Homeland, Ep. 3.02: “Uh… Oh… Ah…” is another exercise in constraint

Episode 302

Homeland, Season 3: Episode 2 – “Uh… Oh… Ah…”
Written by Chip Johannessen
Directed by Lesli Linka Glatter
Airs Sunday nights at 9pm ET on Showtime

All’s well in the world of Homeland: Dana and Jessica are spending quality mother-daughter time with each other, Carrie and Saul share drinks and stories about the good ol’ days as they effortlessly run the short-handed CIA and Peter Quinn skips around Langley with a smile on his face singing Christmas tunes year-round. This is the feel-good season to balance out all the horrific things going on elsewhere in the land of television. Wait, what?

“Uh… Oh… Ah…” gets its strange title from a proclamation made by one of its characters at the end of the episode (very similar to the episode “I.F.T.” of Breaking Bad). Carrie actually got to say the same thing, more or less, to Saul last week, but there’s a bit more resonance in last night’s episode as Carrie can barely string the words together after being medically treated against her will. We’ve seen this Carrie and this Claire Danes in Homeland many times before, but it never ceases to impress how much inhumanity can be evoked by this character and actress.

Without an action set-piece to speak of, “Uh… Oh… Ah…” is probably the Homeland episode viewers were least expecting and, consequently, the one that might disappoint them the most (especially if someone isn’t a Dana fan). But, as with last week, this is the episode Homeland should be having right now as it both recovers from the Langley bombing and sets the foundation for whatever shit is going to hit the fan in a few weeks’ time. As great as it is to see these characters in action – and life or death situations – they work just as well as individuals with personal problems. And “Uh… Oh… Ah…” (I’m never going to get tired of writing that) brings the foremost of those problems to the table. Even disregarding the Carrie-Saul conflict, there’s big character moments for Dana, Quinn and a new character (Fara) that give the episode more than enough weight to make up for the fact that it might not be as exciting as a normal Homeland episode.

Dana’s story is the one that gets the most screen time and is the one that probably deserves to be talked about the most, but after a big episode for her last week and the suggestion that she’s pretty much going to be the second main character in the first half of this season, there’s not a whole lot that should be added here. The best of Dana in “Uh… Oh… Ah…” comes in a bathroom scene, where she literally drags Jessica by the arm and tells her straight-up: Dana wanted to die. But not anymore. Dana’s young, so we naturally write off part of the speech as her not knowing what love is and overvaluing her relationship with the guy she’s met in recovery. But it’s a big scene that gives, at the very least, the tools for catharsis between Dana and Jessica, especially when Dana points out that the only crazy person in this situation is her dad (a still-absent Brody).

Episode 302

Quinn, on the other hand, hardly gets any screen time but still manages to be just as memorable in “Uh… Oh… Ah…” There isn’t much meaningful or interesting commentary on what happened during his mission in last week’s episode, but after Quinn pays a visit to Carrie in the hospital and basically gets ignored (Carrie thinks Quinn is “in” on whatever Saul is putting her through), he goes to confront the big guy. There’s not been much of an establishment of the relationship between Saul and Quinn – we come into season three just assuming that Quinn’s been Saul’s go-to guy for everything – but even lacking that background between the two, Quinn telling Saul that he’s out as soon as this mission is done manages to be one of the episode’s best moments.

Perhaps the single best moment, though, belongs to newcomer Fara, who is brought in as a consultant (despite her inadequate experience, she’s all the CIA has at this point) to help Saul track money into Iran. She’s talked down to as if a child by Saul early on but gets to speak (out of turn) in a meeting with some intermediaries of the money she’s been asked to track. The moment becomes deflated after the men pick up and leave, having no appreciation of being accused of helping terrorists even tangentially and unintentionally. But it also immediately establishes the kind of person who Fara is in just one episode, and that person is certainly someone we’re going to want to spend more time with in the coming weeks.

As we wait for the first big episode of Homeland this season, the series is quietly stringing together strong stories in the early-going. A lot of the complaints regarding season two were based on how erratic and silly the season felt at times. These first two episodes of the third season have stood as the antithesis to those concerns, shirking the temptation to be the balls-to-the-wall series it could be in favor of building up to those bigger moments and episodes in a way that will hopefully make them feel earned.

– Sean Colletti

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