written by James Yoshimura & Alex Gansa | directed by David Nutter
It's been an uninspired start to the third season of Homeland, so we perhaps should have guessed they'd pull a twist on us—and one that evoked memories of a similar one from 24's third season (a show many of Homeland's creative team worked on). "Game On" was tedious for about 90% of the time—with far too much emphasis on Carrie (Claire Danes) struggling to get out of the psychiatric ward, and Dana (Morgan Saylor) helping boyfriend Leo (Sam Underwood) break out of hospital for a date. The writers don't seem to realise Dana was only interesting in season 1 because of her relationship with her father, and that Carrie's struggle with mental health is an aspect of the show that stopped feeling dramatic a long time ago.
I was beginning to get seriously frustrated with Homeland until the moment in "Game On" when Carrie appeared to sell herself to retain her freedom (agreeing to leak CIA information to Iranian businessman to prevent being sectioned again), which certainly perked matters up. It would have been brave and refreshing to see a character like Carrie become "the villain" of the show, working against Saul (Mandy Patinkin), but in retrospect that was never going to happen. No, in the final scene we learned that the past four episodes have been an elaborate ruse. Carrie's ordeal was faked by Saul from the start, as part of a clever plan to draw out the Iranians.
A part of me celebrates the twist, because I didn't see it coming, it means the bipolar Carrie scenes have proven to have a deeper purpose, and the Carrie/Saul friendship hasn't soured after all. However, in thinking about it more and more... it doesn't make complete sense. Why did Carrie deliver that "fuck you, Saul" line, when they were together at the hospital? Do we believe she was so deep in "character", or that it was only there to convince the audience things were above board? It's the latter, of course, and that kind of trickery is annoying. However, I'm glad this twist puts Carrie into a more central position and fixes some of the season's deficiencies in one fell swoop. Now if they can just quietly ditch the Brody family (who have served their purpose as a means to explore the repercussions of Brody being an infamous terrorist and traitor), and end the Leo storyline (is Underwood typecast as a murderer, post-Dexter?), maybe Homeland season 3 can be salvaged more definitively.