prickle. Carrie's foolishness and Brody's sudden calm and easy smiles, were unnerving. Their "easy" rapport--Brody juggling potatoes like he hadn't a care in the world--was uncomfortable and odd. How could Carrie feel anything but fear and disgust? Carrie emptying the bullets from a gun and then placing both the weapon and ammunition right back in the drawer together, symbolized what's been wrong with this show. It made no sense. But the quiet calm, the beautifully shot moments of Quinn waiting and watching across the lake, eating dinner from a can, ratcheted up the tension every moment it lingered, and spoke to what "Homeland" gets right.

If we already adored Rupert Friend's "guy who kills bad guys," his conscience and stand against Estes only added to Quinn's appeal. Likewise, David Harewood took Estes on a journey this season, slowly revealing his darker side and his willingness to do anything to protect himself. Clearly Estes didn't realize the depth of our Saul love--but the writers did, and Estes suffered the consequences. Saul did not for one moment buy Estes' turnaround, neither did Saul hesitate to jump back into the action, while simultaneously moving forward with his own plans. Saul's (and Patinkin's) ability to reveal his emotions with such restraint is remarkable; when he offers to make Carrie the youngest station chief in CIA history, Saul locks right onto her "dilemma" and calmly, but effectively lets his anger explode. Saul reminds that Brody "...is a man who put on a suicide vest (Carrie), that's who he is, that's who he'll always be."

And if the first thirty minutes of the show tiptoed slowly and carefully through Jessica packing Brody's things, his meeting with Mike and return home began to send us hurtling toward its conclusion. Brody's new good guy routine did not sit well with me, and though it seemed impossible to move forward with this character's duality, by gum--they did it. Brody wasn't just asking Mike to keep taking care of his family because he and Jessica were splitting, Brody knew he was leaving the country--or did he? Brody told Dana he wasn't that man anymore, but his body language spoke otherwise. When Dana walked in on Brody in the bedroom, the bond father and daughter had always shared was visibly severed; Brody made no attempt to move toward, or hug Dana. There was no warmth between them. And in the dark car with Carrie, as they drove to get money and passports, oncoming headlights finally gave away Brody's panicked expression.

It seems impossible and utterly insane that writers/producers Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon could keep us guessing about Brody, yet here we are at another season's end, wondering whether or not Brody was in on this inconceivable attack. It is plausible that Nazir set up Brody, or that Brody had a hand in this terrorist act. The juxtaposition of Nazir's burial at sea and Walden's memorial service, of Saul's solemnity and Carrie's incomprehension as she rose from the floor, disoriented and momentarily feeling betrayed, left the audience reeling along with its characters. The hour's final moments are filled with sadness and beauty...Saul, leaving a tentative message on Carrie's voicemail, unwilling to accept her among the dead. His quiet conversation with Mira, and his recital of the Mourner's Kaddish over the hundreds of bodies left us as breathless as Jessica, Mike, Dana and Chris watching Brody's taped confession--as emotional as Saul when he sees Carrie alive. "The Choice" cannot erase "Homeland's" flaws, but it does cement its standing as a great show.

Notes: Quinn and Estes each got great lines. Quinn to Estes: "You haven't made a bad move in your romantic life?" Estes: "What is all this squishy bullshit?" Here's hoping Quinn is retained as a major character.

I'm very much looking forward to Saul as the Counterterrorism head, and hopefully, the writers will give us a third season that focuses on the better relationship--that of Carrie and Saul. The show would do well to step back from Brody, perhaps even disappear or kill him, and concentrate on Nazir's replacement and (as was referred to in the conversation between Carrie and Nazir) his organization's commitment to never ending war.

Not for nothing, but my theory wasn't far off. I did not--in fact--pull it out of my ass.

Here's a post-finale interview with Alex Gansa:

Cindy Davis, (Twitter) loves that Bear.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Wōđanaz Óðinn

    Ha, I feel special! Thanks for the recap.
    Myself and Homeland shall be parting ways as this season had one 'clever' twist too many.

    Best of luck with next season's trolls, Cindy.

  • KZoeT

    I cheered when Saul told Carrie that "You're the smartest and the dumbest fucking person I've ever known." We were led to believe she was the Most Capable Agent Ever in the season 1 and this season

    The romances of this season (Brody, Jessica, Mike, Carrie) were thin and often eye-rollingly bad. Perhaps next season will put an emotional (and plot) divide between Carrie and Brody? I'm curious about Brody's story - how is he going to get out of this? Or will he? His family, his nation, his abductors/mentors are all against him but he's (perhaps) innocent fo' realz. That's a pretty pickle indeed.

    Saul, Saul, Saul. Patinkin is nothing short of wonderful in this role. It pleases me that he'll be in a position of higher authority (or so I assume) next season and he knows all of Carrie's bullshit. Will he set firm boundaries or will he let her walk all over him?

    And then there's Quinn. Does he have a hand in all this? After all, he does "kill bad guys" and Estes is now dead.

