There was a lot of conversation surrounding last week’s big Homeland reveal–that Saul and Carrie had been making a play this whole time, using Carrie’s story as a disgraced CIA officer to attract the attention of Iran. Was this twist a cop out? Was it guiding the show away from the bleak, dark path it has been treading this season?
I was of mixed feelings on the twist. On the one hand, I felt relieved. This change of circumstances got Homeland back on the right track–a show about a CIA officer who is bipolar instead of a show about a bipolar person who happens to work (sometimes) for the CIA. It mercifully removed us from this season of slums and mental asylums and put us back in the world of espionage and terrorist threats. And, I couldn’t help but feel impressed at how well the show played me for several episodes.
But then…if this really was the plan all along, couldn’t they have gone about it in a better way? If we had been in on Saul and Carrie’s plan, would that have made for a more nuanced, complex viewing experience? That’s certainly what we have going on now–we know about all of Carrie’s identities, and it’s hard to keep up with what is real and what is fake. Was her defense of Brody real or part of the act laid out by Saul or both? Why is she not taking her meds now? Was she always not taking them as a part of the act?
Now that we know about the play, Carrie has gone from a one-dimensional crazy person to a very complicated character. She is so complicated that those close to her and even the audience is never really sure what is true and what is an act. That’s a somewhat brilliant feat of television.
But damn if it is not frustrating to watch.
I know many Homeland viewers have a strong distaste for the Dana Brody plotlines, but I think her character and her vague attempt at escaping with Leo sets up a beautiful contrast with Carrie. “She’s in love, who knows what she’ll see through,” Jessica said to Carrie when she begged her to help find Dana. Carrie wouldn’t let herself run away with Brody (as Dana does with Leo), even though she was tempted, but she did allow herself to be compromised to continuously try and help Brody and his family. That’s letting your judgement be clouded for love. Dana’s “joy ride” ends disastrously, but it pales when you put it next to how Carrie and Brody’s escape plan would have turned out.
As people get irritated in watching Dana, I get irritating in watching Carrie. She’s complicated and she’s interesting, but she’s increasingly rash to the point of being stupid. Season one Carrie was volatile, but she was brilliant. She saw things other people didn’t. I can’t remember the last time Carrie did something that fulfilled the potential of her mind. We will see how she fares on her own in this next scenario–a CIA officer who gave herself away for something ultimately inconsequential.
One thing I will say is that the show is better when Brody isn’t in it and Quinn is. We’re seeing more and more of the latter, and his standing up to Saul about Carrie, his accidental killing of a child, and his increasingly obvious fondness (love?) for Carrie makes him a puzzle just waiting to be put together by season three of this show. I’m hoping he’s here to stay and grow and Brody keeps fading away, although I know there’s no real possibility of that second request.