Homeland, Season 2, Episode 2: “Beirut is Back”
Written by Chip Johannessen
Directed by Michael Cuesta
Airs Sundays at 10pm ET on Showtime
Well, it would appear that the greatest issue with Season Two’s credibility is about to be eliminated. In the “holy shit”-worthy final moments of “Beirut is Back,” Saul Berenson witnesses the videotaped confession of one Sgt. Brody, for an act he never got to commit. Why anyone would keep this confession on a hard drive knit into a secret pocket in a handbag has yet to be established, but there’s plenty of time to sort that out. What’s important is that Saul now knows Carrie was right, and that changes everything – including, of course, Brody’s political ambitions. He won’t be in Guantanamo Bay next week – that would sort of counter the show’s narrative thrust as we know it – but it’s inconceivable that his bid for any higher offices won’t be quietly, and definitively, undermined. So that’s that; well played, Gansa, Gordon and company.
In many ways, “Beirut is Back” is a reminder of Homeland‘s best characteristics, especially its willingness to speed right through to narrative developments we might have otherwise assumed would be reserved for many episodes (or even a season or two) later. Saul finding out about Brody is a surprising development, but really, given the way Season One absolutely barrelled through its many twists and turns, we should really have seen it coming. After the last moments of the episode, we ask, “how can the show continue much longer from here?”, much as we did back when Carrie and Brody had their climactic chat in the first season’s “The Weekend.” Whatever Homeland‘s deficiencies are, narrative expediency and the subversion of expectation are not among them.
And neither is a lack of tension. “Beirut is Back” is replete with the stuff. Carrie’s foot-chase out of her informant’s apartment – though it could have used less frenetic editing – is remarkably pulse-quickening considering that on a logical level we understand that the show’s protagonist can’t possibly be gravely injured. (The canniest detail: the way her CIA partner’s firearm enters the shot well before he does when he arrives to her rescue.) We also get a humdinger of a sequence in which Brody nearly watches his mentor take one to the head, only to rescue him with a last-millisecond text message. Admittedly, it would have been wonderfully show-destabilizing to see Abu Nazir get his, but the episode’s last moments are loaded enough to provide us with that sensation.
We also get the return of the show’s most consistently great element, aka, Scenes of Saul and Carrie Butting Heads. Saul is unieqivocal about the fact that the Carrie he sees in front of him is absolutely unready for field work; that’s why Carrie, rather brilliantly, gets him to rely on the judgment of the Carrie they both used to trust in order to get him to move on the intelligence she’s gathered. Outright manipulation, maybe, but she wasn’t wrong. (And never was, making her speech about how much the Brody affair “fucked her up” incredibly affecting.)
Meanwhile, the show is still trying to successfully integrate Brody’s home life, to mixed results. On the plus side, Dana’s emerging snarkiness can be kind of winning (“What a dump!”, she exclaims upon arriving at the Vice President’s palatial estate), but the story of her hooking up with the VP’s son seems like a sure time-waster until the moment it inevitably intersects with the master plot in some fashion. Better are the scenes of Brody half-heartedly attempting to allay the fears of his former Marine comrades about their departed brother-in-arms, Tom Walker It’s a well-timed reminder that Brody has two families to deceive. (Three, if you count his constituents.)
So how are they going to walk back from that reveal at the end of the episode? Will Saul be cut off in some way – captured, maybe? (Admittedly, the prospect of Saul in captivity conjures all kinds of cerebral badassery.) Regardless of the way forward, it’s wonderful to see the show is still capable of being incredibly disorienting on a plotting level. Other high-tension serialized dramas, take note: this is how it’s done.