  • dizzylucy

    The first season was definitely better, and set a VERY high bar, but I liked this season too. When I watch this show, I don't even think about the flaws and logic problems. I'm still engrossed enough in the story and the performances to just enjoy it. Unlike something I recently ranted about, Revolution, where none of the characters appealed to me and the story wasn't that gripping - on that show I noticed and dwelled on every flaw and eventually just quit watching.

    I love Saul, and think Mandy Patinkin's performance has been so, so good. Also enjoyed the addition of Quinn.
    As annoying as Dana is, I did feel bad for her when that video played - just after she'd learned some bad truths about her father but believed he was OK.

    The only thing I don't get is Carrie's feelings for Brody - on a shallow note I just don't find him attractive, but oh yeah, he's also a terrorist! Saul saying to her "he's the guy who put on the bomb vest" is what I want to say to her in every episode. It's a strange conflict in her personality, she was so persistent and relentless in pursuing terrorists, that she then waives all that away when it comes to him. artemis, your post about the character is a very good one.

  • Blake

    Thanks for the recaps Cindy and I'm looking forward to more from you on Season 3.

    Side notes: I called Estes death last week (damn you Quinn for not pulling the trigger). I also agree that Brody needs to disappear during Season 3 and let Saul and Carrie find the Mole in the agency (and let Carrie work towards uncovering the conspiracy against Brody). I don't think Saul's position as chief (he is only the ranking officer which was why he was in charge) is going to last very long and I am looking forward to whoever takes Estes place.

    How did Saul not learn the Carrie and Brody left the memorial service before the explosion? I'd assume every inch of CIA headquarters is monitored and that would be the first thing he'd want to see.

    How long has Carrie had the back up plan? And why would she have it in the first place? Will Brody take Nazirs place? Not being a terrorist I can't say what qualifications one would look for in a leader but Brody wouldn't exactly be my first choice.

  • Thank you for reading, Blake!

  • seanx40

    I just can't get over the total lack of logic. The VP's funeral at Langley? The President not being there? ANYONE bringing a few hundred pounds of C4 within 10 miles of that building? You can't even get off the freeway near CIA HQ without being searched. I have said this before, Brody is driving a Chevy. With ON STAR. Every inch that those vehicles travel in logged. If Brody was under watch(and every congresscritter is), they would know exactly where that truck has been. There is no way anyone would allow Brody's truck to go somewhere, be loaded with explosives, and taken anywhere near Langley.

    That said,Claire Danes wrapped up that second straight Emmy. She was fantastic. But Mandy Patinkin was better. His Saul is an amazing creation. With great passion and intelligence. Just the facial expressions during the conversation with his estranged wife...wow.

  • Artemis

    I completely agree with all of this, except the first bit: I don't think that was the official funeral for the VP, it was just a memorial service at the CIA because he had been head of the agency for a long time. The President would be at the official funeral, but probably not at something the Agency was holding internally.

  • Exactly.

  • Artemis

    Ughhhhh, this show. It could (and has) been *so* good -- but as time goes on, all of the worst parts of the show get more and more screentime, while the best parts increasingly seem like something the writers lucked into, not realizing they were the reason people loved this show so much in Season 1.

    I can't even with this Brody/Carrie relationship. It is not compelling. It is not romantic. It certainly doesn't deserve 60% of the season finale, which should have been dealing with the Nazir fallout (maybe actually show us some scenes in which the CIA relaxes security measures because Nazir is gone, so that being Nazir's master plan doesn't come out of nowhere?) and with HALF THE CIA BEING EXPLODED. Instead, we're treated to Carrie and Brody making dinner, snuggling in front of a fire, talking about how they might "make it" now, etc. ad nauseum.

    And beyond the romance plot just being bad TV, it makes me FURIOUS because it utterly destroys Carrie's character. Last season, she was perhaps the best and most complex female character on television: a dedicated, extremely good agent who was coping with a mental illness and some obvious personal issues. It made sense that she would feel a connection with screwed-up Brody -- but it also made sense that she would still recognize he was a terrorist and immediately turn on him when she did. This season, the minute she gets within three feet of Brody's sad eyes she's suddenly interfering in operations to be near/try to save Brody, covering up his assassination of the Vice President, and spiriting Brody away to Canada while he's the number one suspect in a bombing that killed 200 CIA officials and nearly killed her. She's become a fucking cliche, a woman who can't do her job, even when hundreds of her co-workers were murdered in front of her eyes, because she's just so in looooooove.

    And while I'm obviously most upset by the Carrie stuff, the whole Quinn plot was almost as lazy and sloppy. This guy is basically a trained assassin: he takes orders, he kills people. You want me to believe that of all the shit he's seen and done, he's queasy about killing someone who he definitively knows to have been a terrorist, who has killed people on U.S. soil (while working for Quinn, no less!) and nearly blew up a roomful of government officials on Nazir's orders? Yeah, he ultimately gave them intel that helped bring down a terrorist cell -- but we've been shown that Quinn is a career killer, someone with no identity outside of his work, someone willing to be inserted into a CIA operation on a false premise and lie to all of his colleagues there so that he can have the opportunity to take out Brody. And now, when national security seems to be hanging by a thread than ever before, Quinn decides he should stop following orders and start making his own decisions about whether an assassination is warranted? And more than that, he decides to break into the CIA Deputy Director's house and threatens to murder him? WTF.

