‘Homeland’ episode 2.02: ‘Beirut Is Back’
By Ned Martel,
As Carrie tracks Brody, Ned Martel will be tracking their every move in weekly recaps of Showtime’s Emmy Award-winning series “Homeland.” Check back each Monday morning to join the conversation on one of TV’s best nailbiters.
SPOILER ALERT: Obviously this recap reveals plot points for the new season, and also those from last season.
Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) knows Beirut. She’s been there before. She knows people. One of them is willing to talk, and the CIA gambles that Carrie can get more out of the source than anyone else can.
Carrie intercepts the Hezbollah leader’s wife at a sacred place. Though it’s been years since they last met and the American is disguised under brown hair and behind color contact lenses, the two women recognize and trust each other. In exchange for giving up the details of her husband’s meeting with Abu Nazir, the Lebanese woman gets an assurance of $5 million to start a new life with relatives in Michigan. She’ll do so without one relative, however: “You can kill them both,” she tells Carrie, about her husband and his terrorist ally.
Can Carrie be trusted? is always the question. She has to keep herself on meds, for sure, but she also has to keep the Agency in line too, even though she has shaky evidence that they keep commitments to employees, much less informants. The episode does well in anchoring this pivotal plot point as an exchange between two women, whose wordless communication suggests that each has seen a great deal and would do a great deal on behalf of the other.
A bond between a man and a woman can lead to risky behavior too, but it’s not entirely clear if that’s why Brody (Damian Lewis) is paying so much attention to the mandates of Roya Hammad (Zuleikha Robinson), the wily journalist who acts as conduit to Abu Nazir. Yes, he witnessed the death of Abu Nazir’s son (and Brody’s beloved pupil), Issa. Since his return, however, Brody has intensified his commitment to his own kids. Most crucially, his daughter’s voice, on a cell phone, kept him from detonating his explosive vest in the last season’s finale.
That daughter, Dana (Morgan Saylor), is herself going rogue, knowing her mother is bothered by Brody’s religious conversion. In the first episode, Jessica (Morena Baccarin) desecrated her husband’s Koran, by throwing the book on the ground, and Dana stood by as her father buried it in the yard. Now Dana is unearthing the trouble in her parents’ marriage, intuiting that her father’s higher-office prospects have dazzled her mother, who seems more ready to become the party favorite than her husband. Brody knows that he’s hardly the hero that everyone is saluting.
Carrie proves in Beirut that it’s against her constitution to play it safe. After she helps rescue her informant, Carrie bolts, heading upstairs to the apartment where precious intelligence is just sitting there, she surmises. She grabs a shoulder bag and loads it with files and discs of unknown value. A mob gathers around the escape SUV, rocking it and putting at risk the lives, among others, of Saul (Mandy Patinkin) and the informant. Carrie herself runs, endearingly and very much like a girl, past gunfire in the open-air corridors and stairwells. She barely escapes, with the satchel.
Why are “Homeland” producers having Brody sweating it all over again so soon, back in another room with military and intelligence shot-callers? They’re relying on Lewis’s skills that won him the Emmy, but it’s like they’re reenacting the exact tics and tensions. Hey, at least it’s stellar acting, and showing too much of it is a good problem to have. And you know, nobody faulted Ethel Merman for following one bellowing showstopper with another, did they?
The Vice President was correct in assuming Brody would want to be in the room when the U.S. got his captor in their scopes, thanks to Carrie’s reconnaissance. But really, even if he’s not in the actual White House Situation Room, he is inside what national security personnel call a SCIF (pronounced skif, for Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility). My colleague Rajiv Chandrasekaran notes that in a true-life situation, all cell phones would wind up in a wooden box outside the room.
OK, so that’s reassuring, but can you accept the idea that Brody not only could, but would, tip those on the screen that the most secret and deadly teams of U.S. fighters are ready to fire? Can you accept that Saul thinks to search Carrie’s purloined satchel so thoroughly that he finds the data drive with Nicholas Brody, in military dress, talking to a camera about why he took part in a suicide bombing? Of course, that explosion never happened, but these implausible twists did. If you accept these hairpin turns, then the show is keeping its course, and keeping your disbelief far above the riveting action.
And the action clearly is heading Saul’s way, with some jeopardy that comes with his new knowledge and some imminent face-off between Carrie and Brody. Past as prologue, the creators waste no time in speeding its protagonists toward some form of agony.
Please feel free to send me reactions, suspicions, digressions: firstname.lastname@example.org