Episode Title: "State of Independence"
Writer: Alexander Cary
Director: Lodge Kerrigan
Previously on "Homeland":
If it had been up to me, “Homeland” would not have taken home the Emmy Award for Outstanding drama a few weeks ago.
This is by it’s very nature a subjective opinion, but I thought that “Breaking Bad,” “Boardwalk Empire” and “Game of Thrones” all had better and more memorable seasons than the first year of “Homeland.” Don’t misunderstand, I thought “Homeland” was a very good show that constantly got better as the first season went along. I just didn’t think it was among the elite shows on television.
However, “Homeland” season 2 is making a very compelling and successful case to be counted among the best dramas on TV. The first three episodes have been excellent and I’m very impressed that the writers of this series have been taking chances with the narrative a lot sooner than anyone expected.
Full spoilers are ahead, so if you’re not up to date on “Homeland,” don’t come back until you are.
It was inevitable that the recorded confession of Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) would eventually come back to haunt him. But letting Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) see it so early in the season left me expecting a swerve that would quickly undo the damage done and lightly revert to the status quo. So, when the Lebanese official confiscated the memory chip from Saul’s bag, I knew that was coming.
I was also pretty pissed at the cheap way to keep Brody’s secret until we learned that Saul was one step ahead of everyone by hiding the real memory chip in a different part of his briefcase. That was a great swerve and I’m ecstatic that the discovery of Brody’s terrorist ties didn’t go away.
This shouldn’t be all that surprising considering that Showtime is the cable network that has us rooting for a serial killer in “Dexter;” but I find myself occasionally hoping that Brody can pull it together, cast off his ties to Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban) and rebuild his life with his family. Lewis is so damn likable as Brody that it’s almost insidious. But like him or not, Brody is a terrorist even if he doesn’t want to target people whom he considers to be innocent.
One of the reasons that Brody remains sympathetic is that he is almost always at the mercy of someone else’s agenda. Vice President William Walden (Jamey Sheridan) is openly using his association with Brody for political gain, Abu Nazir won’t let Brody slip out of his grasp and even his wife, Jessica (Morena Baccarin) seems comfortable riding Brody’s coattails to become the latest member of Washington D.C.’s elite.
At least Jessica has real feelings for Brody, and she’s deeply moved by the personal speech he wrote for her fundraiser to help veterans… even if Brody never shared those details with her before. Brody and his wife briefly rediscovered their passion for each other… right before their daughter, Dana (Morgan Saylor) almost caught them in the act. That was a little TV trope-ish, but it was still pretty funny.
Moments later, Brody gets another reminder about whom he really serves when Roya Hammad (Zuleikha Robinson) tells him that the CIA has recovered intelligence that could expose the Tailor (Nasser Faris); the one man who knows the truth about Brody and provided him with a suicide vest that didn’t initially work.
Brody makes the trip out to Gettysburg to retrieve the Tailor and get him to a safe house. But there’s paranoia and tension the entire time. When Brody and the Tailor attempt to deal with a flat tire in the middle of nowhere, there were several moments in which the Tailor openly contemplated killing Brody. And there was at least one moment where I thought that Brody was considering the same course of action for the Tailor.
Eventually, the Tailor runs off into the woods because he’s convinced that even if Brody doesn’t kill him then someone else in Nazir’s organization would. Brody gives chase and in the process the Tailor is mortally wounded. And when Jessica calls because Brody never showed up to her fundraiser, Brody kills the Tailor when he keeps making noises that made Jessica even more suspicious.
You may be wondering why Brody didn’t kill the Tailor earlier when he had the chance. And the answer is simple: Brody really did want to help the man. In spite of everything that was done to him in captivity, Brody is still holding on to his loyalty to Nazir. How else could you explain Brody texting a warning to one of the world’s most wanted terrorists during a joints chief meeting in last week’s episode?
I highly doubt that Roya and Brody are Nazir’s only active assets in the United States, so why send Brody on the errand to move the Tailor? Control. It has always been about control with Abu Nazir and this was his way of reminding Brody that he still holds all of the cards. Brody probably thinks that Nazir could use his recorded confession against him at some point as well. Poor sucker… that ship has already sailed.
Without Brody, Jessica comes through in a big way at the fundraiser with an impromptu speech of her own. Jessica may not be much of a public speaker, but her honesty about dealing with Brody’s return and her suggestion about how to help other military families deal with the same problems wins her a round of applause and probably some political capital as well.
But Jessica has had enough of Brody’s lies and deceptions and she effectively tells him that she’s considering ending their marriage when he finally comes home and almost catches Jessica and Mike (Diego Klattenhoff) in a compromising situation. The thing is, I think that Brody really does love his wife and his family. He just doesn’t know how to keep his life from slipping through his fingers every time Nazir calls upon him.
Which brings us all the way back to Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes). Her life has spiraled out of control ever since she deduced that Brody had been turned by Nazir. Carrie was never the most mentally sound person to begin with, but she effectively destroyed her life and her career in the CIA through her obsession with exposing the truth about Brody. She also fell in love with Brody along the way, which further complicates things.
As usual, Danes gave a tour de force performance as Carrie cycled through different emotional states during the episode. In the beginning, Carrie is overjoyed because she knows that she did an exceptional job during her unofficial CIA mission in Beirut. Both Danny Galvez (Hrach Titizian) and David Estes (David Harewood) express their admiration for what she did.
However, Carrie’s mental state is no longer a secret at the CIA and Estes shuts her out of her own briefing because of it. Estes asks Carrie if she expected to be reinstated in the CIA; which she denies. But in her heart of hearts, Carrie had to have hoped that it would happen. Carrie is a competent English teacher, but she’s a great agent. The spy world is the only realm in which she can truly thrive and be herself.
Without even the dream of ever getting her old life back, Carrie gets ready to go on the prowl for a one night stand… before eventually deciding to kill herself with a handful of pills and white wine. There’s no other way to read that scene. Carrie finally reached a point where she decided that suicide was the best option to escape her problems and she took it.
Of course, suicide is a very permanent solution that only ends the person, not the problem. For reasons that are somewhat ambiguous, Carrie changes her mind and induces herself to regurgitate the pills and save her life. Initially I thought it was because she finally remembered the link between Brody and Nazir’s son who was killed in an air strike ordered by the Vice President. But we don’t actually get an explanation for Carrie’s change of heart.
Instead, we get something better. Saul arrives at Carrie’s home several hours later straight off the plane from Beirut. And while Carrie’s other CIA colleagues shut her out, Saul allows her to see the video of Brody’s confession that vindicates her at last. That may not be enough for Carrie to ever truly reclaim what she lost, but learning the truth was necessary if only to help her remain sane. I think Saul understood that and he is the only one in the CIA who seems to actually care for Carrie.
"State of Independence" covered a lot of ground with Carrie’s story and it leads me to believe that Brody’s time on this series is starting to wind down. This feels like we’re approaching an endgame for Brody and I have trouble seeing how he could remain free for the rest of the season… assuming he survives that long.
This was a riveting hour of television by any standard. If “Homeland” can maintain this pace throughout the entire season then it could become something truly special. And I now feel that it does belong among the elite TV dramas.