    I *loved* Season 1 of this show. The acting continues to be exceptional during Season 2, and there have been parts that have been really compelling, really great television. But for me, they are the smaller moments -- Carrie's first mission back in Beirut, Saul's day with Aileen, Carrie's interrogation of Brody, Carrie's much less successful interrogation of Roya. And more and more, the show seems unwilling to sit with those small moments. The writers keep driving the show to more and bigger action, regardless of what hits the show's plausibility and character development take as a result. I'll be back for Season 3, but I'll be a lot less enthusiastic. And if Carrie spends more time pining over Brody than doing her job, I think I'll be out for good.

  • RilesSD

    Completely with you, Artemis. This episode was 95% fail. There were plenty of moments the show could have pulled us back in: The flash to a slight Saul smile after the CIA explosion (was he in on it? he conveniently wasn't there), the moment when Carrie pulls the gun on Brody, Quinn's surveillance, the look Brody gives Carrie and they leave right before the explosion), but they failed to capitalize on any of it. Plus, Carrie knows that Brody helped kill the VICE PRESIDENT, yet she can overlook that? The CIA knows Brody wanted to kill Walden, and knows he was in the house when he died, and they don't look into it at all? CIA lets him and his car near the building? Carrie gives away her entire "insurance plan," and tons of money to help Brody flee the country, but doesn't make sure he leaves. Brody is going to hike 20 miles to some random boat?

    I was a defender of this show, and will still watch, but it's losing me.

  • Artemis

    I think this episode was trying to make you think that Saul is the mole, but it had the opposite effect on me. I just don't believe that Saul would have let Carrie be at that memorial service if he knew it was going to explode. It would have been so easy for him to get her out of there by bringing her to watch Nazir's funeral (I'm kind of surprised she wasn't with him anyway, given her obsession with Nazir) that I can't buy that his character would have let her go off to die.

  • QueeferSutherland

    Sorry if this seems harsh, but how on earth do people think Saul is a mole? He's the show's moral core, a surrogate father to Carrie and the most level-headed character around. There isn't a shred of evidence to even suggest he's working for the other team. He's not the mole. He never was. He never will be.

    Frankly, I'm shocked a lot of people are wondering if Brody was in on the attack. Really? He had someone drive his car next to the building, then pointed it out to a CIA officer right before it exploded? Why? Then what, he leaked his own tape to make his escape all but impossible? I'm not sure where some of these theories come from, but they don't pass any logic test, IMO.

    Anyway, good recap. I think leaving Brody alive was a massive mistake, the Carrie-Brody romance angle rivaled Maggie-Jim for the worst on television this year, and the finale still had a few too many logic holes to be truly great. In spite of all that, somewhat baffingly, in fact, I still liked the show this season.

  • Artemis

    I agree Saul can't (or at least shouldn't) be the mole, given the role he plays vis-a-vis Carrie. But the show obviously wants viewers to question whether he's the mole, and it has inserted more than a shred of evidence to support that. He failed (then refused to take) the polygraph in Season 1, they made a point of showing him having physical contact with Hamid when he entered the interrogation room (making it possible that he slipped him the razor), he refused to listen to Carrie about Brody's vest plot in Season 1 even though he has in all other situations trusted her even when she has much less to go on and sounds way crazier, he didn't go to the memorial that ends up exploding. And he is vocally unhappy about much of what the CIA (and Walden) is doing.

    I don't think it's him, mostly because I think the show is pushing him TOO hard as the obvious surprise!mole. But I've also lost a lot of faith in the writers this season, so maybe I shouldn't have so much faith that they wouldn't tip their hand like that.

  • Bucky

    He did at least ask if she wanted to go with him to Nazir's funeral, and got mad when she said she'd already promised Brody she'd see him at the memorial service. But I don't want Saul to be the mole, if in fact there is a mole.

  • Again, I don't disagree with your major points, but...I don't at all have a problem with what Quinn did. I see Quinn as a guy willing to stand up to anyone--he's not afraid of anyone, he's smart enough to realize what Estes is doing and he's not just an empty-headed killer.

    I'm hoping that because of the feedback and backlash over the "romance' this season, Gansa and Co. are mostly finished with that aspect. From the interviews he's had, including the one below, it's clear the showrunners pay attention to what viewers and critics have to say.

  • POINGjam

    I totally disagree on the "how could Carrie feel anything but disgust" point. Personal morality is fluid, and you don't just stop loving people when they hurt you, even if they hurt you really damn bad. By all indications, Carrie has been unhappy with her personal life for a long time, and finally she meets someone who lights her up. Speaking as a frequently hopeless person, it's hard to let go when you find someone like that.

  • Lee

    That may be so, but to have to watch them is just gross. I feel disgust for Brody in every way, so it's hard to watch a character I really like in long love scenes with him.

  • POINGjam

    I get that. Girls is like that for me. It's clearly a smart, interesting show, but I couldn't get through the first episode. The lead put me off too much.

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