HOMELAND: 2.02 Beirut Is Back — REVIEW

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Previously on Homeland, we were treated to the magnificent Smile. The season opener dragged Carrie back into the world in which she thrives and put the squeeze on Brody’s new mission. So what would the follow up bring? “Beirut Is Back” hardly disappointed, delivering tight continuation with Carrie fulfilling her mission to meet with her source, Fatima Ali. With Abu Nazir in the CIA’s cross-hairs, the emotional tension rested on Carrie’s judgement of her own mind and Saul’s judgement of her mind. Her recently scorched reliability meant that to go down in flames again would have surely been the end for the mercurial agent.

I found this aspect of the episode really compelling as it blended character with plot, and while I do question some of Carrie’s decisions I find them believable enough given the type of person she is and where she’s coming from in these opening episodes. What I also found interesting, and this ties into the premiere, is that while Carrie is certainly no Sydney Bristow or Nikita, she can still hold her own in the action stakes. She’s not slick in that regard but she can swing a brick with the best of them.

The Brody end of the narrative wasn’t as consistently engaging for me and I do find his role and the positions he finds himself in somewhat convenient, but there was still plenty of good tension and development, none more so that him warning Nazir (and saving his life) while surrounded by the joint chiefs. Not only was this a tense moment but it weaved the two central narratives to satisfying effect.

“Beirut Is Back” gave us an intoxicating glimpse into the highs and lows of Carrie. The high of completing her end of the mission by getting Intel of an imminent meeting between Nazir and Ali’s husband right there in Beirut, was swiftly met by the crushing low as her reliability was called into question. She did herself no favors by going against the plan, meeting Ali without Saul there to lend his judgement on the validity of the source and the information.

It’s difficult to blame David Estes and Saul for not being overly willing to trust Carrie, but it was extremely tough on her to have to overhear their doubt and in-turn having to admit that even she can no longer trust her own mind. Being ‘wrong’ about Brody is a deep cut that I feel wont heal until she’s redeemed, and her panic attack conveyed the walls closing in around her mind.

It was symbolic to see her head to the roof of the safe house to catch her breath – unloading the honest trust about what the last time she flew too close to the sun did to her. Now, it was either fly again or crash and burn. If Saul was in doubt about her reliability, Carrie turned him around with a masterstroke of persuasion that even had me convinced. Asking him to trust the Carrie who both recruited and saved Ali’s life eight years ago, the more reliably sound, less damaged Carrie. This not only tugged at Saul’s heartstrings but it made sense. Before Brody-gate she was undiminished and had a mind Saul happened to love.

What’s particularly interesting about this is that Carrie didn’t just put her future in the CIA on the line, she put her entire history there too. Had she  been wrong about Ali’s reliability, it would surely have led to the kind of self-examination that would have been destructive for the embattled agent. But of course this is Carrie we’re talking about, she seems to have the ability to see truths that others can’t readily see, particularly during these heightened moments.

The blending of the two narratives with Brody getting an unexpected look-in on the Nazir assassination attempt, played out with great tension. His decision to warn Nazir, just in the nick of time, was in-keeping with his character and also conveyed a sense of devotion to his puppet master. Again, I’m not totally convinced at how Brody is able to pull off all of his stunts, but without it the plot might not work quite as well as it does, and the show has done enough to establish its tone and universe so it’s not too much of a problem to buy into.

Brody’s subsequent reaction to saving Nazir’s life was one of someone none too pleased to be playing the errand boy. Even a shaken Roya was grateful to Brody, but professed that his role is now more important than ever and that Nazir needs him. Question is, is this what Brody wants? On one hand most definitely, he still believes in his view of his mission and is devoted to Nazir and their shared pain, but one the other hand he’s playing a role to which he’s not yet fully committed. Like Carrie, you have to wonder whether Brody also thrives off the highs and lows of taking flight. There seems to be very little equilibrium for him, and while he certainly doesn’t want to crash and burn he comes alive during those moments of high tension.

