Episode Title: "The Clearing"
Writer: Meredith Stiehm
Director: John Dahl
Previously on "Homeland":
Have you ever gotten the impression that most of the major subplots on “Homeland” could be wrapped up fairly easily if the main characters were able to reflect and think about what it is that they actually want?
Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) and Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) have been lying to themselves and each other for so long that when they finally embrace and kiss again in this episode, neither of them seems to really know if it’s a genuine gesture or if they are simply using each other. Now that Brody’s secret is no longer a secret between them, they at least have enough honesty between them to admit that they aren’t sure what’s going on. But that doesn’t make their relationship any less murky.
Full spoilers lie ahead for "The Clearing." Don’t finish reading this review unless you’re caught up on “Homeland”!
Not so subtly, this episode reminds us that the illusion of power is very important to keeping Brody in line. Carrie had finally gained the power in that relationship by exposing his secret to the CIA and turning him into their asset. But Carrie also lost a measure of that control when she wept in Brody’s arms in the previous episode.
That may have been good for Brody, because he lacks power in almost all other aspects of his life. Brody can’t even talk to a high level donor without being told that he’s being groomed for a potential run at the White House in eight years. And while “President Brody” has all kinds of dramatic possibilities, Brody seems horrified by the prospect of it. People look at Brody and assume that he’s a war hero, but the truth seems to shame Brody while he’s in the presence of an actual war hero who survived his war relatively unbroken.
Aside from being drawn even further into the plot of Roya Hammad (Zuleikha Robinson) and Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban) to earn his own freedom from the CIA, another threat to Brody’s future has popped up in the form his daughter, Dana (Morgan Saylor). It’s still not clear if Dana is lying about the victim of Finn Walden’s (Timothée Chalamet) hit and run. But I took her story about attending the woman’s funeral as something she only said to spur Finn into confronting the truth and so they could tell their parents together.
As much as I don’t care for this CW-style subplot, it’s actually become important now that it’s out in the open with the respective Brody and Walden families. Vice President William Walden (Jamey Sheridan) and his wife, Cynthia Talia Balsam) want to cover the incident up to protect their political futures while Brody and his wife, Jessica (Morena Baccarin) want to do the right thing and report the accident. It’s actually Brody’s most principled stand in a while, as he knows this will alienate Walden from him. But Brody eventually backs off from Carrie’s ultimatum because that’s just what he does when confronted by a situation when he has no power.
For her part, Carrie has a very revealing chat with Brody’s estranged friend, Mike (Diego Klattenhoff) as she tells him to back off his informal investigation of Brody. Everything that Carrie tells Mike could be applied as advice for herself. Somewhere in her heart of hearts, Carrie may even see Mike as the potential solution to everyone’s problems. In Carrie’s Fantasyland, Mike could get Jessica and the kids while Carrie gets Brody to herself. Assuming that Carrie still wants Brody; which seems like a safe bet.
By the end of the episode, Carrie and Brody are at odds again as she prevents Dana and Brody from reporting the accident to maintain his access to Walden and his usefulness to Nazir. Carrie hilariously reintroduced herself to Dana as if she wouldn’t remember the crazy woman who broke into her home and told Dana that her dad was working with terrorists. Dana’s resulting anger may sabotage both Brody and Carrie if she tells her mom that Brody is seeing Carrie again, even within the context of working for the CIA.
Brody yells at Carrie and screams “None of this is f***ing OK!” Well... whose fault is that, Brody?
The other major plotline of the week revolved around Saul Berenson and it gave Mandy Patinkin some of his best scenes of the season. Saul reconnected with former terrorist, Aileen Morgan (Marin Ireland); whom he managed to turn against her former allies during the first season. However, Aileen is in a far less cooperative mood after spending months in a SuperMax jail under the thumb of a petty and vindictive warden.
One of this episode’s great comedic moments came when Saul was actually offended by how much of an ass the warden was. While we’re on the subject, Peter Quinn’s (Rupert Friend) scene with Carrie in his hospital room and Max’s (Maury Sterling) “I’m not a mute!” were also among the best jokes in the episode.
Getting back to Saul, he becomes emotionally involved with Aileen and he seems moved by her plight. Aileen and Saul even seem to bond over some contraband wine, bread and cheese... but it’s all for nothing. Aileen had no actionable intelligence to share with Saul, just the name of an old classmate. And with Saul distracted, Aileen used the lens from his backup reading glasses to slash her wrists and die rather than return to solitary. And it seems to hurt Saul more than it should.
In a way, Saul fell into the same trap that Carrie did. He cared too much about his target and felt the pain of her death too deeply. Saul may not have gone as far as Carrie did with Brody, but he was thinking with his heart and not his mind. On this show, that’s the fatal flaw of almost all of the major characters.