written by Chip Johannessen & Patrick Harbinson | directed by Daniel Minahan
The penultimate hour saw Brody's (Damien Lewis) mission gather momentum, with the inevitable obstacles and problems thrown his way. I actually really love Homeland when it's doing things in this vein, as it does a great job of building suspense by flitting between the CIA control room and what's happening out in the field—especially when the operation involves Brody and Carrie (Claire Danes), who are both characters that remain stubbornly unpredictable. Or predictably unpredictable?
"Big Man in Tehran" was an hour where Brody tried to get close to his target, IRGC leader Danesh Akbari, to assassinate him and pave the way for CIA asset Javadi (Shaun Toub) to climb the Iranian political ladder. The majority of this episode was spent watching Brody try and fail to get in close proximity to Akbari to stab him with a cyanide needle, which proved harder than expected. The best laid plans rarely go smoothly. And while all that was certainly entertaining, the episode didn't truly come alive until an element of doubt crept in about Brody's loyalty and long-term plan as the "most wanted man in the world"
I'm not convinced jumping forward six days was the best idea, but it certainly put a different spin on what you expected from these final two episodes. Brody had seemingly embraced Iranian society to become a celebrity spouting anti-American sentiments on national TV, and Saul (Mandy Patinkin) was forced to consider that Brody had simple changed his mind and wasn't going to carry out the assassination. In which case, he went from hunter to hunted—forcing besotted Carrie to go against her own government and assist Brody in avoiding the hitmen sent to take him out of the equation, lest he reveal Javadi's in the CIA's pocket.
I don't mind admitting the writers tricked me into thinking Brody had genuinely decided to become a full-blown traitor, until a few characters kept making that point too vocally—by which time, you sensed the reverse was going to be true. But it was still fun seeing Brody manipulate his way into Akbari's private office, reveal the CIA's entire plan to earn his trust, then brain his target with an ashtray and smother him with a pillow. So will Carrie be able to extract Brody from Iran ad hoc? Will Brody make it out alive? If so, will he find peace after all this, even if he's never allowed to reveal to the world the full extent of his role in events?
Overall, "Big Man in Tehran" felt more like the Homeland I was so obsessed with back in season 1—strong, propulsive, compelling, surprising, and quite thoughtful at times. Sure, there were moments where you had to suspend your disbelief (like how easily the assassination plot falls apart if Brody's captors merely search him throughout the day), but I can let things like that slide. It's a television show.
What's more important is everything felt credible in the moment, and the drama was built on character above all else: from Carrie's faith in Brody's inherent goodness, to Brody's residual affection for terrorist leader Abu Nazir, and his catharsis when he killed Akbari in the very room where the plot to "turn" him was first discussed. Is Brody's story done this season? I'm guessing so... but will it end with his death? We'll find out in next week's finale.