Thursday, 10 November 2011

HOMELAND, 1.6 – "The Good Soldier"

Thursday, 10 November 2011

This show is keeping the quality very high every week. "The Good Soldier" offered a great deal of eye-opening developments, not least in seeing Carrie (Claire Danes) and Nick (Damian Lewis) get drunk together and have sex in the back of a car. It can partly be blamed on the fact Nick recently discovered his best friend was sleeping with his wife (Morena Baccarin) while he was overseas being tortured, but ultimately these are two damaged people who I think have a genuine rapport together. Or is Carrie so unstable she's simply willing to go to these lengths to get closer to Nick, whom she suspects of a sleeper terrorist?

Secrets and lies are the heart of Homeland, and this episode found a brilliant way to bring some of that out into the open. A lie detector test was arranged to question those who interacted with the captured terrorist Hamid, who managed to commit suicide with a razor blade that Carrie suggests was passed to him, and two characters we've grown suspicious of were made to sit in the chair: company man Saul (Mandy Patinkin), whose loyalty we've started to question recently, who eventually passed with flying colours—although the story had fun teasing us when he walked out of the polygraph in a huff after the question "did you slip Afsal Hamid a razor blade?" was asked; and prime suspect Nick, who barely flinched at the same question, but ditto one Carrie knows to be a lie ("have you ever been unfaithful to your wife?") Now it could be that Nick was lying both times, or just in the latter case, so nothing here is conclusive proof he's a terrorist... but it certainly doesn't look good, because it proves he's capable of defeating a lie detector, which you'd expect a brainwashed agent to do.

The only element of the show I'm not convinced about right now is the situation with runaway terrorists Aileen (Marin Ireland) and Faisel (Omid Abtahi), which seems like it exists to keep impatient people watching the show, because it feels like a reheated 24 subplot. Here it's made clear that unassuming Aileen's the lead terrorist who recruited Faisel, which is another example of Homeland subverting expectations regarding racial prejudices. But I hope this show treads carefully, because ensuring "white people" are always the villains, while the majority of "ethnic people" are always unfairly persecuted innocents, could itself become a cliché soon. It's a slightly too politically correct way to go, although I understand they they're doing it. In some ways it feels like atonement for eight seasons of 24, which was largely focused on promoting the idea that Americans should be scared of Asians, Russians, Mexicans and Iraqis instead of the middle-class white woman next door.

Anyway, Aileen and Faisel are apparently being chased around by the CIA (or so they believe), despite the fact they haven't actually carried out a terrorist act yet... but I'm having a tough time getting into their story. On the one hand it should be a compelling mystery (who is after them and why?), and this episode led to an  unexpected moment (poor Faisel gunned down in a motel room by their unknown enemy), but it's all too vague for me. Maybe we just need a few more episodes to fully understand what's going on, so this storyline will look better in retrospect.

Overall, "The Good Soldier" wasn't the best episode Homeland's given us, but it was still very watchable and really pushed the story along regarding Nick/Jess and Carrie/Nick. Now we're in the last half of the season, I'm praying the show can start answering questions as brilliantly as it's been posing them. That will be the real test of this drama's greatness.


  • The episode was written by Henry Bromell, who worked on Rubicon, which Homeland has taken a few cues from. But not too many, thank goodness, or we'd be stuck watching Saul and Carrie push paper around while Jess investigates her husband all by herself.
  • There was a terrific scene with Nick giving a eulogy at his comrade's funeral, which was especially uncomfortable because we've been shown that Nick was responsible for beating him to death at his captors request. (At least, that's what these flashbacks have us believe. I'm never sure if we should accept them at face value.)
  • Was Nick's look to the surveillance camera, when he answered the question about being unfaithful to his wife, directed at Carrie? Does he know she's probably watching? If so, does he know what her real beliefs are about him?
  • If Saul isn't the "mole", could Estes (David Harewood) be the guilty party? Or maybe the joke is going to be that there isn't a mole, but the writers are just poking fun at one of 24's biggest crutches?
written by Henry Bromell / directed by Brad Turner / 6 November 2011 / Showtime