Homeland, Season 3: Episode 10 – “Good Night”
Written by Alexander Cary and Charlotte Stoudt
Directed by Keith Gordon
Airs Sunday nights at 9 on Showtime
Maybe, by default, calling “Good Night” the most suspenseful episode of the season carries less weight than it should. So, to state it more clearly, “Good Night” is a fantastic individual episode of both Homeland and television in general. At its best, this series vibrates at an extremely high level of tension, which has been both character-based and plot-based in the past. Much of what made these characters interesting has become a little muddled this year, but “Good Night” goes all the way with plot to create some genuinely riveting material. The episode centers around Saul’s play to get Brody across the Iraq-Iran border and doesn’t bother concerning itself with much melodrama. Structurally, it’s the most tightly-focused episode of Homeland I can remember (even more so than the critically lauded “Q&A” from last season) despite the two locales being thousands of miles apart from one another. There’s never a moment, though, where it feels like Brody is very far from Carrie. And where this episode could have played up that relationship in a cliche, soapy way, there’s a surprising amount of emotional draw there. “Good Night” shows that Carrie and Brody are more than just two people caught up in a weird love story – they’re two human beings who try to bring out the best in each other.
Carrie begins the episode by restlessly asking questions as if to expose someone – anyone – for not doing their job completely. This is was the first time Carrie as a character really pissed me off as opposed to just making me roll my eyes. In a context where patience is a necessity, Carrie is the worst possible kind of person to be included in this mission, because she is someone who both can’t quite handle when things are out of her control and gets upset because she can’t recognize that as a counter-intuitive quality for someone in her position. So, we get those annoying moments. We get her snarkiness with the senator (although, he’s kind of an asshole, so we’ll let that slide). And we get her whining over video chat, which Saul has to silence in the paternal way we’re used to seeing him do. Pushing that aside, there’s some outstanding moments with Carrie and between her and Brody, specifically. Each of them gets to pull off an almost involuntary smile, much like the kind that gave last season’s premiere its title. Carrie smiles as she overhears Brody taking control of the mission after it has gone way south. Brody smiles as he ignores Carrie’s plea and makes a heroic run for the border to try and keep the mission alive. That connection that is ingrained in these characters’ bones at this point is at its most clear when they are speaking to one another. Carrie wants Brody to abort so that he might live, and Brody won’t have it because, as stated, he knows how to bring out the best in her. “You’ll find a way to bring me back,” (paraphrase) he tells her. It’s not a romantic moment, it’s a moment of sibling-like support and encouragement. I can see where some people might write off the moment as cliche, but this was the heart of “Good Night” exemplified, and I mean that in the most positive of ways.
Take a moment to consider that this is Keith Gordon’s first stab at directing an episode of Homeland. The guy has credentials, certainly (he did the pilot for the ridiculously good Rectify earlier this year). This is whole other level of acute, though. Reminiscent of the dark (literally, not figuratively) set-piece that was Zero Dark Thirty‘s final act, Gordon does wonders with Brody’s journey across the rough terrain of Iraq. The IED that goes off creates a stunning and shocking visual, and while a lot of the gunfighting is obscured under cover of darkness, the tension seems to only benefit because of how disorienting the entire sequence is. The episode could have been improved upon if we had been given more time with the soldiers who accompany Brody – the one who Javadi kills at the end of the episode is so foreign to us as a character that there’s hardly a reaction there. However, like the episode as a whole, how things play out overpowers where the material is lacking.
What happens back with the CIA is less exciting (Quinn and Dar Adal didn’t need to be there even if they actually needed to be there). Yet there are a couple worthwhile moments centering around this season’s main protagonist – Saul. After all the questionable things that Saul has done to get this mission to see the light of day, you can’t help but feel the entirety of his disappointment when he thinks that it was all for nothing. A lesser character and writer would have had a scene in the hallway with flailing fists knocking over boxes and whatnot. Saul quietly and methodically paces to the elevator, presses the button and leans against the wall in a way that shows how much weight is bearing down on him. Similarly, he doesn’t jump for joy when Carrie comes in to tell him that Brody pulled it off. He lightens up just enough for us to understand that he’s over the moon behind those glasses. Maybe his lucky gum didn’t help the plan go off without a hitch, but both Brody and Javadi are in play. That’s one huge step closer to realizing the peace that he’s aiming for before he has to step down from his position.
Fara gets a brief appearance at the end when Carrie goes to ask her about using her uncle to provide a safehouse in Tehran. It’s a good reminder that Carrie is good at convincing people to do things they really don’t want to do, and it’s also a way of creating more material that puts Fara in the spotlight. That, if anything, is something worth looking forward to as we approach the final two episodes of this erratic and thrilling season.
– Sean Colletti