This post discusses plot points from the October 7 episode of Homeland.
“It’s not lost on me why people don’t trust my judgement,” Carrie tells Saul on the roof in Lebanon. “Why you didn’t even want me here. It’s not fair, I know, for you to be the one who had to decide. It fucked me up, Saul. Being wrong about Brody. It fucked me up. Because I have never been so sure and so wrong. And it’s that fact that I still can’t get my head around. It makes me unable to trust my own thoughts. Every time I think I see something clearly now, it just disappears.” It’s a powerful scene, one fueled by Saul’s rebuke to her that “We were supposed to meet her together so you could talk to her and I could assess her reliability,” after she meets her source alone, his overheard shot at David that “For the record, as long as we’re covering our asses, I didn’t want her here in the first place. She’s not well.” Homeland‘s perspective has always meant that we know more than any other single other actor in the show, and often, that gives us a kind of authority over them. But here, it’s created a terrible helplessness: we know that Carrie is not just damaged, but has been damaged through a terrible injustice. And there is nothing at all we can do about it.
If last season was centered on the questions of whether Brody would carry out his mission and when Carrie would crack and be found out, this season has built up a different set of questions. Will Carrie be exonerated, either by patient, excellent work or the radical revelation that Brody did, at one point, intend to commit terrorism? Will Brody’s conversion to Islam become public? Will he get away with what he intended, and with his murder of Tom Walker? Is the story of Walker’s part in the plot plausible, now that the failure of its radical and immediate sequel has left it exposed to scrutiny? How long can Jessica, who is meeting “the junta who actually runs DC,” who wants to use Jessica to get to her husband, sustain the bright fiction that’s propelled her to the social standing he enjoys so much? The problem is, for these questions to remain suspenseful, they can’t be resolved or kept alive by implausibilities and chicken wire, something that the show leaned on heavily this episode.
I appreciate that the show is doing more with the strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities than simply using it as background for Carrie and Saul’s mission, and that it’s doing so in a realistic, anxious way. “One of the sites is too deeply buried for Israeli ordnance,” Walden tells Brody, explaining that he wants to export bunker busters to Israel, but that the “Commander in chief, so-called,” isn’t in favor of lifting restrictions on them. “You really give a shit about the Arab street?” Walden gripes. “They’d yell death to America whatever we did…If that means leaving a nuclear Iran for the next administration to deal with, what does he care? It’s all on me.” Even if Brody hadn’t planned to kill Walden six months ago, it’s hard to believe that the pompous, bloodthirsty Vice President and the sensitive, subtle Congressman would ever be viable partners. “You know who’s hosting this party, Jess?” Brody tells Jessica. “They make bombs. You really want to help veterans, you take out everyone in this room.” If he can’t restrain that sentiment while he’s at that same party, it’s hard to believe that he and Walden can keep up their bro-ish detente much longer.
It doesn’t help that their relationship takes a hugely implausible turn in this episode when Walden jauntily ropes Brody into the operation to take out Abu Nazir, itself a rather unlikely turn of events, and then texts Nazir from the situation room to save his life. I can believe that Brody, as Nazir’s victim, might have merited a phone call letting him know about the results of the operation after the fact. But I don’t believe he would have been in the room, if only because his emotions, particularly without a warning to get a handle on them, would be hugely distracting to the people trying to make operational decisions in the moment. And I don’t think he would have been allowed to bring his phone into the room, much less able to make a text from it undetected. “I’m a Congressman,” Brody tells Roya. “You get that, right? A U.S. Congressman. I cannot be fucking texting secret messages when I’m surrounded by the joint chiefs.” That is more true than the show seems to recognize.
The show’s other major coincidence comes via Deus Ex Mathison: it honest to God makes no sense whatsoever that a random Hezbollah commander would be holding on to a flash drive with Brody’s martyrdom video on it, and that it would just happen to be sewn into the lining of the bag that Carrie grabs in a frantic race through his apartment. I loved everything up to Saul’s discovery of the flash drive and after, the tense, scary chase along the roof, the horrible wait in the car down below, and the look on Mandy Patinkin’s face as he realized both that Carrie was correct and the magnitude of what’s done to her. But the presence of both of those long shots in a single episode, these clunky ways of getting other people to know things we already do, is a real problem. Brody didn’t need to be in the situation room and to warn Nazir for that scene to be tense and exciting, or for the operation to go awry—in fact, having it go wrong on its own might have more clearly underscored Carrie’s competence relative to that of the people who stigmatized her as crazy last season. Homeland will always be able to rely on the emotional power of its performances. But that doesn’t mean the show should push it.