‘Homeland’ Review: Saul Steps into the Spotlight

By  · Published on November 4th, 2013

Saul is a dinosaur. He wears his years on his face, in the form of a rabbinical beard. His marriage is based more on lifelong loyalty than passion or affection, while his faith in the old way of doing things – namely, espionage – is keeping him from his dream job as the Director of the CIA, as well as from having a say in the future of the agency he’s devoted his life to. His right-hand man, Dar Adal, senses the coming change in the tides and seems ready to jump ship. And neither Saul’s decades of experience nor his shared past with Javadi helps him in preventing the deaths of two innocents.

Papa Bear started Homeland as a semi-peripheral figure of fatherly comfort and mentorship for Carrie, but this season he’s taken over her place as the center of the show. The switcheroo might be a betrayal of what the show initially promised – that it’s about a lady spy – but it’s one that makes a great deal of sense given this third year’s focus on the uncertain direction of the spy agency.

“Still Positive” shows that Homeland is, well, still positive about Saul, even though Papa Bear’s Cold War techniques aren’t too dissimilar from the drone strikes the show used to rail against. Both involve a certain level of acceptable risk. When Carrie reveals to Majid Javadi her plan to blackmail him into becoming a CIA asset, he calls her a “lure” and sighs, “Saul Berenson, after all these years, putting other people’s lives on the line.”

Javadi falls into Carrie and Saul’s trap so quickly it’s obvious he’s up to something. The trick up his sleeve is less a Trojan horse than a tit for tat. Javadi ruined Saul’s Argo plans of getting his CIA recruits out of Iran at the height of the Revolution, so Saul retaliated by giving the Iranian official’s wife and son refuge in the West and the “protection of the United States government” as revenge. More than three decades later, Javadi kills his own wife and daughter-in-law to demonstrate the worthlessness of that protection. I guess bombing Saul’s organization was just a little something extra.

If Javadi loves his grandson so much, he should have worked out a better way of showing it. A trust fund from part of the $45 million he stole from his government, maybe? Leaving the baby in a near-Dexter situation by killing his mother (and grandmother) is not going to earn him any macaroni-glued cards at Ramadan.

“You don’t look like a man who just landed the biggest asset of his career,” Javadi tells Saul when the two finally meet again. Saul orders the man out of his handcuffs and chair, then punches him in the nose. It’s just as we expected – and wanted. There’s a chivalry to the act. There’s some badass left in Papa Bear left yet.

And some Brody left in Carrie, as she’s with his child. It looks like she might be several months along, based on her collection of pee-stained pregnancy sticks. (Seriously, she did not rinse the most recent one off in the sink before sticking it in there. GROSS.) Her bun in the oven might explain why she’s chosen to go off her lithium, but other than that, no other part of this plot development makes sense. I’m already dreading the injury Carrie will sustain on the field and have a miscarriage from. I mean, what’s the alternative? Homeland Seaon Four: Carrie and Jess throw a baby shower? Carrie Junior gets her own Dora the Explorer and Double Spy doll? The baby gets kidnapped by terrorists all the time?

Over at the Brody house, AKA Irrelevant Annoyances Corner, Dana changes her name and moves out with Jess’s blessing. Sure. Fine. Whatever. Saul’s a dinosaur, but that storyline’s the one who needs to be extinct already.