Tag Archives: Homeland

Homeland “The Star” Review (3×12)

15 Dec

Screen shot 2013-12-15 at 5.08.04 PM“I want it to be over.”

Nicholas Brody was never going to make it out alive. Nicholas Brody knew he was never going to make it out alive. Nicholas Brody has accepted his fate.

As we close out the third season of Homeland, I’m finding myself impressed by the ability of the writers to still reach into our bodies and crush our hearts, to craft a poignant, contemplative episode that ties up Nicholas Brody’s storyline while still being emotionally resonant. After I finished watching this episode, I realized how perfect a series finale this could be; our characters have all moved on with their lives, all of them in a relatively happy place. Yes, even Brody.

Even though he ends up being hanged by the very people that first turned him, he’s made peace with his destiny; we saw some of those feelings doled out over the course of the season, from the seemingly hopeless prison in the Tower of David to his conversation with Nazir’s widow last week. In “The Star”, we get them full-on. For example, Brody reminisces about his father and tells Carrie he was born in the desert, evoking the idea of coming full circle; it’s similar to last week’s choice of beginning his redemption in the “place where it all started”, but this time, he ends his journey in, symbolically, the place where he started.

Another great scene I’d like to mention is Carrie’s and Brody’s right before Brody’s arrested. It’s a well acted scene–great acting all around in this episode–for Danes and Lewis, and it’s brilliantly written. For once, the “star-crossed lovers” shtick season 2 was forcing on us doesn’t seem tacky or manipulative; instead, we see two psychologically broken people drawn to each other in the moment. Carrie remarks that the reason she was put on Earth was so that their paths could cross, and Brody responds by saying that this idea is “the only sane thing left in the world”. It’s true, isn’t it? Brody’s not going to indulge in escapist idealism, but he’ll indulge in one final goodbye. I mean, let’s face it: he’s not going to have any kind of life in the United States, regardless of what Carrie says. He also can’t expect to stay in Iran when he’s just killed the head of the Revolutionary Guard. So he’ll, say, allow Carrie to stay on the line for a few more seconds, and he won’t put up a fight when she says she wants to witness the hanging, but he’ll also slowly help her on her own path to acceptance.

In fact, much of this episode is about tempering Carrie, the pregnant idealist who loves to disobey orders. For example, Javadi asks her why she wants to burn everything she’s worked for to the ground and why she would torture herself like this; this brings us back to Brody. The episode asks “Why? Why is Carrie giving up her life for Brody?” It also asks “Why can’t she let him go?” Throughout the hour, we see Carrie and Brody clashing over the merits behind his actions; Carrie says she’s thought about the present situation weeks in advance, and she tries to justify his actions by telling him that for Marines, the rules are different. Yet, Brody responds by bringing her back down to Earth; no, for Marines, the rules aren’t different. He needs to pay for his actions.

So that brings us to the final theme of this episode: legacy. We jump four months after Brody’s hanging–a strangely beautiful scene–to find ourselves in a whole new world: Carrie’s about to have her baby, Saul’s become more successful outside of the CIA, and Lockhart decides to promote Carrie to station chief in Istanbul. Now, it’s all about the future and the part Brody has (or doesn’t have) in it. Carrie wants to immortalize him on a wall of stars, but understandably, Lockhart won’t budge; the fact that she doesn’t drag on the issue is a sign of change, a sign of acceptance. She’ll start a new life in Istanbul, but she can’t be connected to Brody through his child. She’s afraid, both of the future itself and of the potential corrupting of it by the past, but she needs to move on; like Quinn says, if she doesn’t, she’ll regret it.

So instead, in one final act of compassion, she adds a new star to the wall of the CIA; she doesn’t need to defend him in front of everyone else anymore. It’s for both herself and Sergeant Nicholas Brody: a hero, a traitor, and a star.

GRADE: A-

OTHER THOUGHTS:

-Kudos to Lesli Linka Glatter for her direction in this episode. That final scene is absolutely gorgeous.

-The final scene works emotionally and thematically for me, but let’s not forget that Carrie used a Sharpie to draw a star on a memorial wall in the CIA.

