Wednesday, 24 October 2012

HOMELAND, 2.4 – 'New Car Smell'

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

written by Meredith Stiehm / directed by David Semel

So that's how things are going to play out! When Homeland took the unexpected decision to expose Brody (Damian Lewis) as a certifiable terrorist in only the second episode, everyone's been predicting what the writers might do next. Typically for when this sort of thing happens, the fallout feels very obvious in retrospect: Saul (Mandy Patinkin) breaking the news to Carrie (Claire Danes) in person, making the self-doubt vanish while validating her instincts; and this week Estes (David Harewood) being apprised of the situation and allowing Saul to help Carrie surveil Brody, working for his lead analyst Quinn (Rupert Friend). In many ways "New Car Smell" was a return to early season 1, when Carrie and Saul were snooping on Brody based solely on a hunch, only this time they know their target's a traitor working for terrorists...

It's getting a little boring to say this every week, but this was another excellent episode of Homeland. A lot of this was due to the fact Claire Danes and Damian Lewis got to share the screen together (for the first time this season), with Carrie "accidentally" bumping into him at Langley, and rekindling his feelings so he invited her to join him for a late-night drink.

It made a lot of sense for Carrie to put her sexual past with Brody to use in this manner, and once again the actors proved they have a strong and sparky chemistry together. The scene where they met again (ironically shaking hands on an agreement of "peace") was wonderfully performed, yet beaten by their second meeting at a hotel bar—with paranoid Brody trying to sniff out the reason behind Carrie's apparent reinstatement, and if it has anything to do with him.

Of course, not for the first time this season, it was the final five minutes that will be the major talking point: a brilliant scene of Carrie going against orders and jumping on Brody's subtle hint for her to join him in his room for sex, where it quickly became clear Carrie's allowing her personal feelings to cloud her professional judgement. After all the turmoil Brody's put her through, she just couldn't refuse the opportunity to call him out on his crimes—prompting a response team to burst into Brody's room when he started to threaten her, and drag him away for interrogation. But while Carrie enjoyed the brief satisfaction of being able to confront Brody over everything he's done (to his country and to her), all Saul could do was hang his head in frustration—because, while careful surveillance offered them a chance to unravel a terrorist network and get to Abu Nazir himself, it's going to be much harder now Brody's been arrested. This is a man who spent eight years being interrogated by the enemy, so he's clearly not an easy nut to crack... and do you stand a chance with someone who's been radicalised, anyway?

I really wasn't expecting any of this to happen, which is great. The writers are making very bold decisions this year, and it's wonderful to watch. I was pretty sure we'd be getting four or five episodes with the CIA tailing Brody and using him to their own advantage, but that prediction's been blown apart after just one episode. So where will things go from here? Is it feasible Brody will be interrogated for the majority of the remaining season? I doubt it. Will he strike a deal to spare his family the heartache of knowing he's a traitor, by agreeing to help the CIA? That seems more likely to me... but given this season's trajectory, anything is possible.

One thing's becoming more noticeable, however. There are so many shocking moments occurring with Brody and Carrie, that I have a funny feeling we're being distracted from important story-building in the sub-plots. Brody's old marine buddy is adamant he was involved in Walker's death, and this is now starting to unsettle a suspicious Mike (Diego Klattenhoff), so will the truth come out even if the CIA agree to keep quiet in exchange for intel from Brody as a double-agent? Brody's daughter Dana (Morgan Saylor) is also getting closer to the Vice-President's young son, who took her on a private "date" up the Washington Monument, so where is that story headed? Is it simply preparing us for extra anguish when Dana loses her first love thanks to her father's actions, when it perhaps becomes public knowledge that the VP's son was dating the daughter of a jihadist?

"New Car Smell" was a great episode and, although there are still credibility issues (Carrie's mental health problem is no longer substantial enough to keep her away from the Brody investigation?), I was happier with how this hour played out. And with the very surprising arrest of Brody so early in the season, I'm again blissfully unable to predict where the show's taking us, and that's such a good feeling. Throw in the exceptional performances of Danes and Lewis, who simply get better in each other's company, and I don't have too many complaints worth mentioning. Roll on next Sunday!


  • I had to wonder about the scene where Saul went to Estes' house and was greeted at the door by Estes' son, dressed as Darth Vader and reciting that character's famous lines from The Empire Strikes Back (when he tells Luke that he's his father). Was that a sly nod to Estes being more than he appears? We know that he's involved in the US cover-up about the drone strikes, which is what turned Brody against American to begin with, but is there a chance he's even more of a villain? There's always been speculation that Estes is a mole, so could that actually be true?
  • I didn't even recognise Rupert Friend, playing Quinn—who's best known for playing Prince Albert in The Young Victoria alongside Emily Blunt. (Yes, that movie I was an extra in.)
21 October 2012 / Showtime