‘Homeland’ Review: Things That Make You Go ‘Uh…Oh…Ah…’

By  · Published on October 7th, 2013

Terrorism is a blunt, imprecise force by design. Anti-terrorism is a blunt, imprecise force by necessity.

That’s essentially Homeland’s big statement about the War on Terror. The initial impetus for the series was an unmanned drone strike that killed an innocent little boy, Abu Nazir’s son, whose death a Stockholm Syndromed Brody was convinced to avenge. The carefully choreographed assassinations of six terrorists last week also ended in another child’s death ‐ collateral damage is as unavoidable on CIA missions as a black turtleneck.

Now we see that hammer come down on one of the agency’s own, with a newly Machiavellian Saul gripping the handle. After exposing Carrie’s mental illness and affair with a terrorist suspect to the world, Saul spends “Uh… Oh… Ah…” (I hope the episode isn’t named after Dana’s scene in the laundry room) playing hide-and-seek with his former protege. Fully aware that her mentor has set her up to be the agency’s scapegoat for the Langley bombing, Carrie attempts to confront him at the start of the hour. But he won’t be found until he wants to talk to her. Even then, it’s only after he’s exercised his power to have her discredited in the eyes of the press, then detained, subdued and medicated ‐ all against her will.

Her “fuck you, Saul” at the end of the episode is wholly deserved.

So why did he have her committed? I mean, sure, he has to have a force of chaos like Carrie temporarily immobilized, if not stopped altogether, to bolster the agency’s reputation. It’s also possible to make the case that he’s overstepping his bounds as a father figure to have her back on her drugs ‐ in other words, that he means well, even if he presumes to know better than she does. But even the most generous view of Saul ‐ and I don’t know that we’re meant to have one vis-a-vis Carrie in this episode ‐ shows him being overbearing, paternalistic, tyrannical.

He’s no more kind to Fara (Nazanin Boniadni), a new hire at the CIA who turns out to be as brilliant as Carrie is. “You wearing that thing on your head [her hijab] is one big ‘fuck you’ to the people who would’ve been your co-workers except they perished right out there,” Saul says, gesturing toward the bomb site. Which, WTF? The only character-consistent explanation for this amazingly dumb and gratuitously mean accusation is that “the second 9/11” has made everyone, including Saul, so excruciatingly jingoistic they suddenly can’t tolerate an accessory tens of millions of women wear around the world. (Seriously, how many times have we seen Mira, Saul’s own wife, with a scarf around her head?)

Fara single-handedly traces the financial contents of a laptop from Quinn’s last mission to Iran via HLBC Bank, an overt reference to HSBC’s admission last year that its American branches laundered money for terrorist groups. This tack of fighting anti-terrorism is the most innovative ‐ and probably the most realistic ‐ thing we’ve seen from the show in awhile. Too bad, then, that a few seconds of whispered menace from Quinn leads to the end of that particular storyline by having one of the HLBC bankers fork over all their records.

Meanwhile, over at Brody Manor, Dana is running for the title of Miss Angst again. I’m sympathetic to her having trouble adjusting back to normal life, but I keep waiting for Chekov’s sexts to come back to bite her in the butt. (Speaking of butt-biting, is anyone else intensely uncomfortable with the sudden sexualization of Dana’s character? She’s probably 18ish now, but we started the show knowing her as a moody 15- or 16-year-old girl.) She has one big major revelation about her dad: “He was a psycho who did nothing but lie from the minute he set foot in this house, and he ruined our lives.” That’s a claim that’s hard to argue with, even when we know Brody wasn’t behind the Langley bombing.

The relative isolation of the Brody family storylines means I’m eager for them to cross paths again with the CIA players. But the way the agency has been acting ‐ or rather, overreacting ‐ toward both its enemies and its dissenters makes me fear for them as well.