“Game On” for Homeland: the twists return

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Sam: Finally! The Homeland I’ve been waiting for is back. How can we not start at the end?

Did you see Carrie playing an undercover role here at all? Did she not seem off her rocker, for real? All the promos and stories so far this season have pitted Carrie against Saul, and I didn’t think for a minute they might be in on the whole thing together.

Damn it.

But, it sure felt nice to have my Hank-on-toilet realization moment watching this episode (wait…have you finished Breaking Bad?). I thought it was a wise idea to avoid the Brody story this episode. Last week was a weird back and forth between Brody and Carrie in two different worlds that just had little of substance.

This week, we got to see some stories form a bit more concretely. I don’t know if I expected Dana’s new boyfriend to break out of the clinic, but I certainly wasn’t surprised. But, now that we know why he actually got committed in the first place, I can’t help feeling like Dana’s character just got stuck with all the worst relationships a person could have (first, her dad and now this dude).

Interesting to see Mike back in the picture. I wondered when he’d be back. After all, Brody did tell him to take care of his family at the end of last season, didn’t he?

What were your impressions of this episode?

Jay: You know, it’s funny: I’ve read two or three reviews of this episode, and the general consensus seemed to be that Homeland is getting pretty exasperating. But I actually felt much more similarly to your perspective: I loved the twist at the end. Granted, there are tons of unanswered questions: why was Carrie crying alone in her apartment when Saul denounced her on TV? What about all the elements of her stay in the mental institution? Which parts were fake, and which were not? Many of them still don’t make sense, so I’m looking forward to the explanations. But overall I’m pretty happy with the turn this episode took.

As you know, I’m not quite as annoyed by Dana as the rest of the world usually is. But even by my looser standards, I’m starting to find her monologues exhausting and empty. I also find it really distracting that her boyfriend, who’s a tortured soul either because he attempted suicide or because he killed his brother (I tend to doubt that latter explanation, actually), looks like a member of One Direction.

I was glad to see Mike back as well. My one complaint is that I’m more interested in his character when he’s sticking his nose into sensitive issues (as with last season when he and his alcoholic Marine buddy started sniffing around the site of Brody’s execution of his old military pal), because he seemed on the verge of getting involved with something really dangerous. That all fell apart after the CIA bombing, since now Brody is publicly known to be a terrorist, but I wouldn’t mind seeing if Mike somehow begins investigating things again and ends up helping to exonerate Brody this time, possibly hastening his own demise as Jessica’s knight in shining armor. That would certainly be an unfortunate twist for him.

Overall, I was a fan of this episode. The one criticism that makes the most sense to me is the fact that, while Homeland often delivers twists and turns, Carrie has always been the narrative portal to the world — and so when even she is revealed to be hiding something from the viewing audience, it changes the entire dynamic of the show. I agree with that generally and, I think, it’s a trick that can only really be done once in a show’s entire tenure to be truly effective. But this was a pretty good way to do it.

How do you think this big reveal changes what comes next?

Sam: You raise some very good questions. I had thought about those questions about Carrie’s reaction, too, but I assumed it was either she couldn’t bear to see Saul hang her out to dry in public like that (even if he didn’t mention her by name) OR he called an audible on that one and she just had to go along with it. But, you’re absolutely right: the line between which parts were fake and which were real has been very blurred until the last moment of this episode.

I think this plot twist doesn’t necessarily change what comes next except that it makes it a bit more clear where the parties align. Before this, I couldn’t see how Saul, Carrie, and Brody were going to operate in some sort of triangle. Now, it’s more like Carrie and Saul are onto something, which I could see Brody coming in to complicate. How exactly, I’m not entirely sure, but I’m sure the writers will find a way to tie in his background into the stories ahead.

You’re definitely on point about the Dana storyline. I’m still not exactly sure how much the Brody family saga adds to this season other than to make the more exciting parts that much more exciting (low expectations –> overly excited reaction?). I’m actually wondering when Quinn will factor back into the picture.

Does this revelation about Carrie and Saul actually working together change your perceptions of what lies ahead?

Jay: I read an interview with Alex Gansa (the showrunner), in which he said that the season essentially takes place in three acts. The big reveal that Saul and Carrie are working together ended Act I, and the next one’s starting now. I also think you’re spot on about Brody: my feeling is he’ll show up and disrupt everything just when things are starting to feel normal again. This is also why (according to that same interview) Dana has played such a large role so far this season: they need to orient the audience to her emotional state at the beginning, presumably so that she’ll be even more confused when Brody comes back and explains that he didn’t cause the bombing.

(Side note: do we really know for sure that he didn’t cause the bombing? I don’t remember this ever being definitively proven one way or another. Remember, no one really knows what Brody and Abu Nazir discussed when Brody was whisked off by that helicopter late in Season 2.)

Anyway, to get back to the point about the three acts, I imagine that there will be a sort of circle: Saul and Carrie seeming to be on the outs for a few episodes before they’re “reconciled,” only to actually distrust each other later on in the season. Anyway, that’s my guess. I guess we’ll find out within the next few weeks. And now that Homeland‘s just been renewed for Season 4, I expect we’ll be seeing a lot more of Claire Danes’ famous crying face in the months to come.

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About Samson X. Lim

Samson Lim is the Founder and Chairman of the Board of Scholarship Junkies, a Seattle-based scholarship resource organization that works to help students make higher education more affordable. Sam spent the 2010-11 academic year in Berlin, Germany, as a U.S. Student Fulbright Scholar and is currently pursuing his Master of Arts in Education Policy at Teachers College, Columbia University. When he’s not buried in grad school reading, Sam emerges every once in a while to highlight higher education and financial aid issues in 140 characters or less at @samsonxlim.

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