Wednesday, 26 October 2011

HOMELAND, 1.4 - "Semper I"

Wednesday, 26 October 2011
"How come it's so hard to talk about [Baghdad] with people who weren't there?" -- Nick

"I have a better question: how come it's so hard to talk with anyone who wasn't there about anything at all?" -- Carrie

Many drama's telling a single story over many months tend to move in batches of three or four episodes. Since Homeland began a month ago, the "first movement" has been Carrie's (Claire Danes) surveillance of the Brody family. In "Semper I" that all came to an end because no incriminating evidence has been found in the allotted month (we've jumped forward in time three weeks, too), bringing an end to one aspect of this drama, so the rest of the episode setup the "second movement"...

This episode took some time to build a few characters who've been sitting on the sidelines for awhile—most notably CIA boss Estes (David Harewood), who had a fling with Carrie, which makes you reassess their prickly working relationship. With the surveillance shutdown and Saul (Mandy Patinkin) ordering Carrie to focus on following Abu Nazir's money trail, Nick Brody's become even more of a mystery—just when cracks have started appearing in his family life that can't be ignored. The most notable event being Nick's socially-awkward shooting of a deer that wandered into their garden during a party, which he recently saw his wife and son taking great pleasure in spotting. It also feels like Nick's beginning to suspect his best-friend's been sleeping with Jess (Morena Baccarin) while he was away, as he's noticed that Mike (Diego Klattenhoff) keeps avoiding invites to their house. The incident with the deer was at least enough for Jess to breakdown for the first time since her husband returned home, bringing some of her concerns out into the open about his weird behaviour and sexual dysfunction, suggesting Nick attends a veteran support group meeting.

What was most memorable about "Semper I" was seeing how the writers appear to be going regarding Carrie's investigation into Brody. As she's unable to snoop on him, it seems she's decided to get closer to him in real life, and they meet at the support group. Unexpectedly, there even appears to be a genuine connection between them, as both have experienced terrible things while in the Middle East, leading to a marvelous scene between Danes and Lewis in the pouring rain—where it seems clear Nick's attracted to the blonde woman he recognizes from his debriefing, but unaware she's trying her damndest to expose him as a sleeper agent. I particularly liked the way this episode foreshadowed this whole development, with Carrie almost behaving like Nick's wife when she distractedly told him where his missing neck-tie was while watching his morning routine on a surveillance monitor. It'll be interesting to see if Carrie starts to develop real feelings for Nick, becoming his mistress—in an echo of the role her "asset" Lynne played with the Saudi Arabian prince. Or is Nick playing a deeper game, and is only interested in Carrie because she offers a connection to the CIA he can exploit?

It's just interesting to theorize about what Nick's goals are, if he's indeed part of a terrorist plot. Given his status as a national hero, this episode introduced the Vice President's aide, Ms Gaines, who's exploring the possibility of putting Brody on the political map. Is this an unexpected development from Nick's perspective, or is it possible that achieving political office is part of his plan to begin with? If so, it's hard to see that all happening in just one season, so I'm wondering if Homeland's going to end with finale where Nick simply reaches a position of power that's going to make Carrie's job even tougher, and set the stage for a second season where Nick's perhaps a Senator? Part of the appeal with this show is how it's so difficult to predict, as the basic premise doesn't suggest we'll be spending years on this one story. But is it a single season storyline, or two?

Overall, another good episode, making me wonder if Homeland's going to ever put a foot wrong. Some episodes are more exciting and engrossing than others, but the quality is largely the same across every hour. The only subplot that gives me any concern is the issue with the apparent "sleeper cell" living near an airport, which feels very much season 4 of 24 right now. (The actor playing the husband even appeared in 24's final season, if I recall correctly. But then, didn't every American actor of Middle Eastern descent?)


  • Loved Nick's brief vision of a younger Jess, with cropped hair, surprising him in their garage by taking her top off. A brief reminder of the love he's turning his back on, but one that's perhaps lost to the past anyway.
  • Another sly piece of foreshadowing, with Jess remarking to her husband that a storm is "coming". And not just literally, right?
  • Did you notice Carrie actually discovering Nick's prayer mat while snooping around the garage (the only place she didn't have cameras placed)? Amusing to see she just looked past that key bit of evidence, as it doesn't fit with her expectations of what she's find there.
written by Howard Gordon & Alex Gansa / directed by Jeffrey Nachmanoff / 23 October 2011 / Showtime