written by Barbara Hall | directed by Jeffrey Reiner
We're approaching the end of this third season, which has seen opinion split rather harshly, but I still maintain that Homeland's an entertaining drama that's only suffered because it chose to continue story elements that had a natural end long ago. That said, episodes have slowly started to spin some magic on me, and I must say I found "One Last Time" to be one of my favourite hours of the show this year. Is that saying much at this moment in time? That's up to you to decide, but this episode brought Saul's (Mandy Patinkin) masterplan out of the shadows and brought Brody (Damien Lewis) back into the crux of the story very effectively.
I'm not a little unsure if Saul was behind Brody's incarceration in Venezuela, or simply found him and paid the bounty on his head, but nevertheless Brody winds up in CIA custody at a Virginia safe house. Lewis is one of the best actors on television, so a great deal of this episode's success came down to his performance. He was exceptional throughout this hour. Asked to play a heroine junkie going cold turkey and hallucinating while on withdrawal drugs, or a man literally without a sense of self-preservation (dropped into an ocean, he sank like a stone), Lewis managed it all with award-winning skill. Maybe his character should never have made it three seasons into a show of this nature, but you can't deny Lewis sells the material better than anyone. The desperation and agony of Brody's predicament was etched all over his gaunt face, staring out through defeated eyes.
"One Last Time" was actually one of the most straightforward episodes in quite some time. Saul wanted Brody back to full health, so he can go undercover in Tehran as an anti-American hero claiming asylum, then assassinate a government high-ranker to allow Javadi to climb the ladder of power. In so doing, the CIA would have an asset who's one of the country's three most powerful men, able to feed them invaluable intelligence and help bring the US-Iranian conflict to an end. Brody could basically become an instrument of peace, sparing thousands of lives, if the operation goes to plan. Naturally, he wasn't having any of it, so Carrie (Claire Danes) was brought in to help seal the deal.
So now we know where the season's going for the final three episodes, and it's a direction I'm excited about. Brody's back as a top marksman, ready to redeem some of his soul by carrying out Saul's plan—which, ironically, is almost a mirror of what he was "programmed" to do against the US back in season 1. It's kind of chilling when you realise Brody's effectively been a puppet of two disparate ideologies now.
Overall, thanks to Lewis's performance and a sharpening of focus on Saul's plan, "One Last Time" may have just rescued the season. I also liked the scene where Senator Lockhart (Tracy Letts) found himself blackmailed by Saul, and then surprised Saul only wanted more time to finesse his operation and wasn't petty enough to kick Lockhart to the curb. I wonder if the probable success of Saul's plan, together with his show of leniency to spare the CIA embarrassment, will be enough for Lockhart to step aside of his own accord. Or for the President to change his mind over who should get the CIA Director's job.
There was also a lovely scene where Brody was taken to see his daughter Dana (Morgan Saylor), who's now working as a cleaning maid and living in a motel. I have a theory Lewis simply brings out the best in other actors, and it gained more plausibility here. Saylor was once again brilliant in Lewis's company on-screen, and it reminded me of why she was once an unexpected highlight of the show back in its first season. Saylor just seems to raise her game around her screen father, and their scene together was raw, heartfelt and very believable.