-Saul has shades of Carrie throughout the proceedings; in fact, Lockhart and Adal have to temper him.

-Speaking of, I thought Lockhart and Adal would play more prominent villain roles in the show, but thankfully, they come across as sensible CIA agents.

-The final scene, as well as Saul and Carrie’s goodbye, reminds me of the season 2 finale. Yet, instead of the contrast of hundreds of dead bodies and the reunion of the two, they say goodbye while those dead bodies are immortalized on the wall.

-It’s awful that Carrie doesn’t have any consequences for her actions in Iran; how in the hell is she still part of the CIA, getting a promotion, and why does she even want to remain a part of it? Oh well, it looks like in Istanbul, she can break all the rules she wants.

-How can Brody just walk out the front door after he kills Akbari?

-Why does no Iranian think of interrogating Brody? Also, it was kind of stupid for Carrie to expect Javadi to give her anything.

-Now that I think about this, the plot continues to be so ludicrous that, if I wasn’t in a better mood, would knock this grade down a few notches.

-Also, Saul’s plan worked. Ha.

-The show’s portrayal of Iranian people probably isn’t very kind; last week, pretty much everyone was cheering for Brody, therefore categorizing every Iranian as being fine with terrorism.

-No Dana or Jess; in fact, Saylor and Baccarin aren’t regulars next season. It makes sense, given Brody’s death, and I like how they still hang over the proceedings in the episode. As for Chris, he’ll be playing with his rubber ducks.

-I’ll miss Damian Lewis. Brody was sometimes a frustrating character, but Lewis was magnificent.

-See you all next year. I have no idea where the show’s going next, but I’m looking forward to it. The season was choppy, but it ended beautifully. Thanks for reading.

Photo credit: Showtime, Homeland

Homeland “Big Man in Tehran” Review (3×11)

8 Dec

bigmanSergeant Nicholas Brody is a traitor; there’s no dispute about that. However, is he someone who will try to repent for his sins? Is he someone who will put aside his differences with his country and carry out the assassination of General Akbari? For most of the episode’s running time, we’re led to believe that no, this is not the case, and the episode cleverly manipulates our notions of who Brody is.

Is it one manipulation too many? You know what? I don’t believe so. When he tells his assembled Iranian fan club that he has nowhere to go, he’s being 100% truthful. There’s no way he could ever be accepted back into American society–if he was, it’d be an egregious plot twist that would serve absolutely no purpose, save for the satisfaction of the Showtime executives–no matter what he does. In fact, we can see that he prepares himself for any outcome; he’s much more rational here than, say, Carrie, who’s still off being an awful CIA agent and ruining the plans of pretty much everyone.

Getting back to Brody, his conversation with Nazir’s widow is very telling; in fact, right then and there is his repentance. Right then and there, he acknowledges how much he’s ruined his daughter’s life (yeah, I know you feel the deepest connection to Dana, but again, no mention of the other two members?). At that table is essentially Nazir’s family, two people brought together through a mutual love, but two people who are working together to move on in their lives. Brody’s smiles in response to the outpouring of the Iranians’ love are genuine, but he recognizes the necessity of paving a new path. He takes a second at the end of the episode to revel in “the place where it all started”, but also deems it appropriate to begin anew there.

So, it’s a nice handling of Brody’s character; my one gripe with the ending is how it validates Carrie to an extent. I like how Javadi takes her aside and criticizes her attachment to Brody, as well as how Brody acknowledges the insanity of her plan, and hopefully this kind of scolding continues to take place. There’s no way Saul and the rest can forgive her for intervening and acting like a righteous asshole, even considering Brody takes out Akbari at the end. Carrie’s biggest asset and her biggest flaw is the same: doing what she believes is the right thing. She believes that running away with Brody will benefit both of them, and she believes that Brody is still the same person, the same embodiment of her idealized version of the future.

Nevertheless, the episode itself continues last week’s excellent spy/suspense scenes, delivering some tense sequences that are thoroughly entertaining and compelling. Hopefully next week’s  finale is able to deliver a satisfying conclusion to a, for the most part, redeeming season.

