Written by Alexander Cary
Directed by Clark Johnson
Airs Sundays at 10pm ET on Showtime
Five episodes in and Homeland continues to surprise. It should be expected at this point, but somehow Homeland doesn’t feel like it should work. It’s like a weird blip in the annals of spy stories on television. What makes everything work so well is how grounded it all is. This is a show where the characters trump the plot and where realism is prized over unwarranted melodrama. This is perfectly exemplified in what is perhaps the best scene of the series so far: the interrogation.
Where other shows may have played up the intensity of the situation or the importance of every second leading to torture, Homeland plays it close to reality. Carrie and Saul are forced to bring Brody in to help them with the interrogation of his torturer, the only enemy survivor from the raid on the location where Brody was being held. Brody acts as something of an audience surrogate, with Carrie explaining to him the sly, psychological methods the CIA uses to interrogate suspects. Brody feeds information to Saul who uses that information to unnerve the suspect and get him to cooperate. The scene is simply masterful. Incredibly tense, not just because of the interrogation itself, but because we are constantly watching for even the most minute “tell” from Brody.
The scene also gives us a bit of Saul Berenson in action, and it’s quite a sight to behold. In fact, the episode as a whole gives us a lot more Saul Berenson than we’ve seen before. This is a great thing. The more I see of Saul, the more convinced I am that he’s one of the greatest characters currently on TV. In this episode we get a glimpse into his relationship with his wife. It’s clearly a strained marriage, with his wife hinting that she’d like to move back with her family in India. Their frank talk is interrupted by Carrie at the door, which leads to a brilliant scene of Carrie berating Saul for his unwillingness to support her. Her words clearly cut deep and Mandy Patinkin sells every facet of annoyance, anger, embarrassment, pain and frustration. If you’re looking for quality acting on TV, look no further than Mandy Patinkin on Homeland.
Of course, Patinkin isn’t the only great actor on the show. Claire Danes continues to absolutely kick ass in her performance as Carrie. Another actress might have made Carrie’s nagging fixations annoying, but Danes makes her real and believable, and also perfectly conveys the feeling of a person slowly becoming unhinged by her own determination. Carrie has a couple scenes involving her family this week. In the first she talks to her father and we get a sense of where she might be headed in terms of her mental state down the road. We also get a freakout after her confrontation with Saul in which she goes crying to her sister who then calms her down. Carrie can be a very difficult character to sympathize with, but she obviously loves her family dearly, and she uses them as support when everyone else fails her.
The failure in this episode comes from David, who lets Brody confront his torturer face to face, only to have that torturer commit suicide using a razor blade a couple of scenes later. Of course, Carrie and Saul are the only people in on suspecting Brody, and Carrie is convinced that in a moment where Brody physically assaulted the man he was actually passing him that razor blade. There’s no way to prove this but it doesn’t stop Carrie from getting angry that Saul wasn’t able to prevent it. They have now lost one of their best leads.
Along with the man who committed suicide, they also realize through what little information he did give them that the suspect they brushed aside last episode, Raqim Faisel, actually does have a role in the larger plot. Only now he’s gone missing, possibly having been alerted by someone. Carrie thinks Brody alerted Faisel, but again, this is based purely on her own theorizing. She has absolutely no evidence.
We also get a bit more of Brody at home. Mike is still around, taking Brody’s son to karate classes and feeding him ice cream. Brody’s resentment is practically all out there on the surface at this point. There will clearly be some kind of reckoning between the two of them soon. In the meantime we get a really great scene in which Brody apologizes to his son for missing the karate practice, and assuring him that he is very proud. This is another kind of scene Homeland excels in. These quiet moments between the members of the Brody family could be so cheesy, but the writers and actors make us feel that sad reality. It really is heartbreaking in the best way to hear that his son used to pray for him to still be alive, and that he now prays that he’ll be okay.
Homeland shows no sign of faltering any time soon, and I’m so glad for that. It’s wonderful to see intelligent television week to week that still fits into a comfortable genre. I’m hard pressed to predict what will happen next, but I can’t wait to see how everything will play out. In the meantime I take great pleasure in all the pieces being put into place through meaningful character actions and intriguing plot twists.
I guess the biggest question of the week is, did Brody actually pass his torturer the razor blade shard? Let me know what you think!