“If you run, it will only make it worse.” That was Saul’s advice to Carrie last week before the cellphone dumping, the giant chase, the knee-to-the-crotch, and that terrifying/amazing smile-giggle, so it only makes sense that Homeland’s second episode was leagues better than the premiere. Because, well, Carrie ran. As she will do. The premiere last week wasn’t bad, it just had to take time to put all of the narrative threads in place. Homeland’s first season was a master act of keeping a lot of plates spinning, and you need a damn good foundation to make that possible. Also, the elaborate set-up is only understandable when the writers are following a failed bombing and electro-convulsive therapy. But still. Carrie & Co. are back in a big way this week, chugging through almost (key word – almost) all of the material that’s been featured in those tear-inducing season two promos. Things are about to get crazy and I couldn’t be happier.
We start in Beirut, minutes after Carrie escaped from that bald guy in the jacket with yellow piping; Carrie is able to meet Fatima at her local mosque, because Carrie is still the smartest cookie and she remembers Fatima’s Friday morning prayers. Duh. However, Carrie is flying super solo and acting a tad reckless; Fatima is like – “umm, do you have any say in the CIA? I’m confused by your bad dye job wig weave thing and the fact that you had to be flown in as a fake agent.” Carrie laughs it off, and Fatima pleads for $5 million and passage to the U.S. for intel on Nazir. I mean, Fatima is asking for a lot of money here, but I guess girlfriend is going big or going, you know, home. The deal – Fatima’s husband is meeting Nazir, and Fatima would like to see both men blown to pieces. Fatima, be still my beating heart!
Back in D.C., Brody is attending some awful political fundraiser in a giant glass hallway. The Vice President is saying wonky things about Iran’s nuclear plants, the VP is attacking the President’s “safe” plan, and the VP wants Brody to convince the Secretary of Defense to attack nuclear Iran. Brody is really conflicted, but Brody doesn’t really have wiggle room here if he wants to be Vice President. Cynthia, the VP’s wife, convinces Jessica to help out with a different fundraiser, and the entire D.C. social world continues gyrate atop piles of fresh dollar bills. Smell the wealth.
Back in Beirut (Homeland made nice rhythm with the location jumps), Carrie finally makes it back to the CIA safehouse; Saul is kind of a wreck, thinking Carrie went rogue and was planning on exploding every mosque in the city with a Barbie Jeep and some baking soda. Or something. Carrie did not follow protocol (has she ever done that?), and Claire brings some shaky voiced realness to the following conversation. Whatever – our girl got the information, and if everyone wants to question her methods and her source, so be it. Carrie and Saul set up a little Skype session with D.C., and Carrie puts on her best sexy Internet chat face by returning to her blonde hair and normal eyeballs. Glory. However, no one trusts Fatima/Carrie. Also, if men do go in for this Nazir lunch al fresco, it will have to be real men on the ground instead of a clean drone strike; there are holes all over the blueprint for Beirut, and the military has no idea what exactly they’re walking into. Scary.
Back in the D.C. area, Dana and Jessica are enjoying some peaceful mother-daughter time. And by “peaceful,” I mean Dana is saying a lot of curse words and Jessica is asking a lot of questions about Brody’s religious practices. They finally make it up the 74-mile driveway to the VP mansion, and Cynthia is just hanging tight in her fabulous home; Dana goes up to do homework in the library (color me jealous), and Cynthia tells Jessica that they need Brody as the keynote speaker for an upcoming fundraiser. Nothing like using your new friends to attain wealth and power! In the library, Dana calls the VP’s son an asshole, they have a weird make-cute-and-flirt thing, and Dana makes an oblique reference to The Walking Dead. I love when TV shows act like they are not TV shows and reference other real TV shows. Almost as much as TV shows referencing imaginary TV shows that act as a “lens.” Shoutouts to Invitation to Love and The Valley!
