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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Homeland 2.3-5: Sneak Preview Review

I've just seen episodes 3-5 of the new, second season of Homeland - courtesy of a screener from Showtime - and I'm here with a sneak preview.   As was the case with my sneak preview review of Homeland 2.1-2 last month, I'm going to tell you enough so you'll know I really did see these episodes when you get to see them, but not every last detail, so you'll still get a jolt or two when you see them.  In other words - there are major spoilers below.

Homeland justifiably won big at the Emmys this year.  As I said in my review of 2.1-2, the new season is even better than the first season - even tighter, with more unexpected twists and turns.  Episode 2.2 ended with a mind-blowing game-changer - Saul saw Brody's video, intended for broadcast after he blew up the Vice President, but in fact in one of Nazir's hideout napsacks in Lebanon - which Carrie obtained in a fabulous chase scene - because Brody never did pull the string on his suicide vest.

Let me first say that there is a game-changer just as profound at the end of Homeland 2.5.  Here are some of the steps along the way of our characters getting there:

The first few minutes of 2.3 are a masterful spy piece in itself, with a cool kicker at its ending.  Saul does not have an easy time of it leaving Lebanon - he's stopped at the airport by a Hezbollah agent, who confiscates a certain computer video card in the lining of Saul's briefcase.  This promised to be a serious setback to the benefits of finding Brody's video.  Saul still would have seen it, which would have given comfort to Carrie, but David and the rest of the CIA would likely not have done much about Brody - now a Congressman - without hard evidence.  I was also concerned that Saul might have been further detained, or kidnapped before he got on the plane, but-

Turns out Saul kept the computer card with the Brody video in his pocket, which the Hezbollah agent never touched.   Score a big one for our side, though defanging Brody and getting Nazir will still be a tall, harrowing, order.

Brody is doing fine as a Congressman, set to give a major speech about wounded veterans, when Roya Hammad gives him a mission: go to Gettysburg, PA and pick up the tailor who made his suicide vest.  The tailor is in danger of being picked up by the CIA, who found his name on some of the other Nazir materials Carrie got out of his lair.  Brody protests to Roya that he can't go to PA with a speech to give that very evening; she says he'll get back in time; and he goes on the mission.  Here's a minor weakness in the story:  given the importance of Brody's political success in the U.S. to Nazir, it doesn't add up that Roya would risk his missing his speech even for such an important mission.

And indeed he does miss the speech, which Jessica effectively gives in his stead.  Brody and Jessica's rocky relationship is one of the best parts of episodes 2.3-5.   He gets thrown out of the house for his unexplained absence.  Carrie's not having a good time of it, either.  Her thanks for getting the Nazir materials - impressive, even though David doesn't yet know about the most impressive thing of all, the confession video - is to get locked out a CIA briefing.  (David is an infuriating character - just doing his job, I know, but infuriating.)

In one of the most powerful scenes in both seasons so far, Carrie comes close to taking her own life.  Saul, significantly, finally gets back to the USA and back in the action, and shows up at Carrie's house - she's moved out her family's house - after she has decided not to die.  Carrie has chosen not to take her life, in other words, even before Saul arrives with the Brody video, which confirms and reaffirms everything she believed and was fighting to bring to the CIA's attention.  That speaks of her inner strength, which is good to see.

Moving into 2.4, Saul shows David the video.  But rather than taking Brody in, they decide to keep an eye on his every move, in hopes that they can get to other people who are part of Nazir's new strike team.  We meet Peter, whom David puts in charge of this operation.  He's at first a bit of an arrogant jerk to Carrie - but I predict we'll see them in bed before the end of this season.

Carrie still has feelings for Brody, but what they are is not exactly clear - just as it wasn't last year - some mixture of attraction and revulsion.  Part of the CIA plan is now to get Carrie to disconcert Brody enough to go to his handlers, whom the CIA will then reel in.  But Brody disconcerts Carrie as they talk in a bar - when he talks about her shock therapy - and she's convinced that Brody knows she's part of a mission against him.  Paranoia or is she right?   She confronts Brody, tells him what she really thinks of him, and when he looks ready to attack her the CIA takes him into custody.  Did she lose control or was this what she wanted and planned?  You never quite know with Carrie, which is one of the things that makes Homeland so strong.

Episode 2.5 has Peter and then Carrie doing their best to break Brody in the interrogation room.  He's obviously been there before.  Peter has a surprise to deal out as the "bad cop," and as Carrie takes up the "good cop" role, alone in the room with Brody, and ostentatiously turning off the video (but not the audio - which Brody apparently doesn't realize), we're again in a scene in which Carrie's real feelings about him  - undoubtedly a mixture - are brought into play.  In particular, she skillfully uses the real connection she feels with him to get him, at long last, to confess.

And herein is that second game-changer I mentioned before.  Brody not only confesses, but agrees to work with the CIA to get Nazir or at least stop his latest plan to attack America - Carrie tells Brody that it's that, or Brody can be brought to public trial with his kids humiliated and all that follows. But can we now trust Brody?  Of course not.  But the question for Brody now, as it's been for Carrie for a while, is how much of what we see him say and do reflect his real feelings?  He's an exquisite liar.  He knows just how much of truth to put into the mix to make it believable.  He tells his wife at the end that he's working for the CIA - which is now literally true - but doesn't say a thing about his previous work for Nazir, which included blowing himself and the Vice President up.

The acting throughout is just wonderful.  Tour de forces by Claire Danes and Damian Lewis and everyone else on hand.  There's not a scene which wasn't riveting in the three new episodes I saw.  At this point, Homeland is contention for being one of the best shows ever on television.

See Homeland 2.1-2: Sneak Preview Review

See also Homeland on Showtime ... Homeland 1.8: Surprises ... Homeland Concludes First Season: Exceptional

"As a genre-bending blend of police procedural and science fiction, The Silk Code delivers on its promises." -- Gerald Jonas, The New York Times Book Review

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