Speaking of which, the bombshell dropped at the end of the episode with Saul finding a video message of Brody confessing his actions puts the seal on the episode and blows it off at the same time. Once again Carrie’s effort in retrieving potentially useful information paid off and the suspicion around Brody will further tighten. Carrie’s reaction to the message will be particularly interesting to witness. Imagine what this will do for her, she can finally trust her own mind again. That being said, I also expect her to be very hurt by where these events have taken her and how others have distrusted her when the threat, in her eyes, was obvious.

“Beirut Is Back” also contained other interesting bits, including the growing suspicion regarding Tom Walker’s death, an issue Brody didn’t handle too well with his buddies, and Jessica’s continued climb up the high society totem pole. Dana’s also getting closer to son Walden which seems convenient but could open up some useful storytelling doors. And one of the episode’s best ‘smaller’ moments: Carrie back at home adjusting her watch as she readjusts to life back on the ground. You suspect she wont be there for long.

8.5/10 Seriable Stars

Comments

    • Hashbrown says

      What was on the video? Was the truth revealed? All I have seen was “By the time you’ve watched this, you’ll have read a lot of things about me,” said Brody in the video. “About what I’ve done. And so I wanted to explain myself. So that you’ll know the truth.”
      Was the entire video revealed in Season 1? If not, we have to be naive to think he is actually going to tell the truth…

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  1. Aria Mohtadi says

    Thanks for the insightful review, Roco.

    I remember Kiefer Sutherland describing the process of creating episodic storylines for 24 in this year’s ‘Emmy actors roundtable featurette’ (watch the whole discussion here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVEparrBK8A ). He said the writers (and the producers; a few of whom happen to be behind Homeland as well) had this habit of basically trapping themselves and the characters into corners and then rushing their way out. (Remember Bauer’s situation by the end of season 4? Or how they [SPOILER] gave away the arch villain of season 6 before having reached midway through? )

    I guess it’s brave of Homeland’s writing team to try out such compromising threads like Saul discovering Brody’s video message. It could be what ultimately ruins Brody’s (and Nazir’s) plan, or just a hiccup along the way. I guess the only option out of this situation – and for this season to continue – would be if Saul sat on the video for a while (as Jason suggested above), or else Brody will have to take care of him the same way he dealt with Walker.

    Nonetheless, it was a great episode. The Nazir/Ali operation was the highlight for me. Breathtaking tension was present in all territories; Brody and the joint chiefs, Carrie and Saul, Langley HQ and of course right on the field. I loved the way Carrie pulled a few Jason Bourne.s coming down from the rooftops! :)

    Brody and Dana’s relationship continues to be my favorite on the show. And character-wise, Carrie’s the most relatable imo. I agree that sometimes Brody’s motivations seem confusing, but I think most of his outbursts work well enough considering that he’s become a “penitent” during the 8 years, through methods of physical and emphatic torture.

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    • says

      Great points Aria.

      As you know, Breaking Bad is similar in that regard – Vince Gilligan has often spoken about he and his staff writing themselves into corners. It goes without saying that some serials/writers handle this better than others.

      From the articles we’ve posted recently, it seems the Homeland writers are thinking in terms of seasons 2 and 3, so it seems they do have an idea of where the major arcs are heading, but Saul discovering the message is certainly an intriguing ‘twist’ that will have to be sustained through credible developments.

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      • Aria Mohtadi says

        Yes, exactly.
        Bryan Cranston too mentions this in the same video.

        I guess the essential factor that distinguishes writing teams is how they integrate little details from their characters’ backgrounds and maintain the consistency of their actions and motives.

        In this case I think the writers of shows such as The Sopranos have managed to write themselves “out” of the corners on various occasions with complex characters such as Dr. Melfi or Christopher.

        I do certainly enjoy the current direction of the show, in fact I think the creators of 24 (and Homeland) were some of the very best of prime networks. And I’m positive that Saul’s discovery will lead to some great moments in the future.

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