Living on a Prayer Ranking Last Night's 'Homeland': Still in the Game
Alex Gansa called “Good Night” a bridge episode, and indeed, it was the necessary transition to get Brody into Iran, in position to execute Saul’s plan. It was a thoroughly engrossing hour, with rapid-changing points of view, and a step or two back for every forward movement. Despite a couple slight missteps, it was an authentic view into an intelligence/military mission that immersed the audience from all angles; Saul, Carrie and Quinn at the operations center, Adal and Mike Higgins at the White House, and the Black Ops team—with Brody—on the ground. Steady pacing between action and observation kept tension throughout the episode, making for one of the season’s best.
But still, a nitpick or two…Must we be so blatantly reminded of Carrie’s pregnancy every episode? Quinn’s little aside with her probably irritated the audience more than Carrie. Is it some silly writer’s room game for us to guess when she’ll spill the beans? Combined with that ridiculous pep talk—in the middle of a firefight—these soapy moments did nothing to add to an otherwise excellent hour; thankfully Carrie didn’t try to bring Brody home with the promise of a new family. As for Quinn, why is he still relegated to sidekick status, despite being one of the series most interesting characters? Are the writers saving him for next season to fill the tortured soul hole Brody left behind? Let’s face it, we all know Brody has to die. He’s been half dead since he first showed up, and when he wasn’t on the verge of being taken out by good guys or bad, Brody had given up on life, himself. While he seems to need to leave this last mark in the plus-column, it can (and should) never put him firmly on one side or the other. Brody should leave as ambiguously as he arrived.
Saul: As Saul watched nervously while events unfolded, first alone at his desk and later inside the operations center, the weight of the mission was visible. “Like I’m in Vegas, betting the mortgage” he tells Carrie. Perhaps the whole of Saul’s career will be measured by this success or failure; the culmination of a career he’d put everything—professional and personal—into, might be weighed in his last hours as Acting Director. The CIA will go on, younger agents will take his place and climb the same rungs on his ladder, but for a man like Saul, the rest of his life will be affected by what happens next. He’s gone through his whole stash of lucky Black Jack gum, but his smart secretary had the backup packs so Saul could share with Carrie. Indeed, if not the gum, something kept Saul steady, even when Higgins sent Lockhart and a JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) General to watch over the mission. (Whether or not Lockhart was sincere in his newfound respect for Saul, or just trying to keep in line as best he could, his reserved, diffusing calm was quite a turnaround from the sneering Senator we’ve come to know.) It’s been fascinating, and at times disconcerting, to see how far Saul would or wouldn’t go to keep this mission going. In the moment when the team came under attack from both outside and within, Saul did the right thing without hesitation. He refused to order a missile strike on his own men, slamming down the phone at Higgins’ nasty suggestion, and when it became clear the team needed to get out immediately, Saul handed control over to the General—and crushed, went to lick his wounds in private.
Brody: What can there be left about this man—would anything surprise us? Brody was all over the place this hour; he’s become more unstable than Carrie, which is saying something, considering Carrie’s been off her meds and under a lot of pressure…again. People keep talking about how the show needs Brody; complaining about the episodes he went missing. That absence was the writers necessarily preparing for what we all know is coming. Like The Walking Dead’s Governor, Brody’s character has been used to the hilt. He’ll go out with a bang, and forever be one of television’s most memorable men. From that first moment we saw Brody brought squinting into the daylight after years in captivity, to when he closed his eyes and tried to detonate an explosive vest. From squeezing life out of the Tailor to laying out his mat in the garage or, during this hour, against the backdrop of a gorgeous, painted sky, Damian Lewis has played out the gamut of Brody’s emotions like a skilled violinist. Even in this single hour, the range of Brody’s ups and downs mirrored entire seasons. It is highly unlikely that any soldier could go through what Brody has—become “a new man” in such short time—and be able to handle everything that was thrown at him during this intense mission. While at first he seemed fine, bonding with the boys over strips of relaxed goat, and enjoying a last minute’s prayer solace, soon everything that could go wrong, did. After the “Good Night” command, Brody fell apart, then bounced back, and when his vehicle was hit, came back even stronger again. There’s certainly something to be said about how ingrained a soldier’s training is; the trauma of the attack and his partner’s leg being blown off sent Brody right back into auto-pilot, intent on completing his mission, and seemingly unstoppable. (But come on now, wake up Brody! You had to know when you surrendered to the Iranians, your partner was dead.) Brody’s credibility as a superman has been stretched to its limit ; there’s nowhere else for him to go. Brody will complete his final mission, and we’ll all bid him a fond adieu.
Carrie: For most of the hour, Carrie was sidelined as a secondary character, and we were all the better for it. We still got plenty of emotion through Danes’ uncanny ability to raise or lower an eyebrow here, or scrunch up a furrowed brow there…she teared up when Brody’s vehicle was hit and I suppose she had to amp up the drama, waiting for signs of life we all knew would come. But Carrie’s phone conversation was ill-timed and overplayed; it’s become confusing and irritating to understand the idea of an emotional relationship between Carrie and Brody. And she said nothing to Brody that Saul or Quinn or anyone else couldn’t have said. When Brody came out with that ludicrous declaration that Carrie would find a way to get him out, even Carrie knew it was time to hang up…and just say, “Fuck!” Carrie’s presence in the operations center was about as useful as if Jessica had taken her place, all hand-wringing and teary-eyed. What happened to the brilliant agent we used to know? Carrie’s only intriguing bit didn’t come until the episode’s final moments, when she went to speak with Fara about an uncle in Tehran, who might be able to provide a safe house to expedite Brody’s extraction. Fara was predictably reluctant to put her family in danger, but Carrie deftly manipulated the conversation: “We have a brother agent in the field, soon to be in mortal danger. Don’t we owe him every chance to get out alive?”
Living on a prayer ranking: 10 out of 10, code green. The mission is most miraculously a go.
I really enjoyed certain authentic aspects of the mission, including the team’s disorientation at night, the constant joking and sarcasm between the men, and Brody’s first aid steps. Driving with night vision goggles brought back a lot of memories for me, and then…they had to go and use tracer rounds. I get it, it’s television and they want some way to show us the shooting, but that just made me laugh out loud.
Quinn read Carrie’s records to see how badly she was hurt; okay, I’ll buy that. But I don’t buy him telling Carrie, or confronting her about the pregnancy. Not his style.
Donnie Keshawarz and Jared Wardwere both excellent as Hafez Azizi and Yousef Turani, respectively.