written by Henry Bromell / directed by Guy Ferland
This is a tricky one. I think "Broken Hearts" will appeal to the section of the audience who are happy for Homeland to become a variation of 24 that eschews the real-time format; whereas people who enjoy it for the semi-plausible scenarios and intelligence may feel very cheated. There's no getting around the fact this episode asked the audience to swallow unrealistic ideas and situations, but I still found it enjoyable and a welcome injection of thrills after an awkward mid-season.
First you had to buy into the idea that Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban) had somehow realised Brody (Damien Lewis) was being disloyal to him, and had the gumption to abduct Carrie (Claire Danes) and have her taken to his personal hideout. This was a very risky strategy for a character that was shrouded in Bin Laden levels of mystery just last season, who's now become a rather perfunctory bad guy. And his plan to have Brody break into Vice-President Walden's (Jamey Sheridan) office, to relay the serial number of his pacemaker, which would thus enable Nazir's operative to remotely give the VP a heart attack, was both great fun and ridiculous. Again, if this were an episode of 24, there's absolutely nothing wrong with this idea—because that show lived in a cartoonish universe, designed to carry its audience along on a tidal wave of OMG moments and cliffhangers. But for Homeland to embrace such a story felt odd to me, and having Brody utilised as a puppet didn't really bring out a good performance in Lewis—whose reactions to events felt unnatural and awkward half the time (especially when he was pulling faces on his phone).
But there were great moments sprinkled here and there. Carrie and Nazir's chat about their opposing ideologies was terrific, and I appreciated the moment Brody unburdened his anger towards Walden by condemning his politics and refusing to help him when his heart attack struck. It was a strong reminder of just how messed up Brody is: willing to do anything to save Carrie's life, ultimately disloyal to Nazir at this point, and yet desperate to see the man responsible for the drone strike that killed Isa suffer and die for what happened. He's in a pretty dark place, and it'll be interesting to see what happens now Carrie's free. She owes Brody her life, but knows that he was partly responsible for murdering the Vice President of the United States. Will she lie for him? What lie could she possibly tell the CIA would make sense of her abduction? And if she goes against Brody, surely that calls for his immediate arrest and the end of that character's journey? Also, Nazir has no hold over Brody now that their mutual goal to kill Walden has been accomplished, so will Nazir sever ties and vanish? There's still that assumed bomb that Nazir's men retrieved from the tailor shop, so it seems likely Walden's death was just the start of a bigger plan.
Elsewhere, we also had it confirmed that Quinn (Rupert Friend) is a black ops soldier trained by Saul's (Mandy Patinkin) old acquaintance Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham)—who clearly has a very different attitude towards the War on Terror than Saul. Adal prefers to get his hands dirty and take the fight to the terrorists, whereas Saul's prefers tackling the situation in a more thoughtful and constructive manner. The bigger surprise here was the episode's climax, which had Saul being taken away by two CIA agents. Is it possible he knows too much about Adal/Quinn and Estes (David Harewood) is going to take drastic measures to ensure his silence? What measures could they be?
You can love or hate this episode, but at least it threw some surprise punches and has introduced a new sense of unpredictability to the show. It just took veered close to 24 than ever before, which is unfortunate for a show once heralded as "the thinking man's 24". Now it's becoming the "non-real-time 24"?
But I'm still excited to see where things go in the last two episodes. Carrie has bravely returned to the abandoned mill to catch Nazir before he disappears again, but what is she going to discover behind that door? What will happen to Saul now he's worked out that Quinn was brought in to assassinate Brody when he outlives his usefulness?