Homeland, Season 3: Episode 8 – “A Red Wheelbarrow”
Written by Alex Gansa and James Yoshimura
Directed by Seith Mann
Airs Sunday nights at 9 on Showtime
Officially two-thirds through its current season, Homeland is pretty much back to where it was before a spiraling second season finish: some great espionage and character beats here and there, some questionable plotlines on the table and a whole lot of confidence that the story it is telling is something viewers are invested in seeing unfold. Of course, some viewers are not interested. Others have checked out completely. But for those who took the third episode from this season, “Tower of David,” with restrained optimism, maybe things are on the right track to getting paid off. It’s less of a stretch to convince us that Brody still belongs on this show than, say, to convince us that The Governor still belongs on The Walking Dead. And even though neither is particularly convincing given that each series can stand up without these characters, it’s at least interesting to see how Brody is being reintegrated and why. When Saul comes face-to-face with the man at the end of “A Red Wheelbarrow,” it’s less shocking and/or affecting than it probably should be. That said, the scene works on the level that Saul is owning up to his conceived mistakes and putting Carrie through hell, which adds more color to Saul in a season that has revolved around him.
One of the aforementioned questionable plotlines, though, really has the potential to backfire. Carrie sits down to finally see to her pregnancy. She’s taken lithium, she went through a heavy drinking stage and she lives a highly stressful life, but the baby will be fine with some minor adjustments, she says. Okay, fine. If they’re going to suggest that Carrie just got lucky on this one and that what she put her body through had no permanent damage on the fetus, there’s little we can do other than roll our eyes. Going forward with the story is the part that is most up in the air, because there’s no real indication as to what Carrie’s attitude is other than she’s transitioning from ignoring the pregnancy to accepting that it’s a thing. She doesn’t want to know the sex. She takes some personal time, but she doesn’t really seem like she’s going to stop working (or that she can stop working). Clearing Brody’s name is obviously the point here (Carrie doesn’t want to have his child if he’s the terrorist that the nation thinks he is), but as we’re watching it unfold in front of us, the whole thing feels tacked on. Maybe now that Brody is going to return to the action, meaningful dialog about the pregnancy can be had, but this has been a weird addition to an inconsistent season for Carrie.
Fara and Quinn, meanwhile, get to do stuff (hooray!). It’s great to finally see something of Fara’s personal life, and her conversations with her father that are only half in English establish her domestic situation fully in a matter of minutes. Homeland hasn’t really done much in-depth with Quinn since introducing him last year, so it’s a good sign to see attempts at fleshing out Fara being made this early. Quinn doesn’t get to have that kind a sequence here, but he gets to shoot Carrie, the surprising effect of which is increased by how slowly it seemed like he was letting down his barriers to connect with her in previous episodes. It’s a no nonsense situation that Carrie probably isn’t going to hold against him forever – she knows she was in the wrong by disobeying orders – but it makes for a striking visual sequence in which the whole operation is almost blown.
Weirdly enough, I still feel like eight episodes isn’t a large enough sample to make a definitive judgment on how this season of Homeland holds up to the previous two. Critical opinion has vacillated, as readers of reviews will know, but even taking a step away from that role, I’m not sure what my feelings toward this season as a viewer of television are anymore. That’s not to say it’s a huge problem – certain types of series depend entirely on how a year’s worth of story finishes and not necessarily the process of getting to that finish. If Homeland is going to retain its identity of prestige drama (or earn in back in others’ opinions, if possible), that finish has to use these disparate parts so that some feeling of satisfying conclusion is achieved.
– Sean Colletti