“You belong here. Am I right?” – Doctor Creeps
Last seen hopping the border to Canada, Brody resurfaces in Venezuela – and guess what – things aren’t looking too hot for the world’s most wanted man. Brody struggles to adapt to his new surroundings as he finds himself right back where he started, back where he belongs? Meanwhile, Carrie receives chance of a way out, but at what cost?
- Brody’s Return. Teflon Man’s return came at a good time for the story. While Brody’s continued survival takes a bit of believing, my issues here are tempered by the fact that, 1. this is Nick ‘Teflon’ Brody we’re talking about; 2. Carrie has played a big role in keeping him alive post-border-hop, and 3. the show itself, through Doctor Creeps, voiced the idea that Brody has a knack for surviving. A touch on the nose, perhaps, but it externalizes a useful question for those willing to dabble – is Brody really this lucky, has he survived through sheer will, or does the universe want him to live? If it’s the latter, what governs this realm, and why does Brody’s survival closely resemble cycles of punishment?
- Brody’s storyline also brought a vibrant palette, one distinct from the A-side of the canvas. I found this change of scene both refreshing and informing. Brody’s new world is vivid and bright, contrasting the grayer tones of Carrie’s world where the Langley fallout hangs a cloud over affairs, internal and external. The scenes in Caracas also delivered the sense of global scope the show has perhaps lacked since the early part of last season.
- Don’t Just Standalone. While this episode can be viewed as standalone-ish, focusing largely on Brody’s Tower Tribulations, with the old ‘beginning, middle and end’, in reality it relies heavily on previous events, parallels Carrie’s arc and will no doubt tie right back in at some point. In that sense I was able to enjoy this episode both in ‘episodic’ terms and from a serialized standpoint. Obviously this format wouldn’t work for a show like Homeland on a regular basis, but this was a satisfying example of the flexibility in serialized storytelling.
- The episode carried thematic appeal, helping to maintain the relevance of Brody’s story which, as mentioned, paralleled Carrie’s trials in many ways. Our border-crossed lovers are both under heavy, and largely forced, ‘medication’; both are imprisoned against their will; both claim innocence. Visually, the episode works well to further convey their mirror states, while allowing us to ponder why it is that these two souls seem to be echoes of one another. Thematically, this episode doesn’t just bound them together across an enormous distance, it attaches greater subtext to their mutual influence on each other and highlights the irony of the universe in which they exist.
- Carrie-over. The Carrie scenes were few and far between in this Brody-heavy installment, but they were very welcome. As interesting as Brody’s Tower adventure was, not everything there worked and I felt a pang of comfort whenever Carrie popped back on my seriable screen. For me, Claire Danes gave a quieter (semi-meltdown aside) but no less intriguing performance.
- The Tower brought a lot of thematic and metaphorical resonance and served an ironic fate for Brody, but I wasn’t totally in love with how it played out.
- Brody’s recovery from those bullets seemed to happen with considerable speed. The episode presumably took place over a number of days, but aside from the rapid healing, I didn’t feel the sense of time as strongly as I might have liked. That being said, I’m not frowning on this too much as the ‘timelessness’ and ‘displacement’ served the notion that Brody’s reality is itself lost and without anchor.
- I would have liked to have learned the favor Carrie performed Brody’s host-turned-captor, especially as he’s so committed to keeping him alive instead of collecting the sizable bounty on his head. If it comes out later, then fine, but I wouldn’t like to see this go unexplained. Dr. Creeps said it best, “must be some favor”.
CARRIE’S NEURAL OPTIMIZER
- For me, one of the best little nuggets of the episode was learning that Carrie’s network helped Brody survive while she herself was undergoing persecution. I’ve often viewed the Homeland universe as a mirror of Carrie’s mind – her ‘system’ – one that always manages to keep her and those she loves in play even under the most intense heat. With that in mind, it’s interesting to consider that Brody has found both sanctuary and imprisonment in Carrie’s ‘Matrix’. He suffers as she suffers – and that suffering is a purgatorial one as Carrie’s mind is under attack due to their connection. I like the sense that the Tower isn’t a real place for Brody – he’s neither dead nor alive by the end of the hour. Hence his desperation to escape and find somewhere familiar – a part of the Carrieverse where he can heal and rediscover a piece of his former identity, even if he is an identity-less man, floating from pillar to tower.
- Speaking of the Tower, interesting that it was incomplete as if mirroring Brody’s state of mind and self. The Tower, according to Brody’s Doctor, is also a place free from judgement, and yet the same doctor seems to judge Brody (as does the Imam), calling him a “cockroach” (granted this could be viewed in a positive sense). The Tower seems less like a place of strength and more like a place of collapse, of descent. Brody can’t die – least not yet – so what will come out from the pit and who will save him?
- What can I say about Carrie, even in small doses she’s good. I particularly liked the scene where she starts bashing her head on the bathroom mirror with some serious shades of Twin Peaks — as though her mind is trying to smash its way out of her Saul-destroying reality. Along with that we see a dulled but self-aware(ish) Carrie who tries to play her doctor in order to escape her imprisonment. It was interesting to see this manipulative side of Carrie. As they say, needs must.
- Carrie declines the help of the mysterious man in a suit and his mysterious employers. While we don’t yet know for sure who he’s working for, it’s an admirable response from Carrie. But does it make sense? The people to whom she claims loyalty not so much clipped her wings but burned them, violated her mind, denounced her word. It’s all part of the game, of course. From Saul’s POV it lacks integrity but makes a kind of sense. But in said game, how badly does Carrie want to be a ‘free’ agent? Will she ultimately be ‘turned’ as Brody was – and what does that mean, anyway, when they turned their back on Carrie first? Who deserves Carrie’s allegiance?
An ultimately appealing episode that offers plenty of food for thought and reminds us that Brody still has the ability to make Homeland tick.
9/10 Seriable Stars
Standout Performer: Damian Lewis as Nicholas “Teflon” Brody / Honorable Mention: Erik Dellums as Dr. “Creeps” Graham.