GRADE: A-

OTHER THOUGHTS:

-I like the more grounded portrayal of Adal and Lockhart recently; they’re acting like reasonable government officials with a job to do, not like mustache-twirling villains who want to take Saul’s job.

-I wonder if we’ll see the Brody family next week. I don’t think we really need to.

-Will Brody die next week? I’m hoping he does; the writers have given him a pretty nice arc here, and even though he’s redeemed himself somewhat, he’s still in a position where’s he got nowhere to go. Any progress he makes now is in service of both the operation and his own psyche.

-Once again, Damian Lewis does some fantastic work.

Credit to Showtime and Homeland for all pictures. I own nothing.

Homeland “Good Night” Review (3×10)

2 Dec

Homeland-Good-NightI like how simple this episode is. It isn’t trying to do too much; it’s just a straightforward spy/suspense story, and while it obviously isn’t perfect, it strikes a nice balance between the character moments and the (still implausible but entertaining) operation. Homeland’s strength is taking us through these specific set pieces, a la The Weekend and Q&A.

Anyway–and I’ve said this ever since the inception of the storyline–this Brody arc is really implausible. So what, he’s just going to traipse into Iran with no plan and just kill the head of the Revolutionary Guard? Sounds fun. When Brody’s car essentially gets sliced in half, we don’t expect him to survive, but we do because we know he won’t die here (if that makes a lick of sense). Also–and this will be my final gripe about this–I find his quick turnaround into the badass Marine again a bit contrived.

Of course, the show’s yet again found some way to make this entertaining. The whole shootout sequence is very well shot for a nighttime scene, and when the episode strays away from the operation, there isn’t any forced political intrigue by way of an evil Senator Lockhart; although there’s a tension simmering between everyone, their actions here seem realistic and the interactions don’t seem all that meandering.

As for Carrie, I do think the Brody-Carrie stuff does have some good aspects, save for of course that awful “We have to abort!” line. I don’t think it descends into soap opera shenanigans TOO much here because 1) they play equally off of Carrie seeing the Marine in Brody as seeing the Lover in Brody and 2) Carrie realizes the “I have faith” line is bullshit and just a fantasy. Fantasy is Carrie’s greatest flaw, and it’s nice to see her recognize it here.

Carrie still does mind-numbingly stupid things, but this episode also helps reflect a bit of why she’s good, what with her manipulation of Fara. It’s not enough in the grand scheme of things, yes, but she and Patinkin are just able to sell her arc in this episode.

All in all, it’s another solid outing that has me looking forward to the final two episodes.

GRADE: B+

OTHER THOUGHTS:

-The pregnancy stuff is as bad as I thought it would be; I find it hilarious that people have to keep reminding her of it: “So this operation is going to involve this and this and OH YOU HAVE A BABY INSIDE OF YOU!”

-I half expected Carrie to blow up in the conference room and start telling everyone the baby actually is Brody’s. “Look at this ultrasound, world!” she says, waving it in front of Saul’s face and pointing out the red hair she scribbled on it with marker.

-For some reason, every time they cut to Carrie or Saul chewing the gum, I got really annoyed.

-After the other guy went “I don’t have kids, you dumbass!”, I fully expected Brody to go “Yeah, same here.”

Credit to Showtime and Homeland for all pictures. I own nothing.

Homeland “One Last Time” Review (3×09)

25 Nov

Homeland-One-Last-TimeLet’s get this out of the way first; much of what goes on in this episode plot-wise is absolutely ludicrous; Saul’s Iran master plan, for one, as well as everything involving Brody’s ridiculously quick recovery, Alain Bernard, and the like. Of course, like I mentioned before, sometimes you just have to put that aside for a bit.

Character-wise, this is a fantastic episode. The acting, as always, is impeccable, and Danes and Lewis convey the tension and desperation of two people clinging to each other out of necessity. Lewis in particular goes through a wide range of emotions in a short amount of time, but we’re still allowed to see the detrimental effects the heroin has caused. In addition, his first scene with Carrie is a highlight.

