Homeland, Season 3: Episode 3 – “Tower of David”
Written by Henry Bromell and William Bromell
Directed by Clark Johnson
Airs Sunday nights at 9pm ET on Showtime
And by “style,” I mean injected with heroin.
With the return of Brody to Homeland, there’s a lot at stake without even addressing how effective his incorporation into “Tower of David” is. If you look elsewhere on TV, you’ll find another series that begins its new season dealing with the temporary absence of an important character – The Governor on The Walking Dead. In both circumstances, these characters were used well last year at certain points, but were also used rather poorly at other points, culminating in season finale departures that raised a lot of questions (such as “Do we buy into this whole Carrie/Brody relationship?” and “Is Brody even a necessary part of this series? Are any of the Brody family members?” and “Is there any point in letting the The Governor live?” and “Was there a point in building up all that conflict between Woodbury and the prison if it was going to remain unresolved?”).
And while Homeland‘s overall handling of the character Nicholas Brody has been solid in two full seasons, another question must be asked in light of recent events in the television world – namely some commentary about how Showtime has been using its hand to influence the creative minds behind its original series. If Showtime really did prevent Dexter from dying at the end of his series, should that be a call to arms? Well, that really wouldn’t have changed much for how that series ended overall. But this early in Homeland (and let’s just assume that this series has at least a few more years worth of story to tell), what does it mean if Showtime steps in and says “Keep Brody alive for the remainder of this series”? These are all things that really ought to be considered by the fanbase, especially those who really like Damian Lewis on their television screens on Sunday nights. Having a character and/or actor that viewers really love is fantastic. Making sure that character/actor doesn’t overstay their welcome, though, is incredibly important to the integrity and legacy of a TV series. Joss Whedon and Steven S. DeKnight are two examples of great showrunners who know how to maintain that integrity for the sake of the story. It may be painful to admit that beloved characters need to be let go sometimes, but that doesn’t make it any less necessary.
So, then, what do we make of Brody in “Tower of David” and these first three episodes of Homeland‘s third season? Slow pacing aside, everything is working for Homeland right now. All of Brody’s scenes in this episode (his reintroduction into the series occupies the entire first half of the episode, after which we alternate between him and Carrie; nothing to report on Carrie this week – this is Damian Lewis’ episode) hit all the right marks emotionally and on the narrative level. What we get between Brody and Esme, one of the Venezuelans helping Brody recover from a recent injury, is subtle and beautifully engaging. There’s no overt “This is the new love interest” shouting going on between the lines; it’s simply a sequence of scenes in which these two characters, who can barely communicate with one another, affect each other’s lives in important ways, all of which leads up to an unexpectedly difficult parting for them when Brody tries to gain asylum in the local mosque. It’s simple and it works, just like how the late Henry Bromell – one of the co-writers of this episode – handled the interrogation in “Q&A” with such precision and care.
Ideally, “Tower of David” would have been devoted entirely to Brody’s story in the same way Game of Thrones executed “Blackwater” back in its second season, but seeing Brody back on the screen is a huge relief if just because it was the one thing that viewers and especially critics were most worried about when settling in for this third season. Now, if some people have problems with how early on Brody is back in the picture (also: what the heck are they doing with this heroin use thing?), it’s not hard to sympathize with those reservations. But just based on “Tower of David,” Homeland is performing well. It’s innocent until proven guilty, and as we see both of its main characters recover from and try to get out of pretty awful situations, we probably owe Homeland the benefit of the doubt, given that even at its worst – which I guess is the back half of season two? – this is still a perfectly good series that is worth watching and gives those weekly flashes of genuine brilliance that other series which rely on tension seem to get worse and worse at as they continue.
– Sean Colletti