Homeland Episode 2.03: State of Independence

October 15, 2012

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.

Previous episodes

2.01: “The Smile”

2.02: “Beirut Is Back


Just skip the nominations and the dresses and put a stamp on that Emmy envelope this week. (LUCY NICHOLSON/REUTERS)

OK, so Saul (Mandy Patinkin) has seen the video of Brody (Damien Lewis). Does that put the CIA hand in the line of fire? Does knowing what Carrie (Claire Danes) knows about the POW-turned-Al-Qaeda-operative consign Saul to a fate like hers? And, crucially, does Saul’s handling of this information lead us to eliminate him as a possible mole? In the opening minutes, he reveals how intently he means to leave Lebanon with the crucial evidence about Brody’s one-time intent to kill. He takes major risks to hang on to these truths.

Meanwhile, Carrie’s father has a diagnosis for her: “Wired is what you are.” She’s typing reports at all hours, riding the fun part of what he calls their mutual “disease.” What goes up must come down, in the bipolar character’s narrative arc, and all the CIA’s confidence in her doesn’t last; Carrie is boxed out of a briefing, regarding her own findings.

Brody and Jessica have a D.C. event coming up, strewn with fuddy-duddies and cater waiters. Jessica is determined to use the gathering to advance their status; he is determined to speak to their domestic difficulties with his Coming Home. The husband and wife work out their differences, finding common cause in the kitchen, on a countertop, with a walk-in from daughter Dana. Anyway, while it seems like they haven’t figured out how to love each other again, they seem determined to work at it.

Congressman Brody’s willingness to take calls from a pushy journalist (Zuleikha Robinson) is surpassed only by his willingness to do what she says. It’s the enduring annoyance of the show that the congressman will so consistently jeopardize his resumed life, with all its new benefits and opportunities, to do stupid and lethal errands for Abu Nazir. If Nazir has enough people to contact Brody and create a safehouse, then surely there’s someone other than a man considered to be a VP candidate to guide the Gettysburg bomb-vest tailor into hiding.

The tailor has more doubts about Brody than anyone so far, and he’s the guy whom Brody is risking everything to save. The best part of the Brody/tailor scenes is not the suspense of their car trouble nor the scant minutes before Brody’s big speech -- it’s the sense of what they might do to each other. Their bloody chase in the woods has some of the elements of “The Pine Barrens,” the phenomenal and snowy episode of “The Sopranos” in 2001 that combined wilderness and helpless, ruthless men. Brody shows off his Special Forces training, when MacGyvering a jack for their flat, and later, when barehanding a death grip on the tailor’s neck.

Brody has been coasting on his new congressional reputation, but the episode forces him to get his hands dirty, in every way. The congressman’s absence gives his wife a chance to develop a presence, and her extemporaneous hosannas are convincing to the crowd, if not necessarily those watching at home. She knows there’s trouble in his life and hers, and her remarks to the donors remind the viewers that she will hide the truth, when it’s in her interests. Her doubts are visible, a sign that Morena Baccarin is rising to the role’s challenges. And compellingly, Jessica is rising to the temptations of Mike’s return. It’s like she’s working on a Plan B.

Carrie needs another rest, after her disappointment in the Agency. And she takes a big rest in her own bed. It’s terrifying to watch her take every pill she can, on the way to the biggest possible rest, until, ultimately, Saul snaps her out of it. The portrayal of Carrie is beyond great, plunging into the scarily sublime, with very little dialogue and a focus on eyes that widen, water, close and startle awake again. Carrie’s yo-yo-ing brain activity is so skillfully conveyed that, three episodes and three weeks after she took home the industry’s big prize, it already feels like time to give Claire Danes next year’s award too. Just skip the nominations and the dresses and put a stamp on that Emmy envelope this week.

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