Category Archives: Film/TV

Episode 5 of Homeland: Is “The Yoga Play” the beginning of Saul gone rogue?

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Sam: Before we begin, let me just say: good luck to your Boston Red Sox. As a Seattle Mariners fan, I have no idea what it feels like to cheer on your team in the World Series.

Now, on to this week’s episode. I think we started to see the beginnings of how the Brody family drama is going to intersect with the Carrie-Saul story. But, c’mon, would Jessica really go to Carrie looking for Dana?? It just felt like a huge leap to put them in the same frame again.

And would Carrie seriously put ALL that undercover work on the line just to check on Dana? It seemed all too implausible. But then again, it’s Carrie. I feel bad for Max and Virgil.

I feel bad for Saul, too, since he pretty much thought he’d be taking over the CIA. I mean I did, too, until the senator showed up. I think this also sparked a new track for the Saul-CIA story as well. Might Saul join Carrie in going rogue later on the road? Might Brody fit into that?

This week’s episode left me lots of questions, I guess. What about you? What were your thoughts on this episode?

Jay: One game to go! Man, I’m losing years (and hair) this October. But if they win on Wednesday or Thursday, it’ll all be worth it.

The Jessica-to-Carrie twist was a bit weird, for sure. I know she said she had nowhere else to go, but…really? Nowhere at all? Her local barista wasn’t working that day? Her stylist? Anyone else? I’m pretty certain Carrie is not the person she’d go to in that situation, especially when she’s shown zero interest in Brody’s kids (or wife, obviously) before. I also had the same feeling you had about Carrie: one second she’s saying this is not a good time for her, and the next moment she’s breaking all kinds of unwritten rules and jeopardizing an entire high-level spying operation in order to find a teenager who’s run off with a boy. Just…no.

Saul, for his part, seems ready to go rogue himself — as you suggested. His career’s just taken a hit, his wife seems to be cheating on him, and Carrie may have just blown the one intelligence operation that could manage to save his job.

That said, Carrie’s decision to go off her meds is so. Goddamn. Exhausting. Enough with that meme already. Just put her back on her medication and be done with it. The whole “will she or won’t she?” about taking her drugs is just beyond ridiculous at this point.

I’m not even sure what to think about Dana anymore.

My guess? Brody will be back in a big way either next episode or the one after. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Brody show up in Carrie’s apartment as a cliffhanger to close out next week.

What do you think is coming?

Sam: Totally with you on the whole meds and Carrie saga. I get that the show, as Mandy Patinkin said in a recent interview, is shining a light on mental health issues, but it’s rough seeing it recycled into the plot every season.

I forgot about Saul’s wife and “friend”! That’s a strange development. Not sure how I feel about the show diving farther into it beyond just the continued tension between Saul and his wife.

You know what made me laugh? Quinn’s reaction to Saul looping him in to the secret mission. If he had had a cigar in one hand and a bottle of booze in the other, he could’ve been Bunk.

I think next we may see the Brody connection come back with Carrie getting her face-to-face with Javadi. I have to think the mission will get messier before it gets resolved considering the unfolding clashes between Saul and the new CIA Director.

What are your thoughts on Javadi? How dangerous is this guy, you think?

Jay: Ha, is this our first-ever Bunk reference? How did we not incorporate him into our recaps already? Either way, excellently done.

One thing I find consistently frustrating about Homeland, by the way, is the way in which it perpetually places extremely high-level characters into gritty settings in which their real-life counterparts could not possibly ever find themselves. This happens so frequently at this point that it’s hardly worth mentioning, but I will anyway:

– Dar Adal riding the bus last season
– David Estes frequently hanging out around the secret control room the CIA used to track Brody while he was working for them
– And now, the deputy intelligence director of Iran (right?) driving himself into the country under false pretenses

A few times is forgivable. But the constant switching between worlds is more and more distracting each time it happens. Isn’t part of the point of Homeland to illustrate the enormous fallout from the actions taken by distant bureaucrats and politicians on the lives of ordinary citizens living out their gritty existences? That’s, in fact, the entire internal struggle that animated Brody in Season 1: Issa, a real flesh-and-blood child that he loved, was taken from him as the direct result of men in suits halfway around the world deciding to push a virtual button on a remote-controlled aerial vehicle.

But when everyone’s crossing between these two worlds — going from the halls of power to the “real world” and back — the show is abandoning its (important) point about how desensitizing politics and espionage and bureaucracy can be. The characters are no longer insulated (as their real-world counterparts generally are) from the consequences of their actions: Carrie can go from phone conversations with the interim director of the CIA to being kidnapped by the Iranians in the course of 24 hours.

