Homeland, Ep. 2.08: “I’ll Fly Away” considers love, duty, and madness

Homeland, Season 2, Episode 8: “I’ll Fly Away”
Written by Chip Johannessen
Directed by Michael Cuesta
Airs Sundays at 10pm ET on Showtime

Homeland is principally discussed and appreciated as a politically-inclined thriller, an action-oriented series that manages to feel vguely relevant despite its obviously heightened nature. The show also often draws praise for its unflinching depiction of mental illness, in the many scenes we’ve gotten with Carrie struggling to keep her head in the game for the sake of national security. As Season 2 rolls along towards its endgame, however, there’s something a little different at work.

In Season 1, the central mystery – at least, until it wasn’t – was whether or not Brody had, in fact, been turned by Abu Nazir. Meanwhile, Carrie’s mental state was plainly not ideal: we saw her take, and then not take, her meds. We saw her break down. And, ultimately, we saw her on a gurney getting shot through with several hundred watts in hopes that the chemical reset might ease her mind somewhat.

With Brody’s status made abundantly clear, Carrie and her state of mind are now the central objects of mystery in Homeland, unless you count the Big Bad Thing being cooked up by Nazir and company. Sure, she took some time off to teach. Sure, she’s done a fairly expert job at keeping Brody on his new, CIA-friendly path. But to what degree is she in control of her own emotional responses to handling Brody?

Brody and Carrie’s affair renders that sense of uncertainty even more potent. We know exactly how conflicted Brody is, and how many different directions his life and priorities have taken over a fairly short period of time, and that he would begin to perhaps accept Carrie as a safe harbor away from both his past sins and from the people he owes the most makes perfect sense. But there’s more at work here than merely the intoxicating disorientation of mutual affection: there’s the notion that the end of this affair may see one, or both, of them dead or facing a neverending jail sentence.

The Very Bad Dana Plotline seems to lumber to a close this week, since she discovers that the daughter the hit and run victim left behind has been handsomely paid with hush money, but pairing her with Mike is an inspired choice. It’s logical that she would see him as perhaps the only trustworthy adult left in her life, since he’s the only one not involved in thwarting her attempt to act responsibly.

There is a credibility issue with “I’ll Fly Away,” albeit one with an asterisk. Are we meant to believe that Abu Nazir would risk a stateside visit? Or are we meant to believe that Brody’s been flown overseas? It certainly seems more like the former, given the editing, and it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which Nazir conducting his terorrist duties in the States personally could possibly be a good tactical move. But legitemizing its more out-there plot moves has never been among Homeland‘s weak spots, so I’ll leave it there for now.

And while the season’s been short on Saul/Carrie interaction, we do get a delightfully awful sequence in which he’s forced to defend his protegĂ© while he, Quinn, and a roomful of bravely stoic colleagues listen to her vigorous horizontal tango with Brody. Love, tactical acuity, and madness may now be completely inseperable in Carrie’s mind, and that this conundrum happens to double as a potent metaphor for driftless, destructive “anti-terror” foreign policy is merely subversive icing.

Simon Howell

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