Although I’m still frustrated with Carrie’s continual playing of the victim card and her penchant for not giving a damn about orders, it still paves the way for a great Dana-Brody scene that is miles better than any other Dana offerings in a while. It reminds me of those fantastic season 1 scenes in which her character isn’t bogged down with extraneous storylines and idiotic boyfriends. Here, when she asks Brody to write down what he wants her to say, you can see the conflict in his eyes; he obviously knows she’s not serious about it, but she’s one of two people that he sees as truly understanding, and he wishes everything were as easy as writing a script. It explains in part why he doesn’t ask to see Jess and Chris–although seriously, Brody? Not even one mention?

Elsewhere, we’re at least seeing Saul’s plan come fully into focus, as implausible as it is. Patinkin’s always greatest when bouncing off of Danes, and this week does a nice job of tying Saul, Brody, and Carrie together while propelling the endgame even farther forward. Saul has a similar control over Brody as he does Carrie; he can always get them to do something “one last time”, and we’ll see how Brody’s turns out. Here’s hoping the last fourth of the season ends the season on a good note.

GRADE: B+

OTHER THOUGHTS

-Not much Quinn this week. Hopefully he doesn’t get pushed aside in favor of Brody’s increased presence; in fact, the show should play off that dynamic a bit more.

-I like to think Dana’s friend just abandoned her there.

-I’m just grateful the show gave some scenes a chance to breathe here. So far this season, it’s either been mind-numbingly slow or way too quick, and I’m happy for the change of pace amidst the forward momentum; an example of this is Carrie and Brody’s first scene.

-Will Brody survive this? Knowing the Showtime executives, they’ll probably have him accidentally kill Javadi, go through a foot chase through the streets of Iran, then blow up an embassy or something before jumping into a river and seeing Chris at the bottom of the water.

-I said last week I wouldn’t get this up until much later, but it turns out that’s not the case! Still, next week looks to be crowded yet again, what with The Walking Dead’s midseason finale, Homeland, Masters of Sex, and Treme’s premiere.

Credit to Showtime and Homeland for all pictures. I own nothing.

Homeland “A Red Wheelbarrow” Review (3×08)

18 Nov

627-1Just a few quick thoughts…

-The show can still deliver entertaining spy sequences, as exasperating as it must be to see Carrie yet again disobey orders. Then again, I feel like her relationship with Brody has transcended the normal “We love each other so much!” angle. Now, it’s mostly about being right. Carrie places a burden on herself to save literally everyone from everything bad, so that’s why she spent so much effort in season 1 to try and take him down. After their season 2 relationship, her reputation and support system took a hit.

I’m not entirely sure she actually wants a family at this point–she’s indecisive right now–but she needs an end goal to keep functioning, and the idea of a happy ending is what she wraps her mind around. She therefore has to prove Brody’s innocence and has to prove they can be a couple, because that’s what everyone was criticizing her for. It’s like an “I’ll show you!” attitude that’s connected to her need for emotional connection, in this case to Brody.

-Nevertheless, I cheered when Quinn shot her. Danes also does fantastic work with the fallout from that (“No shit, you shot me.”).

-I like the Fara storyline, even if it’s not terribly exciting. It’s intriguing seeing her home life and her internal conflict, and not only do I see a Carrie parallel, but I also see a Brody one. It’s actually a fairly similar situation as Brody’s, aside from the whole bomb thing: she’s caught between her two countries, Iran and America, and there’s a family element in there.

-I’m rolling my eyes at Mira’s lover being a spy of some sort; it just reeks of “PLOT TWIST!” Is he the bomber? Honestly, I don’t really care.

-Saul and Mira’s relationship is alright. On the one hand, it’s a good personal story that reflects how Mira’s his weakness, but on the other hand, I find myself bored by those scenes.

-Yeah, this whole Javadi plot is really implausible.

-I’m curious to see what Saul’s plan with Brody is. I assume we’ll be seeing a lot more of Brody from now on, and hopefully the writers can craft an intriguing storyline that effectively brings him back into the fold.

-I have a feeling this pregnancy is going to end in a miscarriage.

-Sorry for the lateness of this post, as well as the rushed points; I would like to expand on some, but it’s been a long day for me. Anyway, just a scheduling note: next week’s review will go up a day or two afterward, as the “Boardwalk Empire” finale takes precedence.

