Homeland Season 2 Episode 3 Review - State of Independence
After a thrilling first two episodes, it's no surprise that the show takes a quieter approach this week. Removed once more from the exciting antics of the CIA, Carrie struggles to adjust to a mundane life back home. Meanwhile Brody, just trying to lead an ordinary life with his family, literally finds himself dragged through the mud as he begins to play dirty for Abu Nazir. With shocking revelations coming to the fore, desperate times lead to Carrie and Brody taking the most desperate of measures.
Suspension of Disbelief
There's been a fair bit of criticism of this season of Homeland so far on the web. Many who praised the first season's gripping narrative have attacked what they have seen as unrealistic elements in the story, such as when Brody managed to text Abu Nazir a warning message in amongst the White House chiefs in supposedly the most secure place in the world. But as far as I recall Homeland has never smacked of authenticity. Brody's plot to blow up the Vice President last year was the same nonsense that you saw all the time on writers Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa's previous show 24. The reason Homeland is so enthralling is not because the world portrayed is so realistic but because the characters are so compelling. Watching Carrie and Brody struggle to stay true to their personal values whilst being crushed by the oppressive political machines they form part of; that's the real reason why we love the show. The plot can be as incredible as it wants, the President himself could turn out to be a terrorist for all I care, as long as we can continue to identify and empathise with Carrie and Brody.
Lost in the Woods
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This is why State of Independence failed, or half-failed as an episode, and was the show's first real miss so far this year. Brody's mission to take the tailor from Gettysburg to a safe house before he returns home to give a fundraising speech is an awfully contrived situation, as step-by-step things get comically worse for the former marine. From car trouble, Brody's impromptu repair of the vehicle, the tailor running off and then becoming impaled on some bark (yes that really did happen), every obstacle felt artificially dropped into the story to create a situation that screams, "It's hard for Brody to maintain these two identities!"
The writers attempted to overload the pressure Brody must be feeling by having Jessica call him every five seconds, and yet it still doesn't justify his thoughtless actions in the forest. Rather than choose to not answer the phone when a man is screaming in pain beside you, Brody instead out of desperation silences the wounded tailor by breaking his neck. Now Brody might be out of his depth in this situation, but as a marine I'm sure he is not unfamiliar with sticky situations like this. We've seen him kill people as well, but we know he's not a monster. Here the tailor is murdered out of Brody's apparent blind panic, and that as a motive just doesn't hold water. With the plot confused, contrived and untrue to the characters, it's not just Brody who is lost in the woods.
Out of the Game
Carrie similarly finds herself in a desperate situation this week. After the nail-biting drama in Beirut she has to return to her humdrum life back home; a fact she isn't prepared to deal with. The Middle East excursion rekindled her latent compulsion for espionage, and she's soon waiting around at home desperate for the mission debrief. When her patience rapidly wanes Carrie dashes off to Langley to find the debrief has happened without her. David tries to console her when commending her exemplary work in Lebanon before wrenching the knife inside her with the line, "Carrie you didn't come here today expecting to get reinstated?"
Her dreams of returning to the CIA crushed in an instant, Carrie begins to repeatedly jab at the self-destruct button. The moment where she overdoses on medication is horrifying not only because of the act itself, but because you can completely understand why she has been pushed to this point. Unlike Brody's artificial dilemma, Carrie's descent into the abyss felt absolutely natural and a great deal more heartfelt because of it.
"I Was Right"
The attempted suicide sees Carrie at her lowest ebb, which makes it even more rewarding when Saul proves she was correct about Brody all along. Upon witnessing Brody's confession she delightedly exclaims, "I was right". After being driven to the darkest depths, the revelation is sure to spur Carrie on to stop Brody once and for all.
Maybe that's the problem we're starting to witness in the show. Homeland hinges on its two leads; it's two ideologies, its two Americas. But Carrie is the one we're rooting for because as a character her trajectory is far more compelling. I'm not sure where Brody can go from here. He seems reluctant to help his family, reluctant to help Nazir, reluctant to help anybody. He doesn't seem to have any plan in mind, and so comes across as far more opaque to the viewer. With Carrie bound to be breathing down his neck once more maybe we'll see Brody come out of his shell and make a stance, for if he's going to play happy families whilst plotting to bring down the government he's going to need to get smart. Carrie and Brody are meant to be two sides of the same coin, but unfortunately at the moment the coin is definitely weighted in Carrie's favour.
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