Wednesday, 12 December 2012

HOMELAND, 2.11 – 'In Memoriam'

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

written by Chip Johannessen / directed by Jeremy Podeswa

Gathering feedback on last week's episode was more entertaining than the episode itself, because some people are seriously outraged Homeland's revealed so many chinks in its armour this season. It's fallen from grace to an extent, kept alive by some excellent performances and just enough intrigue to keep you on the hook—not to mention the desire to see this story resolve itself. If Homeland starts a new story, it'll be interesting to see how many people use that as the ideal stopping place. Just how much of the show's success is down to season 1's concept (which has been bent all out of shape this year) and the performances of Claire Danes and Damien Lewis? If any of that gets messed with, does the whole show collapse like a house of cards?

"In Memoriam" was less silly than last week's "Broken Hearts", but still felt like a disused idea from Fox's 24. We had an exciting cliffhanger dissolve to zilch; a cool interrogation scene between Carrie (Danes) and Roya (Zuleikha Robinson), which backfired in an explosive way; and the light bulb moment when Carrie realised Abu Nazir's (Navid Negahban) astonishing escape was accomplished by hiding behind a fake wall at the abandoned factory. It was very David Copperfield. The biggest surprise of this episode was seeing Homeland actually kill Nazir, once the SWAT team came to Carrie's aide after he attacked her shortly after discovering his hideout. There's a chance his character will become a martyr for a different recurring villain, of course, but from the perspective of Carrie and Brody a large presence in their lives has been lost. It's just a pity Nazir's plan this year felt so small-scale and uncharacteristically personal, with a strange plot to kill Vice-President Walden with a heart attack—which was executed within an episode, achieved its aim with minimal repercussions to the US government, and wasn't even something Nazir's outfit seemed to immediate take responsibility for. It was all very strange, really. It felt like the writers spent too much of this season excited with their untimely exposure of Brody as a terrorist to the CIA, and not enough crafting a season-long plan for Nazir. He didn't even get a chance to blow anything up on US soil.

Away from this episode's broader concerns, what really stood out was the character-based stuff. Saul (Mandy Patinkin) being given a polygraph test by Estes (David Harewood), as part of a plan to have him leave the CIA before he starts blabbing about the plot to assassinate Brody once Nazir's dealt with, gave us some really nice scenes with those characters. Estes is a more dislikeable person than Nazir in many ways, because he's targeting people we've grown to like. My guess is Saul will accept an "early retirement" and help Carrie bring Estes to justice as an outside party.

More importantly, I really enjoyed the final 10 minutes following Nazir's death, with the characters adjusting to this news. In particular, the relief on Brody's face when he was told, and how the death of his "mentor" triggered him to accept playing happy families with Jess (Morena Baccarin) isn't the best move. Nazir's death perhaps means new life for Brody, as he allows his wife to move on with best-friend Mike and goes after a fresh start with Carrie. But it won't be that simple, of course. Carrie's complicit in his lies about the circumstances of Walden's death, and Estes has Quinn (Rupert Young) poised to kill Brody at the earliest opportunity to stop him talking about Walden's role in the drone bombing of innocent school children. Clearly the finale will shift gears and have Carrie/Brody tackling an enemy much closer to home, and thus far more difficult to beat. Even if Saul comes to their aide somehow, it's hard to see how things can resolve neatly in just one episode... and yet, there's surely no real plan to extend the Homeland story into a third season with Brody still in play—or is there?

Overall, "In Memoriam" wasn't as achingly dumb as last week's episode (which was still good fun), and benefited from some unexpected moves and three great scenes. I just hope the writers know the best thing for the show would be to kill Brody, expose Estes, somehow make it plausible bipolar Carrie will be given her job back as a result, and clear the decks for a fresh third season storyline to begin in 2013. Fingers crossed, eh?

9 December 2012 / Showtime