Homeland threw open the doors for Season 3 last night. Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) had some tough decisions to make. The first was about covert operations on three continents with 6 six high value / high priority targets, and the other about personnel under his direct command. Throughout all of the show, Saul looked lost. Depressed.
Or as his wife Mira (Santa Choudhury) told Saul, You’re paralyzed. To which he could only reply dejectedly, Apparently.
But that malaise was present elsewhere too. In fact I’d say that this case officer in the national clandestine service, Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) is, from the jump, a mess.
When she was being grilled about Nicholas Brody, and her relationship with him, and what she knew, and when she knew it, by a Congressional Select Committee, it was a more than just a witch hunt. Carrie’s off her meds, and her quivers, tics, slight trembles combined with the fear which she struggles to conceal, does not put her in a good place.
Peter Quinn is back too. He’s actually seen in the opening shots. He’s assembling a bomb. We don’t know where he is, but we will come to learn that he’s in Caracas, Venezuela.
And we will find out that he’s good with munitions, motorbikes, infiltration, as well as small arms.
In yet another carryover from last season, we find that Dana Brody had attempted suicide, and that she’s about to be released from a rehab center. This is/was more than teenage angst. As the doctor told Mrs. Brody, Dana meant business.
Overall, as a carryover from last season, when Brody’s car was used to bomb the CIA HQ in Langley resulting in the deaths of 219 Americans, we have two huge craters. The actual physical one in the earth from the bomb blast. Saul says We [the CIA] are being punished is an apt description for this crater which has yet to be even touched by even a shovel two months after the blast. The second is the metaphorical crater that all of the lead characters find themselves in emotionally.
This CIA is not a place filled with happy agents. Nor is the congressional investigation room where Carrie and her lawyer played by Amy Morton (seen last year in Boss) sit alone facing the committee.
What we have in this Season 3 Premier which is entitled Tin Man Is Down seems to be a course correction made by the Homeland show runner and writers. This is going to be a more contemplative season. Apparently we will have more character development than action. At least to start the season. Without Brody, who did not surface in this episode, we are lacking the Brody/Mathison dynamic. There’s no Abu Nazir either, so who do we hate?
Saul commands an attack from a bunker somewhere and within a very short and small window of 20 minutes, six targets are taken out. Unseen missiles are launched and targets, be they homes or automobiles in motion, are blown up. We saw these kind of long-range attacks in both Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger with Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan in both films. It is kind of a sterile death, silent and devastating for those who died, and disturbing and chilling for those who issued the orders and for us to watch. Saul would say to Mira, We are not assassins. But the reality was that they are, with the proviso – when necessary.
Yet when the political winds called for a ‘great honking victory‘ which is what Dar Adal, Saul’s new advisor played by F.Murray Abraham, said the agency needed, Saul only dithered for a while before swinging into action, and issuing the assassination orders.
He had to, as the Agency itself was teetering on the edge of oblivion. Saul changed his tune on another issue as well – and that would be whether or not to throw Carrie under the bus, and make her out to be the rogue case officer who deceived her superiors.
This was also attempted in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), when the CIA Director played by Scott Glenn issued instructions to Noah Vossen, if this goes south, we will roll it up, start over, and hang all this around Pam Landy’s neck.
There was another scene lifted from a film – and that would be the Peter Quinn’s bomb mission. He was all set to blow up a car only to turn away at the last moment when he saw that a child was in the car. This was lifted from the Al Pacino film Scarface.
But that is all okay. It puts us on surer footing as viewers. We’ve been there and done that and we know where people are coming from and we can settle in, without being fully comfortable but yet a bit more secure, as the series plays out for us.
Quinn, Saul, Dar Adal, and Dana Brody, will all have to find their way toward achieving what they need and have to do. But it is less obvious with Carrie and Nicholas Brody. Of course, Brody will back, and I’m guessing he will play a major part in bringing down the new boogeyman known as The Magician because as Saul described him, he’s good at making people disappear.
Brody and Mathison will also have to find themselves both as separate individuals and as a possible pair. Our eyes will be on Carrie Mathison, as she has been cast down to fight for career survival if not her own life. Being off her lithium, she claims she can be more focused and more alert, but coffee, vodka, and a random man here and there can’t be a good plan long-term. Which tells us that Brody will show up on the grid and soon.
Brody is still a mysterious figure and still in our thoughts. Despite not even being on-screen he’s a presence. He’s in the Brody family’s thoughts, on Carrie’s mind, and in the mind of the American people who view him as a terrorist. We noted the global map in Carrie’s home where she has been tracking his reported sightings. Not even Bourne himself was that good in avoiding detection.
So while we and the characters are still in the emotional crater, there’s hope that the next few episodes will pick up the pace. I think it was totally necessary to open the season in a slow down mode, and agree with the choices made so far.
What about you?
By the way, if you need to get caught up, the DVDs for both of the 1st two seasons are available.