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Living on a Prayer Ranking Last Night's 'Homeland': Still in the Game

By Cindy Davis | TV Reviews | December 2, 2013 | Comments ()


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


Other thoughts:

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.

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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.


Cindy Davis, (Twitter)




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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • Dominic

    let me challenge you from the bottom up , cindy :

    After him killing a kid , it's ENTIRELY correct (in a soap , granted ) , to have him be the one who confronts Carrie . "don't do what I Did ! I won't let You " ...i think it was SPECIFICALLY done for the Iraqis to have the tracer rounds , as a way to make them look silly and ineffective .Rounds bouncing off the structure , trees and the ground , would accomplish what they wanted , yeah at least two more of Brody's "Guard" shoulda been cut down ; Iraqis had the high ground , used so effectively by the Guard earlier .. .. .
    agree with everything said on this page about how the storyline is changing the character of Carrie , and not for the better . They're saving a miscarriage scene for the right time , I Hope ....maybe as Brody dies with her watching/listening .......
    "Brody was all over the place this hour; he’s become more unstable than Carrie, which is saying something" . No you're forgetting that they've had these two characters Mirroring each other since the 1st episode . In a 'prison" at same time -under duress similarly etc....they did stock thing of putting him in mortal danger before he snaps out of it . . Again in an

    episode , each's desperation mirrors the characters ..... tho it justifies Saul's belief in Brody , doesn't it ?

    they are writing Saul correctly , this whole season ...
    Holding Quinn back some til next season ? again in soaps , while there's always a psycho now , there is also a psycho-in-waiting , someone who COULD snap if the pressure falls too hard ..,or being written out because their contract is up . Don't waste a good psycho ! by having two at same time , would be the theory ... .of course tho , next season you'll be mad about watching you girls' heartthrob on this show turn into crazy-Rambo .. .
    "

  • Dominic

    Did you see the gaffe at the end of the scene with Carrie telling Saul Brody made it ??? She sits down , tells him something ( i forgot ) and runs her hand through her hair AGAIN( lol ) making the curl sit up above her head . A happy style , almost angelic ... However after Saul grunts his line out they cut back to her in the chair , and her hair is pulled back and plastered on her skull as if she just came from swimming and squeezing the water out . they didn't catch that ? ?? . I think in post- they realized at the end of the scene , after being so upbeat telling Saul , they wanted her to emote unsurety and worry . can't do that with the Angelic-looking curl.... they may have had to go back after shooting a lot of other scenes , and redo that . Shoulda seen it looked wrong tho .....

  • Dominic

    It's always the left hand , to pump up the left-waving curl .... I wonder if she came up with that character mannerism herself or a writer put it in ? kinda an unconscious one , used as a cover while Carie resets her thinking on something .. ...

  • Art3mis

    I'm just so angry at what they've done to Carrie's character. When the show began, she subverted every stereotype: she's blonde and gorgeous and kinda slutty and literally crazy and prone to hysteria, but she was still right and worth listening to and had better instincts and was tougher than anyone else. I can't think of another female character on television that was anything like her, and it worked because despite her flaws Carrie was, above all else, committed to the security of the United States and willing to do anything and everything in service of that.

    But as the show has gone down the Brody rabbit hole, Carrie has been the number one casualty. At some point in season two she went from realistically damaged and nursing a screwed up connection to this guy to a lovesick puppy who cares about Brody more than anything else in the world--more than her family, or her friendship with Saul, or her job, or the safety of her country. She has repeatedly put the security of the United States and the safety of fellow agents and her own career and life at risk because of Brody. And as this season has progressed, she has gone from the central character in a show about national security to a supporting player whose sole motivation is her love for the guy who's actually important to the action; her entire role in the past two episodes consisted of having emotional conversations with him or looking on proudly/worriedly as he went out and did stuff.

    The pregnancy is just the icing on the cake. It makes no sense in the context of the story--the first thing they would have done at the psych ward is run a blood test, so Saul would have known immediately and would never have let them pump her full of lithium--and was clearly just jammed in there to give her one more reason to obsess about Brody (because that was definitely what she needed). It's like the writers wanted to underscore at every turn that her reaction to Brody couldn't possibly be about being proud she'd recruited him or happy Saul's plan might work or even just that she understands him as one damaged person to another -- now every tearful look or proud smile has the subtext of "that's my baby daddy!"

    I just wish that the really interesting, unique female character this show started out with hadn't become a soap opera caricature of every stereotype she used to subvert. Even if, as seems likely, Brody dies this season, I honestly don't know how they can rebuild Carrie.

  • RilesSD

    I tend to agree. Also unbelievable is the fact that she yelled at the President's Chief of Staff?!? Sure...

    Otherwise, though, I thought it was a fantastic episode.

  • Dominic

    maybe they will blame this behavior on pregnancy hormones .... but no ur right it started by saving Brody . tho if so , I doubt he would be alive now , just when we have found evidence to clear him . so it's a soap this season ( shrugs) about terrorists and the CIA

    still gotta love Danes and her playing of the most manic-y , hair-tossing quirky-faced female lead out there...

  • Dominic

    meant 'tho if NOT " saving Brody ...

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