Homeland, Ep. 2.03: “State of Independence” sends Brody on a problematic mission

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Homeland, Season 2, Episode 3: “State of Independence”
Written by Alexander Cary
Directed by Lodge Kerrigan
Airs Sundays at 10pm ET on Showtme

After reminding us of its trademark breakneck pacing last week, Homeland throws us yet another curveball, by giving us the show’s version of a transitional episode. Were it as purposefully single-minded about bounding past our expectations as “Beirut Is Back,” “State of Independence” would have opened with the scene that closes it: Saul turning up on Carrie’s doorstep, showing her that she was right all along about Brody as a personal courtesy. It’s a stellar scene, and Danes is just as devastating as ever.

Sadly, the near-hour that precedes that scene is a hit-and-miss affair. The best thing about “Independence” is that it might be the best showcase yet for Morena Baccarin, whose turn as Jessica Brody is easily the show’s most thankless. By design, she needs to be in the dark about Brody’s extracurricular activities – at least for the time being – and thereby alienated from most of the audience’s knowledge, putting her at a remove from most of the plot’s many moving parts. But this week, while that remians an issue, Baccarin gets to flex her acting muscles a little more than usual, especially when Jessica has to rise to the occasion and give a speech to a roomful of Very Important People thanks to her husband’s absence¬† It’s nice to see her get more to do than fret and/or question. (Another great moment: Brody’s dickish assumption about what Jessica’s role consisted of, and her and Mike’s reaction to said dickishness.)

Less swell was Brody’s storyline, which strains credibility to degrees the show generally succeeds in avoiding. Brody’s Nazir contact recruits him to nab and transport the bombmaker from last season, with the premise that Brody is a trustworthy face. First of all, that doesn’t wind up being remotely true – he distrusts Brody immediately – making Nazir’s organization seem, frankly, incompetent. Worse, the idea that Brody is the ideal candidate for the job is extremely problematic for several obvious reasons, chief among them that if the CIA are likely to be acting on the intel they recently acquired, Brody’s cover is very likely to e compromised should he be seen anywhere near the bombmaker. The idea that tasking Brody with the job is in any way ideal is plainly ludicrous. Here’s hoping they right Brody’s course in a serious way by next week’s, frankly much-more-exciting-seeming outing.

Lodge Kerrigan (Clean, Shaven) makes his TV-directing debut with “Independence,” but unfortunately, beyond the scuffle in the woods (complete with blood-curdling sound effects), the teleplay doesn’t give him much room to distinguish himself – I’d be curious to see what he could have done with a more action-packed episode.

Now that Saul’s back home and ready to spill his guts re: Brody, the season is just about ready to blow wide open with possibility, but “Independence” doesn’t do much to advance that agenda. It does more than stall for time, but not by much.

Simon Howell

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