Just like everyone else, I watched the first season of Homeland in roughly 48 hours – right after they won all the Emmys and everyone was like “Oh hey, what?” For me it was a no-brainer: I’m a Michael Cuesta (director of the pilot) fan from way back (L.I.E., even), and from the moment at the beginning of the pilot when a prisoner whispers a mysterious secret in Claire Danes’ ear, it was clear. Someone was telling a story and they knew what they were up to, and I was happy to go along for the ride.
Unfortunately, nobody who writes Homeland was informed that they’d be receiving all the Emmys, so they seem to have tried to write some other show this time around, with mixed results. They’ve skewed a little 24, to be frank, and I’ve been disappointed. The focus of the first season – the tension over Brody’s allegiance and Carrie’s unraveling psychology – has disappeared completely, and we’re left with the nebulous threat of An Attack On America™ that’s totally coming unless it’s not, and certainly not until toward the end of the season. There have been some great moments – Saul’s visit to upper-middle-class malcontent-turned-wannabe-terrorist Aileen springs to mind – but by and large I’m not sure who I’m rooting for at this point, if anyone.
Largely this is because the premise of the show is no longer clear. Brody is a certifiable douchebag and, more importantly, Carrie’s just not that good at her job anymore. The story, for me, hinges upon believing she can get the job done, and it just doesn’t feel that way at this point.
Which brings us to last night’s episode, Broken Hearts, in which Carrie finally encounters a problem she can’t fuck her way out of.
I’ll just get this out of the way: nothing interesting happens to anyone in Brody’s family all episode. Mike has been keeping an eye on things (read: Jessica’s vagina) and they’re securely tucked away in a safe house. Let’s say no more of it.
I’m also not going to dwell on the whole ‘Who is Peter Quinn?’ “mystery,” because that’s going to be revealed exactly when it’s expedient for the plot and not one moment sooner. Bafflingly, nobody batted an eye when he stabbed Brody in the hand in the middle of an interrogation, but now that Virgil has discovered that Quinn has no interior decorating skills and enjoys reading Dickens, Saul has decided that Something is Amiss and goes to see waffle-chomping F. Murray Abraham at a diner for answers. Answers are – spoiler alert! – not forthcoming because we have two episodes left in the season.
Meanwhile in an only slightly more interesting storyline, Carrie is kidnapped by Abu Nazir – apparently working alone? – after her car is rammed by a truck. She’s taken to an abandoned warehouse and chained to a pipe, mostly for dramatic effect so that she looks grumpy when Nazir makes a Skype call (brought to you by Skype!) to Brody to prove that he’s holding Carrie captive.
I need to emphasize how alone Nazir is: he apparently has no backup. I understand that membership in terrorist cells is down at the moment, but this is The Guy, right? He doesn’t have someone else to tie CIA agents up for him? Did he get Carrie to this location himself? I have so many questions.
Brody does his level best to emote at a Blackberry with mixed results, but convinces Nazir (but not the audience!) that he’ll do anything to save Carrie, even sneak into the Vice President’s office and find the serial number on the veep’s pacemaker so Nazir can kill the guy remotely. This plan is not only hilariously contrived, but doesn’t it also contradict what we’ve heard Carrie say about Nazir in the past? That he likes public events and theatricality?
Brody manages to get into the veep’s office, which is not guarded, and spends roughly one lunar year rummaging around to find the pacemaker serial number. He can’t read it for some reason so he has to find a magnifying glass; this makes no sense. Then, since we established earlier this season that Brody doesn’t understand the idea of a camera phone, he reads the serial number to Nazir over the phone, which is apparently a secure line despite almost certainly having been given to him by the CIA (am I wrong about this?). Nazir lets Carrie go, because apparently you can become the head of an international terrorist organization without being too terribly bright.
Brody delivers the serial number (despite how easy it would be to change one digit, save Carrie’s life and not murder the Vice President) and then watches as the Vice President is murdered in a moment that’s just a little too close to a really great scene from Little Shop of Horrors for comfort. (It’s not on YouTube; I tried.) Also the veep doesn’t bat an eye when Brody shows up in his office for no reason, and there are no secret service agents anywhere near the office when he dies.
Carrie summons the CIA, and Saul rushes to the scene – only to be intercepted on his way out of the building for mysterious, as-yet-unclear reasons. I’m sure he’ll be fine, but this seems to me to be a tacit acknowledgement, from a writing perspective, that the show is running on fumes at the moment: I will shed no tears if Brody takes a bullet, I’ll eat my hat if anything of consequence happens to Carrie, but if you touch Saul I will go insane and I will take you with me.
Since imperiling Saul is evidently not enough for some people, Carrie heads back into the abandoned warehouse after Abu Nazir. Alone. With a pipe. You know, to hit him with? Like in the head I guess? It must be a CIA thing.