Tuesday, 15 October 2013

HOMELAND, 3.3 – 'Tower of David'

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

written by Henry Bromell & William Bromell | directed by Clark Johnson

After a disappointing start to season 3, things start to take shape with "Tower of David"--ironically, by re-introducing Nicholas Brody (Damien Lewis), whose continuing presence is many people's top reason Homeland struggled last year. It's not that Brody's a bad character or that Lewis is a poor actor (quite the opposite!), but Homeland put too much emphasis on the romantic entanglement of Brody and Carrie (Claire Danes), when it would have been better to have him succeed in his original suicide-bombing. However, this episode was a grim and fascinating look at what Brody's life has become now he's the most wanted man on the planet; his hellish existence nicely paralleled in Carrie's own struggle in a psychiatric ward.

The fist half-hour of this episode was spent entirely on Brody's perspective, having been shot twice in the stomach by Colombians after the $10m bounty on his head, and rushed to an unfinished skyscraper in Caracas to be operated on by Dr Graham (Erik Dellums) at the behest of mercenary El Nino (Manny Pérez). It takes a while to realise that Brody's saviours are anything but, and yet it's still unclear exactly what they want by the time the episode ended. Brody is nursed back to health by beautiful Esme (Martina García), daughter of his captor, and soon realises the doctor who saved his life is actually a creepy paedophile. He's also a prisoner, just as he was in Iraq, likewise trapped and kept away from public view. Only this time he isn't an honourable US Marine in anyone's eye, but instead an infamous terrorist and traitor.

Lewis was typically fantastic throughout this hour; shaving his head for the role (a pragmatic way for Brody to avoid recognition, but also a dehumanising act), and doing a startling job playing a man at the end of his tether. This was a tough hour to watch Brody suffer through. His escape with help from Esme to a nearby mosque ended in Prisoner-style futility, as he was dragged back to the Tower of David and the folk who sheltered him murdered in their own home. So now he resides in a tiny concrete room, described as a cockroach by the doctor who's been injecting him with heroin to dull his body's pain. Can it get any worse? (I suppose Dana could call.)

I thought for a while "Tower of David" would be a Brody-centric episode, but it eventually blossomed into a story for Carrie. Their situations are quite similar at present (both outcast, imprisoned, plied with drugs), although naturally you'd switch places with Carrie in a heartbeat. It was nevertheless a good way to parallel the lows of these characters,and my guess is part of this season's arc will be them somehow reconnecting and clearing Brody's name in the eyes of the world.

Danes was also very good, and it helped that she wasn't full-on crazy like last week. My tolerance for wild-eyed Carrie ranting at authority figures is very low these days, so I much prefer it when she's formulating a way to escape with a half-rational mind. Of particular interest this week was her meeting with a lawyer called Paul Franklin (Jason Butler Harner), who claims his unseen associate can deliver her freedom. She's not interested right now, as she (perhaps correctly) believes the price will be turning on the CIA, but is she right? And if so, how long will her morals hold before she's ready to throw her career away out of a simple desire to get revenge on Saul (Mandy Patinkin) and the people manipulating her life for their own end?

Overall, this was a far more satisfying hour than the previous episodes and it was admittedly nice to see Brody again. Homeland would still have been better killing him off and starting a new storyline before now, but Lewis is a damned good actor and Brody's horrible situation is definitely compelling. It also reminded me a great deal of Prison Break—which also had a third season set in an infernal South American locale.

So what's next for our heroes? Can Carrie escape the mental hospital by striking a deal with the devil? Is Brody doomed to languish in another hole indefinitely, or will his next escape plan work better? And why is he being kept alive exactly? Is El Nino's employer planning to deliver him to the US authorities and claim the cash reward? That would seem unlikely if the pay out doesn't hinge on him being alive, so why can't he be killed?

  • This episode was outlined by staff writer Henry Bromell, 65, who sadly died of a torn aorta before he could start work on it. His son, William, instead wrote the screenplay and now shares a credit with his father.
  • If you're wondering, the Tower of David (otherwise known as the Centro Financiero Confinanzas), is a genuine building in Caracas. Construction began in 1990 but was halted in 1994 because of the Venezuelan banking crisis.
13 October 2013 | Showtime