written by Chip Johannessen (story by Howard Gordon & Chip Johannessen) / directed by Michael Cuesta
This season of Homeland has divided its audience slightly, but I think we can all agree the show's not as good as it was last year. If the earlier episodes hadn't taken some astonishing shortcuts with the expected narrative, I think that would have been more obvious much sooner. But now the second season's in its groove with the new order of things, you can't help thinking something's missing. I guess it's simply that having Brody (Damien Lewis) as a double agent isn't as enthralling as him being a probable terrorist, and obviously there's very little the writers can do about that. They've wisely chosen to move the story on and evolve the relationships, but Homeland has moved away from what people loved about it.
Another issue is that the non-Brody storylines are now very hard to care about, whereas at least before you had some belief they would tie into the bigger concerns somehow. But as of right now, it feels like Dana's (Morgan Saylor) guilt over being involved in a hit-and-run only exists to highlight that political importance trumps humanity. As great as young Saylor is (her breakdown after going to see her victim's grieving daughter was terrific), she's unfortunately stuck in a storyline that would be absolutely fine in a family drama... but as a strand in a political thriller, it can't help but feel boring. All shows need a few strings to their bow, but unless Dana's story has much bigger implications for her father's career soon (will she tell a journalist about the White House cover-up?), I'm basically just tolerating it.
"I'll Fly Away" was all about Brody's desire to bring this living nightmare to an end, because he simply can't keep up the façade anymore: being a convincing terrorist's plant, a promising political figure, and a caring father all at the same time. The three things just don't mix, and are again complicated by his feelings for Carrie (Claire Danes)—who's still something of a figure offering him salvation and love, if he she can be trusted. The man's head is a mess of conflicting emotions, and here we saw him close to a mental breakdown (around the same time Carrie started having one in season 1 funnily enough).
I got a feeling this episode was supposed to be more of a bigger deal than it felt, seeing as it slightly echoed "The Weekend" in the fact Carrie and Brody slept together for the first time in the season. Although circumstances have changed remarkably, as their motel room was bugged and Quinn's (Rupert Friend) surveillance team were listening in. Only Saul (Mandy Patinkin) has faith that Carrie's more focused on the job than sex, but perhaps his loyalty is misplaced? One of the better things this year is the uncertainty that Carrie actually has Brody's best interests at heart, although she certainly has some feelings for him. But are they residual or much deeper?
One thing that continues to annoy me about season 2 is the lack of any idea what's planned by Abu Nazir. Brody's been strung along by his handler Roya (Zuleikha Robinson) and the CIA are clueless right now, so there's been no sense of threat like before—when Brody's very existence gave us tension, drama and threat potential. Maybe that will change very soon, seeing as the final moment of this episode had Brody being brought before Abu Nazir* after a surprise airlift that left Carrie and her team standing around in an empty field.
Overall, a great episode for its focus on Brody's disintegrating emotional state and for how Carrie's perhaps just patching him together to keep the mission going, but I hope something significant happens regarding Abu Nazi's plan next week... because this season's lost the strong undercurrent that A Very Bad Thing is going to happen home soil very soon. I understand why they had to spend time on other matters (which were certainly worthy of attention leading up to the marvellous "Q&A"), but now's the time to give us that pervasive sense of danger to national security we've been missing.
18 November 2012 / Showtime
* Anyone else have to Google who that guy was at the end, though? C'mon admit it. Oh, just me? Not sure who else I thought it could be, but it just didn't look like him without a beard.