BEIRUT! Carrie is not doing well after the whole “we don’t trust you” memo from D.C. She’s having a rough time breathing, wigging out on her little Lebanese bed and trying to control her shifty eyes. Speaking of Lebanon, I love Lebanese food, and I wish we could see Carrie eating more often this episode. Okay. So. Carrie has sort of a full-fledged breakdown, scrambling around to find her shoes and grabbing onto door frames. This was really scary. Carrie makes her way to the roof, breaking out into a full sob and just stumbling like she’s drunk on life. Carrie is not in the mental space to be doing this! Saul finally hops off the phone with D.C. once he notices Carrie is semi-missing in action, and rushes up to the roof to find her. Carrie is distressed – she’s never been able to not “trust her own thoughts,” and that’s very much what’s happening; she’s still ripped apart by the fact that she was wrong about Brody, because she’s “never been so sure… and so wrong.” The thing that is so difficult here is that Carrie is right, as we all know. I mean, I am just screaming out into my empty apartment about this all the time. Carrie! Let me hold you and catch your tears in jars and sing sweet songs into your ear! I’m never the biggest fan of characters explicitly explaining their mental-emotional state, but this scene was so carefully written and acted that I accept. The wind on the roof did a good job of blowing Carrie’s hair around. It added a nice touch of windy-crazy to the scene. Pathetic fallacy! Shakespeare! Xanax!
Brody is off doing his own thing, until the Army Friend that Slept with Jessica arrives; I don’t remember this man’s name, and I could hypothetically look it up, but sometimes nicknames are better than real names, you know? Remember, that guy in that homoerotic wrestling match with Brody at the family BBQ? Well, Army Friend doesn’t believe the report on the Tom Walker shooting, mainly because Tom Walker never missed his mark. Brody is all, “LOL WUT,” but we know he is just trying to cover himself/the truth. Obviously. Meanwhile, the lines between Beirut and D.C. are blurring as, well, the mission is a go and everyone is on the phone with one another. Soldiers are on the ground in Beirut in 2.78 seconds – we’re that good. The mission in Beirut is all capture or kill, and then there is roughly 15 minutes for Saul and Carrie to find Fatima and make it to a helicopter. If this was a videogame, I would die 5-7 times before successfully completing this thing. BUT HOMELAND IS REAL LIFE. ONE SHOT.
Carrie, suddenly, is asking Saul why he stopped calling after her huge episode. Umm… Carrie… let’s analyze the big picture here and worry about this later. Saul stopped calling because Carrie’s doctor thought it would be smart. It was smart. We can all see that Beirut is putting her in a weird place. Brody is just strolling around D.C. and the Vice President pulls him into a meeting… only the meeting is a control room watching the strike on Nazir! Oh boy! Brody! Conflict of interest! The next rough 15 minutes are a blur because I was screaming at the top of my lungs, thrashing all over my bed, and crying. Stress. Carrie and Saul are essentially in a bunker, listening to the radio from D.C. about what’s going down. David Estes is throwing doubt and shade all over Carrie. Fatima’s husband arrives at the checkpoint, accompanied by a lieutenant. Hooligans clear the streets. The men on the ground are outnumbered, so Nazir will have to be shot down. Crazy. NAZIR ARRIVES. Carrie is basically peeing her pants and Brody is sweating through all of his clothes; Brody sends a secret text from the control room – “May 1.” Nazir gets the text at the last minute, and dives back into his vehicle as shots rain down. Some people are hit in the face. Carrie is trying to understand why Nazir isn’t dead because she is mighty confused on what went wrong. D.C. figures out pretty darn quick that Nazir has an informant. This was like a huge sensory experience. Bravo to everyone involved, especially the editor.
