By Josh Logue
“Homeland” in on kind of a roll. A small one so far, but still!
I’m still not sure if it’s accurate to call the “Carrie goes crazy” episode “good” exactly, but last week’s episode certainly was, and now this week too. One more and it’s an official trend.
The show moved noticeably slower this week, focusing on just two storylines and culminating with a long, 10-minute scene. Which makes it both easier and harder to recap, but let’s jump in:
While Saul endures a pre-trade videotaping and mysterious night sleeping in the same room with a young boy, Carrie and the team turn their attention to the ambassador’s husband, Dennis Boyd. Carrie is intuitively (and rightly) confident that the head of the ISI was telling the truth about Boyd’s betrayal.
He staunchly refuses to cooperate, though, despite several different methods of interrogation which is why, combined with all Saul’s tense waiting scenes, the episode felt a little slow. But just as that feeling begins to really manifest at around the 30-minute mark, a suicide vest appears (it’s for the little kid from earlier), and everything ratchets up immediately. More so, in fact, than it would have if it hadn’t spent 30 minutes lulling us into a false sense of security.
Slowing down like that also added to an already strong sense the show has acquired (for better or worse) that very little is off-limits plot-wise. There aren’t very many other shows out there that can legitimately threaten the death of a character as central as Saul (or, hell, I know I was thinking it: Carrie). “Game of Thrones” comes to mind, obviously, but GoT acquired that reputation by simply murdering enough of its characters. “Homeland” got there by being nuts, which is appealing, in a weird kind of way.
That said, while the pace of Boyd’s scenes worked for the episode overall, the scenes themselves didn’t. The show has done little if anything to develop Boyd’s motivation outside of a very basic sense of self-preservation. Very rarely have we seen him struggling with his decisions, and when we have, his brief moments of hesitation felt empty because Being Scared isn’t enough to make a character’s motives feel real. So now, when he resists interrogation, and later when he finally relents and lets slip what was written on that napkin, it feels like we’re just waiting for the writers to decide what he does.
In the meantime though, Carrie finally makes the trade for Saul. Carrie proclaims that something doesn’t feel right, which the show made palpably true with its pace and eerie scenes involving an anonymous kid spending the night alone, sleeping opposite Saul. The suicide vest complicates the trade and acts as a deft little mislead about what exactly is off about the trade. Saul edges right up to the brink of (literally) blowing up the trade, but Carrie talks him down, and we get to breath again, for, like, a minute and a half. And then rockets hit the CIA motorcade, with Carrie, Saul, and John Redmond all in it.
I re-watched the scene several times, and I’m pretty sure only the cars on either side of Carrie’s got hit, so “Homeland” probably hasn’t jumped off that particular cliff. But obviously the show can still reliably deliver legitimate shocks, and that’s after temporarily resurrecting a dead major character, which is heartening. Three more to go. Hopefully “Homeland” can keep this up.