Not What You Wanted, But What You Needed: Homeland, Season 3 Episode 2 Recap

On a first pass through the first two episodes of Homeland, I wasn’t all that impressed. This, after all, wasn’t quite the show I remembered it being. But they’ve grown on me, much like the too-hastily-canceled Rubicon did, and I’m starting to get a clearer picture of what the writers are after–ironically, due to the fact that they’ve made everything a lot less clear for their protagonists. These characters are lost, but they’re trying to find their way back, and that journey is more interesting than most of what’s on television these days; moreover, because none of these people are outright antiheroes, it’s a lot easier to root for them on account of the fact that their villainy is often a mistake, quickly regretted, and largely the result of misunderstandings. I still think the writers are heavy-handed in their treatment of Dana Brody and her mother,

I’ll add more thoughts to this post here, but in the meantime, read the full recap here and feel free to add comments over at Slant Magazine. 

Alyssa Rosenberg’s recap for Vulture raises an excellent point:

But even given all this, Carrie is still acting profoundly mentally ill. There’s no question that she’s under enormous personal and professional stress. But she’s stopped taking her medication, she’s exhibiting extremely poor impulse control, and she’s not acting in a way that serves either her rational best interests or that makes her convincing in pursuing her principles. Even before the cops showed up with her psychiatric-hold paperwork, Carrie was already losing the reporter she’d approached, the woman growing more skeptical with every manic sentence. It may be in the CIA’s best interests to shut Carrie up. But that doesn’t mean that getting medical care is necessarily the wrong thing for her, however much she’s humiliated by it. In her manic states, Carrie may fetishize what seems like powerful clarity. But the part of her that consented to electroshock therapy at the end of the first season of Homeland recognized that ideas are no use if you can’t advocate for them.

I’d almost forgotten this, but yes: Carrie is clearly off her medication. You can see her attempting to get control, and you can tell that she’s not crazy crazy, in the sense that she has no idea what she’s doing, but she’s certainly not thinking or seeing clearly. She’s right about a lot of things, but she’s also blind to many more, and she’s so impulsively reactive that, once again, she’s missing the big picture, the consequences–all the things, really, that’s gotten Homeland‘s version of America into trouble in the first place.

I was also surprised to find myself now defending the show for something that many critics and commentators have pointed out, and which TVDW of the AV Club articulates nicely:

Saul’s explosion at Fara about her headscarf is just the stupidest thing ever. I can try to hand-wave it away. I can see that Mandy Patinkin is playing this more as Saul exhausted at having to deal with one more thing, and I can add in the fact that Fara is just another inexperienced, green CIA worker on top of so many new recruits in the wake of the Langley bombing. (The show is doing a much better job dealing with the fallout of that event than it has just about any other terrorist attack in previous seasons.) But Saul having some sort of latent intolerance of Muslims in the workplace kinda feels like it would have come up at any point before this. He takes out all of his anger on Fara for no particular reason, then gives it an intolerant tint, and I’m left wondering why the series felt the need to go there, other than to try and show how much stress he’s under. Honestly, him exploding at her for not knowing the ropes would have been good enough. We’d already seen everybody staring at her as she walked into the building. That was enough to put us in her headspace. I get that Saul then finding her work useful toward the episode’s end is supposed to complete this mini-arc, but it just didn’t track with the Saul that I’ve come to know.

I think it’s misreading the scripting–which is admittedly wooden here–to say that Saul is being Islamophobic. What Homeland is trying to show is how badly and personally the CIA has been hurt by this 12/12 bombing, a bombing that they know (or believe they know) the origins of. To that end, people act against their better nature, driven by their guts, to hate the things that remind them of their wounds, and in this case, the headscarf is a big signifier. Saul isn’t saying she can’t wear it, but he’s honestly acknowledging the way it’s currently making people feel, and emphasizing that because of that, Fara’s going to have to be the best analyst ever–and I’m sorry, but I’m sure that a great deal of his backlash stems from the fact that he can’t just use Carrie for this. (Not for nothing was Fara hired only eight days ago, around the time that Carrie was first interviewed before the Senate Committee.) So is it terrible that Saul, a heavily burdened and conflicted man, troubled by the fact that Fara reminds him of his two largest failings, 12/12 and Carrie, snaps at her over something that’s probably insignificant to him on the inner, -phobic level? I guess what I’m saying is, don’t read too much into that moment: I don’t think even that is as black and white as you think it is.

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