Tuesday, 1 October 2013

HOMELAND, 3.1 – 'Tin Man is Down'

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

written by Alex Gansa & Barbara Hall | directed by Lesli Linka Glatter

Most agree Homeland's second season was a let-down, despite a strong start and an explosive end. The writers struggled to keep Brody's character involved in the show, especially when his guilt became known to the authorities, but the finale offered hope of a radical overhaul. "Tin Man Down" certainly piqued my interest as a premiere; not least because it didn't feature Damien Lewis, and it seems unlikely the writers will be relying on the on-screen chemistry he shares with Claire Danes that raised the first season to such heights. The producers have claimed this premiere represents Homeland 2.0, but things weren't altered enough to earn that tag just yet.

This episode was mainly spent letting us know where the characters are after the CIA HQ was blown up, killing 219 people, with Brody framed for the attack. The Senate Select Committee are investigating the tragedy 58 days later, and a Senator Lockhart (Tracy Letts) is taking particular delight in picking Carrie's (Danes) alibi apart.

Someone's even leaking secret documents to the Committee, making them aware that the late-Attorney General had granted Brody immunity for his help capturing terrorist leader Abu Nazir. But why?Questions need answering and someone needs to pay for what happened, and this premiere's biggest surprise was showing that Carrie's own friend/mentor Saul (Mandy Patinkin) is willing to throw her to the lions to protect himself and the agency. It's the logical thing to do, sure, but also the most heartless. How will the show operate if Carrie's closest ally is against her in public? If the press are eventually allowed to name her as the 'CIA agent romantically involved with terrorist Brody', I'm struggling to see how she could even be an effective part of the CIA.

While Brody himself didn't appear in this episode, it's clear he's the most wanted man on the planet and someone the US government are particularly keen to capture. This has put a lot of strain on his family, as we're still following the everyday lives of his wife Jess (Morena Baccarin) and their daughter Dana (Morgan Saylor) in particular. The latter has attempted suicide and is now going through rehab, while the entire family's hounded by reporters desperate for a scoop on the infamous Nicholas Brody--who's the ultimate tabloid story given his "war hero to terrorist" arc.

It's certainly interesting to see how the Brody family are handling knowing their patriarch killed hundreds of people, as they're unaware of the full story behind his involvement, but I do wonder how long Homeland can afford to keep these characters involved. Baccarin and Saylor were always at their best when sharing screentime with Lewis, but that's not going to be a common occurrence this season. Or perhaps ever. Are those characters strong enough to stand on their own two feet? Do we care about Jess trying to find a job to provide for her family?

Saylor delivered great performances for a young unknown actor in season 1, but the kinds of stories she's been given since then have been silly. Let's just agree to forget about the stupid hit-and-run sub-plot last year. Now it seems she's getting over her suicide by sending topless photos to a hunky teen she's met at rehab. My guess is those will make their way onto the internet soon, to cause further scandal.

Away from the fallout with the Brody clan and Carrie's judicial woes, this premiere's action quotient was maintained via Saul as the new Director of the CIA and his black ops colleague Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham). They were going after the mastermind of the CIA attack, Majid "The Magician" Jacadi, aiming to assassinate all six members of his team in the same twenty-minute window. This resulted in a tense scene where Quinn (Rupert Friend) was given ten-minutes to kill his "Tin Man" target, prompting the Bond-like infiltration of a house in Venezuela. It was good to see Quinn out in the field, and a surprise that the whole operation went according to plan—well, apart from the fact Quinn accidentally shot a young boy he'd been trying to protect by calling off the original car-bombing plot.

This idea of innocent children being collateral damage in the war against terrorism is something Homeland really likes to push, as it was also the key reason Brody was "turned", too.

Overall, I enjoyed this episode, although it's the weakest of the three premieres they've made. Is this a sign Homeland's overstaying its welcome? I'm not sure. There's certainly evidence to suggest it can re-purpose itself, if the intention is to move away from relying on Brody as a character who fuels the drama and intrigue. He will inevitable factor into season 3 going forward, but I'll be very surprised if he's a part of season 4. Mind you, given the obstacles thrown at Carrie in "Tin Man is Down", it's tough to imagine Claire Danes having a job next year. Carrie's bipolar disorder's been made public, she's become the scapegoat of the CIA attack (to some extent), and she's almost been exposed as Brody's mistress in the press... so how will the writers find away to get her back as an active agent, doing what she does best? At least I'm still interested in these characters and their situations to find out.

29 September 2013 | Showtime