And speaking of Javadi, it’s hard to tell how dangerous he is yet but I hope they don’t turn him into some poor man’s version of Abu Nazir. What could be interesting is if Carrie ends up involuntarily reenacting the reverse of Brody’s plot last season: forced by the Iranians to work as a double-agent for them after they’ve discovered her ploy by going back to the CIA and feeding them false information or something similar.

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“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. Continue reading “Game On” for Homeland: the twists return

“Tower of David:” Homeland catches up to Brody

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Jay: Episode 3 was a strange beast. You’d think that, after two Brody-less episodes, I’d be thrilled to finally get one in which he’s onscreen for most of the hour. (Even more so considering the utter absence of his family, which I think everyone can agree was a pleasant development.)

And yet at times his scenes seemed to drag on (a notable achievement given the clear –and successful — attempt at eye candy with the inclusion of Martina García as Esme), without any clear sense of direction. I suppose it was inevitable that a substantial amount of time would be required to reestablish Brody in the viewing audience’s consciousness. But something about his interactions with the doctor, as well as with Esme’s father, left me feeling slightly disengaged by about 30 minutes in.

Fortunately, the duller moments were broken up by some truly spectacular vistas of downtown Caracas, including a breathtaking view of the Tower of David itself from the outside. But phenomenal cinematography aside, I was still left with a lot of questions. For example, how did Brody end up in Colombia in the first place, before getting shot and making his lucky way into Venezuela? And who, exactly, was the guy that visited Carrie in the mental hospital? (And why did he call her — at least, it sounded like he did — Franklin when he first saw her?) And who, or what, is really keeping Carrie in the institution? Is it really Saul, or is it simply the doctor out of concern for her condition? Continue reading “Tower of David:” Homeland catches up to Brody

“Uh…Oh…Ah…:” Sam Lim and I discuss an inexplicably-titled Episode 2 of Homeland, Season 3

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Sam: You know what I thought this week? Did Homeland start taking a page from The Americans?

Is it just me or has this season been super charged with emotional relationships so far? As you pointed out, the storyline with Carrie being off her meds and having to be committed again is not new. Nor is Dana’s bickering with her mom.

Having said all that, it does make sense that deep rooted issues like the ones they are dealing with aren’t “fixed” overnight. It’s just the heavy emphasis on relationships that’s taking away from the thrill of Homeland as a covert operations show that’s starting to get to me.

I’m going to try something new and share my winners and losers this week:

Winner — Quinn. I sort of panned him last week for not being a cold blooded assassin. But it’s exactly his heart that’s got him in the winner’s seat. Loved his confrontation with the bank big wig and his subtle defense of Farah (sp?).

Loser — There were a few candidates here, but I’m giving it to Saul this week. In the sense of character development for Saul, you could argue he actually belongs in the winners column. I put him in the losers column this week because of the racist and condescending bit he threw at Farah (hey, I get to make up the rules for my winners and losers picks, right?).

What were your thoughts on this episode? Continue reading “Uh…Oh…Ah…:” Sam Lim and I discuss an inexplicably-titled Episode 2 of Homeland, Season 3

“Tin Man Is Down:” Sam Lim and I recap Homeland‘s return, sans Brody

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Sam: In our prognostications after the season two finale about what we might expect in season three, I have to say: I was pretty wrong about Brody’s family disappearing from the story a bit. Not only are they back in the picture, but they also got way more screen time than Brody himself (you surprised at his no-show?).

I have to believe that the writers just wanted to find some way of getting moody (and as we have clearly come to see, depressed) Dana back into the picture. Poor Chris still gets one or two dopey lines.

As for the Saul-Carrie relationship, what you said at the end of season two about Saul’s dark horse potential for being something more than what we have seen, I couldn’t help eyeing him with suspicion throughout this episode, particularly with all the CIA leaks to the press.

What were your impressions? Continue reading “Tin Man Is Down:” Sam Lim and I recap Homeland‘s return, sans Brody

Trouble in cyber-paradise

Yesterday Full Stop published my dual book review of Susan Crawford’s Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age and Jaron Lanier’s Who Owns the Future? An excerpt from the essay here:

The consumer as loser is nearly a meme at this point, so thoroughly has the Great Recession imprinted its insignia on the wearied American mindset. Nevertheless, Crawford warns, the consolidation of the American Internet access bottleneck is particularly worthy of hand-wringing. As other advanced economies like South Korea and Japan rocket ahead in embracing fiber-optic connectivity – complete with 1Gbps symmetric data speeds that remain incomprehensible to most Americans – the United States finds itself in the humiliating position of aiming for a minimum national broadband speed of 4Mbps (download-only; 1 Mbps upload) by 2020.