Carrie and Saul need to run and make sure they can still get Fatima out of Lebanon, but Carrie goes full-on crazy and decides she needs to search Fatima’s empty apartment; I get the reasoning (Fatima’s hubby was buddy-buddy with Nazir), but this is not the ideal time/location/anything. Carrie runs like a lunatic, while Saul, Fatima, and Hot Security Man hold down the vehicle. When I say “hold down the vehicle,” I mean overzealous locals start rocking the car and bashing bricks against the windshield. Upstairs in the apartment, Carrie is digging through every nook to find anything meaningful; she stuffs a bunch of papers in a backpack-ish sling canvas sack and heads for the door; unfortunately, Carrie has already been left behind by the Saul-mobile and the angry mob has entered the apartment complex with guns. Fantastic. People are shooting at Carrie, Carrie is running all over the place and moving her shifty eyes as fast as humanly possible, Carrie is hitting people in the head with cement blocks as they run up stairwells - all in a day’s work with the CIA. Carrie seems to lose her pursuers for a moment, and Hot Security Man grabs her in the alley and rushes her back to the vehicle. They didn’t leave Carrie after all! Everyone hops in and motors to safety. Let’s get the f**k outta Lebanon, please.
No one in D.C. has any idea what’s happening, and Brody meets up with Roya (the fake reporter with the accent that is trying to bone David over dinner on Saturday, as we learned last week) and Brody says how he cannot be doing things like sending secret texts to Beirut from a control room. This episode should hopefully boost Blackberry sales, because I don’t think my goofy iPhone could have performed that “May 1” coded text with such ease – it would have tried to send as an iMessage and then revert to a text after failing three times. In short, it would be been a disaster and Nazir would be dead! Good thing I’m not a double agent hypothetically running for Vice President. Roya is all, “…whatever.” Brody continually asserts that he is not a terrorist, but then how does he define himself? What is Brody doing? Gathering information? Brody had a bomb strapped to his body inside a small room! I am really in love with exclamation points tonight, you guys – this episode has me all atwitter. Brody heads into a local military bar to meet up with Cheating Army Friend and his cronies, Brody spouting lies about investigating the Walker report and finding no further information on the shebang; the dark brooding man with the beard doesn’t buy Brody’s lies for a second. Brody is calling Walker a traitor, which is just all kinds of wrong, and Drunk Beard Solider is still not buying it. It’s always the angsty one calling people out.
Dana’s at home IMing the Vice President’s son when Brody arrives, which is cool because I miss cute AIM conversations with weird abbreviations and warnings if parents walk into the room. Dana and Baby VP are definitely going to do inappropriate things by the end of the season; we all know what happens when the youth are forced to wear those uniforms five days a week and talk about their sexual frustrations over the interwebs... Salome from the latest season of True Blood is now clothed and in the military, driving Carrie home and thanking her for her service. There is an absolutely gorgeous wide shot of Carrie slowly walking up the stairs of her porch, a giant American flag flapping in the breeze. Carrie starts to settle in on the couch next to an oversized pink unicorn pillow pet, and the restlessness sits on her face. This isn’t going to fly. We have a lot of time on our hands.
Epilogue to the episode, in low-key Beirut – Saul and Hot Security Man are sifting through all of the files that Carrie nabbed from the Fatima residence, but it looks like there’s nothing worthwhile in the papers; Saul gets ready to ship everything off to Langley. Saul starts packing up the bag… and… finds a thumb drive hidden inside one of the flaps. Saul rips the fabric open, jams the little nugget into the handy CIA laptop, and boots up the hidden file. It’s a video. The video is the message Brody recorded before going in for the bombing. The video that explained what Brody had done, that was supposed to air after he completed his mission and died in a blaze of glory. Saul’s jaw hits the floor. Aaand that’s it.
Whoa. Homeland is all about the shifting definitions of trust, loyalty, and patriotism; each character’s understanding of those fundamentally American beliefs rotates drastically from one episode to the next. Saul has a bomb in his hands with the video of Brody – what will he do with it? Will Brody be exposed? Will Carrie have her job back, as it becomes clear that her deep instincts were very right? Who knows if Homeland will be able to maintain this level of insane suspense and intricate storytelling down the road, but, honestly, who cares? This is exhilarating television. Plus, they already have those Emmys in the trophy case. Homeland isn’t afraid to go fast and hard. Networks, take note.