Homeland, Ep 1.06, “The Good Soldier”: Great show makes first misstep

Homeland, Season 1, Episode 6: “The Good Soldier”
Written by Henry Bromell
Directed by Brad Turner
Airs Sundays at 10pm ET on Showtime

It had to happen eventually. Homeland has not been a perfect show, not really. As good as it is there have always been tiny little things that have threatened to derail the show. Finally, one of those nagging problems has become a potentially big problem. Last week there were some very subtle hints that it might have been Saul who passed Hamid the razor blade. This week, through the use of a polygraph test, the writers have officially made Saul into a suspect.

This is a problem on two fronts. The first is that having a mole in the CIA is quite the cliché. The worse problem is that as great a character as Saul is, we haven’t been given a single reason to suspect him, other than through the direction of the show. There is nothing about his character that would indicate terrorist sympathies and any revelation of such sympathies at this point would feel like an unfortunately ham-fisted twist. It’s the sort of twist that worked in Season 1 of 24, where it was known that CTU had a mole and the material was generally pulpier. Homeland is great spy drama, but it has managed to stay away from pulp. This could all just be misdirection, but even then it’s annoying. Here’s hoping misdirection is all it is.

Meanwhile, in safer territory, the rest of the episode was pretty darn great. The polygraph is Carrie’s latest ploy to try and catch Brody red-handed. Unfortunately for her, Brody gets into a fight with a couple of his Marine friends, including beating the crap out of Mike, and gives her a call to say he won’t be able to come in for his test. In another classic example of Carrie’s poor decision making, she decides to go meet him at the bar where he’s drinking away his sorrows. The only way this could have ended was sex in the back of her car. Really, it was plain to see from the start, and boy does this ever spell trouble.

But that isn’t Carrie’s only slip. She also makes the mistake of drunkenly telling Brody the reason for the polygraph. When he comes to take the test the next day, Brody passes with flying colours. Except Carrie can’t handle this news, so she gets the tester to ask whether Brody has ever been unfaithful to his wife. Brody says “no” without a blip on the test. If Saul was made into a serious suspect this week, Brody has been made into an even bigger one, only in this case Carrie can’t even confide in Saul. Instead, she leaves the office in a panicked fit only to walk by Brody in his car in the parking lot and have him tell her to get in. She does. What is going on???

These are the sorts of twists that make Homeland great TV. The drama comes not only from the stakes of the situation, but also from the way these characters find new and interesting ways to self-destruct. There is nothing about getting in that car that makes it a good idea, but Carrie does it anyway. Brody is leading himself down a troubling path by continuing to bury his emotions away and only letting them come out in sharp outbursts like the one with his friends, or on that night with Carrie. Even Saul manages to ignore the clear signs that his wife wants to leave him by asking if he can get transferred to Delhi so he can be with his wife if she takes her new job. The title “Homeland” clearly refers to the United States, but as the show goes on it takes on more and more meaning. The homeland of the title is just as easily a reference to the broken inner lives of these characters. And what’s more, it’s absolutely fascinating to watch them all unravel.

The last important thing to touch on is the story with Faisel and his wife, Aileen. Now that the CIA has found them out, their lives are under threat from whomever it is they work for. It’s also revealed that Aileen is the real motivator between the two. It’s a play on expectations, but frankly not totally unexpected. The couple is attacked at a motel and Faisel is killed. Aileen gets out. This should make for some great story in the next episode or two. One of the great side benefits of this storyline is that it has shown us just how great Carrie can be when it comes to piecing together intelligence. She somehow understands through the various details of Faisel and Aileen’s lives that Aileen is the more likely instigator. It’s a great bit of spy thinking, and it proves just how good Carrie is at her job. It also helps to lend credence to her theories about Brody. If she’s right about Aileen, what else is she right about?

Do you think Saul is a mole? How would you feel about it if he were? Do you think Carrie missed a big tell from Saul after he came back from his first polygraph? Where do you think the second half of the season is headed? So many questions! If you’ve got any thoughts on them, be sure to comment!

Corey Atad

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