Tuesday, 5 November 2013

HOMELAND, 3.6 – 'Still Positive'

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

written by Alexander Cary | directed by Lesli Linka Glatter

I think I'm ready to put the twist-related issues of season 3 aside now, because "Still Positive" was a really good episode—even if the show feels increasing like 24 after a valium. We can debate whether or not Homeland should have continued past season 1, or killed Brody two finales ago, or if it should really be tackling new angles every year with less season-to-season serialisation, but the fact of the matter is I still find Homeland an enjoyable series. It isn't perfect and it feels past its peak, but it's definitely still worth watching.

More twists propped up this hour, but the best was how Carrie (Claire Danes) turned the tables on Majid Javadi (Shaun Toub) during his polygraph to assess her value as an Iranian asset. I was expecting Carrie's cover to continue for a few more episodes at least, so it was a nice surprise to see her calmly reverse the situation—making it clear the CIA know about Javadi's embezzlement and that he's an enemy of his own state. And unlike that divisive twist from a few weeks ago, this one felt earned and largely plausible. Javadi has simply been outmanoeuvred by Saul (Mandy Patinkin) and has no choice but to become an informant for the CIA now, which is the ultimate irony given how things were progressing with Carrie.

The next big surprise was how Javadi refused to become Saul's lapdog without making a disobedient, blood-soaked statement, by viciously murdering his ex-wife with a broken bottle in her own home. This didn't work as smoothly in the narrative, because it required a large info-dump (about Saul and Javadi's shared history, where Javadi assassinated Iranian informants he was supposed to help smuggle out of the country, in order to earn a promotion; and how Saul avenged this by whisking Javadi's wife and child away to the US), but it was nevertheless a harrowing development that sold the callous brutality of Javadi. I think we all enjoyed Saul punching Javadi square on the nose, after he was brought back to the CIA safe house by Quinn (Rupert Friend) and Carrie after his shockingly violent detour.

There's no question this whole mission is getting increasingly messy and problematic for poor Saul, whom we're again reminded only has twelve days left as CIA Director before Senator Lockhart (Tracy Letts) replaces him... and inherits an undercover operation that even involved hoodwinking him in public. I'm also unsure now if Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham) is entirely behind Saul's outgoing regime at the CIA, or is already preparing his bed with Lockhart—who apparently favours the "iron fist" tactics that Adal was a key part of in the good ol' days. There's a chance he's just letting Lockhart believe he's loyal because it's best not to rock the boat, but it's perhaps true that Adal isn't entirely happy about Saul's methods?

Adding a wrinkle for the show's future, we also learn that Carrie is pregnant from her one-night stands while she was going off-the-rails, but I'm not sure what to think about that just yet. She didn't think about contraception? Will she have an abortion? Or are the writers laying groundwork for a situation where Carrie has to cope with the stress of being a single parent, in addition to her bipolar disorder and life in the CIA? I'm not sure about that idea, as I already think Carrie's character is too much of a drain whenever she's going through a tough mental ordeal. I like her best when she's cool, calm and collected. The meltdowns and cry-face acting gets a little wearing, despite how good Danes sells it.

Oh, and Dana (Morgan Saylor) has decided to change her surname and moved out of the family home that holds so many bad memories, to her mother's utter astonishment. We can only hope this means far less of the Brody family (for awhile at least), but I'm guessing it merely opens the door for Dana to become more independently irritating. Why doesn't she just ask her brother what his copying strategy was, because that guy is a rock. I'm guessing it's the karate classes. They must focus the mind.

We've crossed into the second-half of season 3 with "Still Positive", so does the title describe how you're feeling? Or have you given up on Homeland now?

  • I hadn't realised this until now, but Shaun Toub played Tony Stark's fellow cave captive in Iron Man.
  • I wasn't expecting to have only seen Damien Lewis once in six episodes, which for Homeland feels like a brave move. Unless he figures into the remaining episodes very strongly, is it possible he's been marginalised in preparation for a fourth season that will return to his situation more urgently? I'm not sure how the current Javadi operation can in any way intersect with Brody being stuck in a Venezuelan hellhole.
3 November 2013 | Showtime