Tuesday, 29 October 2013

HOMELAND, 3.5 – 'The Yoga Play'

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

written by Patrick Harbinson | directed by Clark Johnson

Last week's twist certainly split audiences, but I wouldn't say down the middle. Some loved it for how unexpected it was and how it instantly improved Carrie (Claire Danes) and Saul's (Mandy Patinkin) relationship; others thought it was poorly conceived and didn't hold water when you re-watched key scenes from the previous episodes (mainly ones where Carrie was alone and still "in character" for the benefit of nobody but the audience at home). Most people, myself included, seem to have responded with mixed feelings—appreciative of a twist that largely worked, while aware it wasn't as convincing as perhaps intended.

"The Yoga Play" was the first post-twist episode of the third season, and I found this to be a good episode that suggests Homeland has a chance of rediscovering itself. I guess I'm also ready to just accept Homeland has its problems because the deeper story's been stretched too thin, but it's still a good show with great performances and the ability to make you gasp and grin. For entertainment as potentially ludicrous as Homeland could become, 24-style, I don't think that's too bad.

The stand-out scenes for me this episode was Saul attending a goose hunt with some government elite, hosted by Senator Lockhart (Tracy Letts)--head of the Senate Select Committee that's been investigating Carrie's suspicious alibi about here whereabouts during the Langley bombing. Letts was a brilliant presence in the premiere, "Tin Man Is Down", so I was pleased to see his role's been expanded. His tête-à-tête with Saul in a private hide overlooking a lake was brilliant, as it became clear the President has chosen Lockhart to become the new Director of the CIA and Saul's been fed misinformation about his role's permanency. The two men also have opposing ideals, as Saul made abundantly clear in his passive-aggressive response to the news of Lockhart's promotion to everyone else after the hunt: Lockhart believes in military might, not people, and isn't prepared for the realities of how challenging serious espionage really is.

So it looks like we're headed for a situation where Saul has a fortnight to bring "The Magician", Majid Javadi (Shaun Toub), to justice for perpetrating the bombing and framing Brody, before Lockhart takes over and starts ringing the changes. Will Saul be usurped in a few weeks, just when his plan's coming together, then locking horns with his new boss and a chance of policy? Or maybe Saul will manage to get the job done in time, and beat Lockhart to the Director's job as a reward? There's more drama in the former, so that's where my money is.

Now that we know Carrie's on a secret mission for Saul, that even the President and Senate aren't aware of, I was expecting this week's story to be stronger for Carrie. I just didn't believe she would go to so much trouble to help Jessica (Morena Baccarin) find Dana (Morgan Saylor), and it all felt like an awkward way to knit these two storylines together. It was okay, but things didn't really go anywhere interesting until the final scenes, when three men broke into her home and delivered her to Javadi for her first meeting as an apparent turncoat. It was a great moment and really sold the idea that Carrie's really been thrown into the deep end. Plus I like the echo that Carrie's working for the enemy, as Nicholas Brody was, but for very different reasons and a different underlying truth.

Even this week's Dana storyline wasn't too bad, as her road trip with Leo (Sam Underwood) came to an abrupt end when she overhead a news report that proved he's lied about the circumstances of his brother's suicide. I'm generally more tolerant of sub-plots with the Brody's anyway, because you need different gears in a drama like Homeland. It can't all be life-and-death events, Quinn (Rupert Friend) shooting people, and middle-aged men talking very gravely in wood-panelled offices. Sometimes it's about a teenager dealing with the human issues of being involved in this craziness.

Overall, while "The Yoga Play" was definitely a stop-gap episode in many ways, I liked the sense of pacing and the character moments between Saul/Lockhart and Carrie/Quinn were really good. I don't mind forgetting that last week's twist doesn't withstand too much scrutiny, because I already like the direction we're headed in—with Carrie on her own in a very dangerous situation, Saul realising a man with his political perspective isn't in-line with the current administration's thinking, and the end of Dana's jaunt.

  • Good to see cult actor William Sadler as Mike Higgins, the President's Chief of Staff. Hopefully we'll see more of him. You may recognise Sadler as a villain in Die Hard 2, or the Grim Reaper in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, or perhaps Sloane in episodes of Star Trek Deep Space Nine?
  • Carrie's off her medication again. I know Homeland remind us her mind works better without them (in terms of discerning patterns and having genius-like mental breakthroughs), but I still always feel it's a ludicrous move on her part. She just gets increasingly strung out.
  • I wonder if Carrie's line about Romeo & Juliet was partly added because of Claire Danes' association with Baz Luhrmann's iconic interpretation in the '90s.
  • The writer of this episode was Patrick Harbinson, his first credit for Homeland; another 24 alumni and, like Chip Johannessen, a connection to Millennium in its final season.
  • No Damien Lewis this week. So that's one Brody appearance in five hours. One assumes his story will start to dominate things more in the second half, but wouldn't it be odd if it didn't? Maybe that's how they're planning to squeeze out another season that involved Brody? By limiting him rather severely in season 3?
27 October 2013 | Showtime