Underlying this technological angst is something deeper, more primal. It is the sense that some right, however virtualized, is being denied by the cartelization of the American telecom space. It is the realization, further still, that our international peers are enjoying the fruits of their justly obtained lightning-speed access while those of us holding American passports are condemned to the endless purgatory that is YouTube’s “loading” spin-wheel.

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Fact-checking The Newsroom

The Season 2 premiere of The Newsroom aired last night.
The Season 2 premiere of The Newsroom aired last night.

HBO’s The Newsroom returned to television last night, and it was borderline obsessive about drone strikes. (As for the storytelling itself, there is, so far, no sign of improvement since the conclusion of Season 1.) In the midst of the rhetorical maelstrom — this is an Aaron Sorkin show, after all — I couldn’t help but notice that Sloan Sabbith (Olivia Munn) had this to say about drone strikes during an on-air panel:

We don’t know exactly what that collateral damage is because of the lack of any transparency or accountability. Now factor in that the B.D.A. — the bomb damage assessment — counts all military-age males as militants.

The show depicted this particular airing of News Night as having taken place on August 24th, 2011. The only problem? The New York Times actually broke the story about all military-age males being counted as combatants nearly a full year later, in an article published on May 29, 2012:

It is also because Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.

But in interviews, three former senior intelligence officials expressed disbelief that the number could be so low. The C.I.A. accounting has so troubled some administration officials outside the agency that they have brought their concerns to the White House. One called it “guilt by association” that has led to “deceptive” estimates of civilian casualties.

“It bothers me when they say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants,” the official said. “They count the corpses and they’re not really sure who they are.”

As far as I know, the closest that most of the mainstream media came to openly contesting the administration’s counting policy before the night of August 24th, 2011 was in another New York Times article from August 11th of that year:

The civilian toll of the C.I.A.’s drone campaign, which is widely credited with disrupting Al Qaeda and its allies in Pakistan’s tribal area, has been in bitter dispute since the strikes were accelerated in 2008. Accounts of strike after strike from official and unofficial sources are so at odds that they often seem to describe different events.

The debate has intensified since President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan, clearly referring to the classified drone program, said in June that for almost a year, “there hasn’t been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities we’ve been able to develop.” Other officials say that extraordinary claim still holds: since May 2010, C.I.A. officers believe, the drones have killed more than 600 militants — including at least 20 in a strike reported Wednesday — and not a single noncombatant.

But that article is a far cry from the definitive declaration made by Sloan Sabbith on last night’s episode of The Newsroom. I suppose this is just one more trademark of Aaron Sorkin. It’s not just his depiction of women that’s anachronistic: even his series on news reporting can’t get the story in the right order.

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This one’s for “The Colonel:” Sam Lim and I lament Season 1 of The Americans

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Sam: I will admit that I really did not want to watch this episode, but it actually surprised me with keeping my attention throughout nearly the whole episode. Sad that I couldn’t say the same about just about every other episode, but I’ve beaten that dead horse silly already.

The main part about this episode that kept my interest was obviously the whole double meeting assignment given to Phil and Elizabeth, especially leading up to the moment Phil swoops in his old car and carries Elizabeth away to safety (but not before she apparently gets shot in the stomach).

As interesting as that was, though, there were way too many silly story lines that pulled that together. For one, Nina’s whole double agent bit has just gotten ridiculous. You touched on it from last week’s episode: she basically got off for treason with nothing more than a slap on the wrist. Um…didn’t the KGB take out one of their own they didn’t trust in an earlier episode? She works in the frickin’ US office, so she seems like she’d be an even greater threat.

Screen Shot 2013-05-03 at 4.47.19 PMStan’s character is also interesting, because he plays this stone cold agent on one hand who detects that one dude was “off” so wants to keep him closed up in solitary confinement until he hollers. But on the other hand, he’s not attentive enough to tell that Nina played him? Her reaction to his response that exfiltration would NOT be happening was absolutely absurd. Shouldn’t she have flipped out about 100x more than she actually did? Frankly, he should’ve then been comforting her, not the other way around.

One more major gripe: has Paige really NEVER tried to go to her parents’ room when she’s had a nightmare before? How old is she now? Like 13? NOW she decides to go to her mom’s room? And that whole thing about the laundry room. Good for her for asking Elizabeth why she didn’t hear the washing machine, but that whole last scene of the episode/season was just stupid. Yes, Elizabeth is great about covering her tracks, but the dragged out way in which Paige went downstairs would make you think she’d never seen the basement/laundry room in her own home before.

Oh, and we finally saw the Granny/Arkady in the car scene. After watching that scene, I have to say: they went through a lot of work just to shoot that one scene…

What were your thoughts on this season finale? Continue reading This one’s for “The Colonel:” Sam Lim and I lament Season 1 of The Americans