GRADE: B+

Credit to Showtime and Homeland for all pictures. I own nothing.

 

 

Homeland “Gerontion” Review (3×07)

11 Nov

627-19Just a few quick bullets coming up here…

-I think it’s really nice seeing how both Javadi and Quinn question Saul’s tactics past and present; as much as Carrie/Saul are a great team, there’s no doubt that he put her through a whole lot of shit. It’ll be interesting seeing that Saul-Quinn dynamic play out with Carrie caught in the middle and Lockhart off doing whatever in the middle of nowhere.

-Going off that last point, Lockhart’s cartoonish, but he makes legitimate points (not to mention being pretty hilarious). Underneath that exterior is a voice of reason, but he isn’t seen as a legitimate threat, more of an annoying child that needs to be in a timeout; this might come back to bite Saul in the ass sometime. Or, at least hopefully it does, because Saul shouldn’t always come out on top. Nevertheless, it’s a nice parallel drawn to Quinn’s storyline, where the police just ask him point blank if the CIA’s actions are really justified.

-That Quinn interrogation is a really fantastic scene. What I like about it the most is that it’s an interrogation that consists of absolutely no BS. No one’s trying to manipulate anyone into saying what needs to be said; it’s just one person bluntly asking another, “Why the hell are you doing all of this?” Also, nice cameo by Clark Johnson there.

-That stuff with Saul and Dar locking Lockhart in the conference room? Priceless.

-However, I’m not entirely sold on the whole Javadi plan. Frankly, it’s a bit implausible and way too easy, not to mention it undercuts many of the previous scenes.

-“Senator Lockhart managed to get himself locked in the conference room. Can you get facilities to let him out?” I’m really happy they’re strengthening the dynamic between those two bearded folks, even though I do feel like Dar’s a guy that’s just going to play sides.

-I like the focus on Saul this season, but I’m not sure we need to see all that cheesy homefront stuff.

-I’m happy they’re organically bringing Brody back into the fray, rather than coming up with some quick contrivance to do so. I’d rather have him not here, but I admire the restraint by the writers; or, who knows, maybe they just don’t have anything for him to do.

-No Dana, Jess, or Chris. This is a good thing.

GRADE: B+

Credit to Showtime and Homeland for all pictures. I own nothing.

Homeland “Still Positive” Review (3×06)

4 Nov

627-22So, we’re finally back on track? Yes and no. I’m happy the show is going back to its good old fashioned spy roots and trying to milk tension out of that, but I also can’t help but worry Javadi will go down the Abu Nazir villain path, especially considering the events of this episode. Hopefully there’s some more nuance and buildup for him rather than have his whole character be destroyed in one fell swoop (a la Abu Nazir late last season). I think the connection to Saul might help with making him more interesting, but I also feel like the whole “murdering the ex-wife and daughter in law” scene is a bit unnecessary.

Still, I like the focus on Saul this season; it’s not just the Carrie Mathison adventures now, and the show’s exploring his marriage problems and how he overcompensates with his job. Add on to that his ties to Javadi and you’ve got a boiling pot of Angry Beard.

As for Dana, I’m glad she’s starting to take control of her situation, but then again, this all makes her seem like an asshole and Jess an awful parent. It’s better than Dana and Leo frolicking through cemeteries and reading each other poetry, but it’s not particularly great; still, hopefully this means we’ll pull back on the Brody family for a bit.

And of course, Carrie’s pregnant. This is a really frustrating storyline already because 1) Watching Carrie Mathison, CIA agent is a lot more fun than watching Carrie Mathison, Mom. Her interactions with Javadi in this episode prove that point….and 2) The fact that she has that many pregnancy tests suggests that she’s known for a while now…you know, during that time in which she had sex with random strangers, drank a lot, and got shot up with lithium while in a mental hospital. Yes, she’s self-destructive, but come on, show; this is extreme.

Still, I enjoyed this episode; it’s a well-constructed, fast-paced episode that paves the way for some intriguing storylines.

GRADE: B+

OTHER THOUGHTS:

-Chris Brody did nothing in this episode.

Credit to Showtime and Homeland for all pictures. I own nothing.

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