Homeland‘s successful brand of serial is in part thanks to compelling characters within an intriguing plot, and the show’s fearlessness at moving the story forward ahead of viewer expectation. We saw that in last season’s finale when Brody attempted to go ahead with his mission, and we saw it most recently with Saul discovering the truth about Brody.
That big cliffhanger had us wondering what Saul’s next move would be — would he hang onto the information or would he let Carrie know that she was right all along? Of course, the show doesn’t dally and the entire episode builds towards the moment of Carrie’s redemption.
Along the way there are some complications with Saul getting the video into the US (though this is mostly just heightened tension), Carrie reaching further depths of despair as she finds her wings clipped by David Estes, and a road trip with the ever-unravelling Brody and his tailor.
While not as exhilarating as the first two episodes of this season, “State Of Independence” contains high continuance, as we’ve come to expect from Homeland, pushing and pulling Carrie and Brody to different ends of the spectrum. Where it mostly falters are the liberties taken to get Brody to his new level of low — though the results are still mouth-watering.
The opening scene with Saul seemingly getting the Brody video confiscated by the Hezbollah agent could have been frustrating, given that he’d only just found it. But it would have placed him in a Carrie-esque position where he knew the truth but was unable to prove it.
As it turns out the writers went for what was probably the more progressive route, with Saul having hid the real video elsewhere, reminding us that he’s a wily fox and restoring the sense of momentum after placing it in apparent jeopardy.
With Saul in the sky on his way back to the US, we find that Carrie still hasn’t landed from her display of awesomeness in Beirut. She’s too busy to sleep and even vocalises her excitement to her father: “I feel really great” — and while I believe her, her father hits the nail on the head: “you’re wired, there’s a difference.”
The dangers of being so plugged-in are soon felt as Carrie is sent crashing to earth by Estes who basically pats her on the head and thanks her for the fish. As far as he’s concerned she’s still unreliable. While the motivation for bringing her in the first place loses some credibility, the narrative impact of having Carrie shut out from the system is a worthy trade-off.
While Carrie is hitting rock bottom, Brody finds his own walls closing in as his metaphorical vests are being removed both at home and at ‘work’. Having to take Bassel the tailor to the ‘safe house’ and make it back in time for the fundraising speech made for a tense road-trip, though one too many liberties prevent it from being as convincing as the Carrie side of the narrative. Homeland often delivers heightened tension, but it really required my trust in the storytelling to overlook the contrivance of Brody killing Bassel when it would have been far easier (and sensible) to simply hang up the phone so that Jessica didn’t overhear his death throes.
That aside, it was interesting that Brody initially tried to save Bassel from his injuries, while it also served to have him take the life of a highly symbolic character within his armory. In fact, Brody arguably lost three sheets of armor in this episode: one by his own hands, another by Jessica spilling their personal struggles at the fundraiser (while gaining her own state of independence), and the eventual vindication that was about to land at Carrie’s door.
Not only is Brody being stripped away, but as the season progresses he’s digging further and further into the ground – so much so that (in some ways) one wonders whether he ever made it out of that cave. The symbolism of Brody burying Bassel is juxtaposed effectively with Carrie’s own descent after taking an overdose.
In my previous review, I mentioned that being wrong about trusting the ‘old Carrie‘ might lead to her total destruction, but being unable to thrive on being right almost proved equally destructive. Thing is, Carrie’ state of independence is dependant on being wired – she’s like a moth to a flame, she’ll probably get burned anyway, but turn off the switch and, well, we saw where that took her.
It’s fascinating that Carrie ultimately saves herself. I’m not quite sure what inspired her to cough up the pills, particularly as it looked like she had fallen into a very deep and final sleep, but I’d like to think that on some heightened level, her mind intuited that hope was just around the corner. Seeing her grapple to the surface as Brody descended was a great way of entangling these two characters, further making their narratives feel fused despite ‘physical’ separation.
We wind down with Jessica basically asserting her power over Brody (further taming him as just had begun to do on the kitchen counter), proving that like her hubby she’s a more complex soul than she might appear.
But the real climax comes with Saul giving Carrie the exclusive on the Brody video. Carrie’s “I was right” (x2) is a great moment in the series — an acknowledgement of victory that kind of reminds me of Walter’s White‘s unforgettable ”I won” moment (though slightly less egotistical). I have think this will boost her level of self trust going forward and I can’t wait to see where it takes the story.
8/10 Seriable Stars