‘Homeland’ Review: “Beirut Is Back”
It's hard to believe this was only the second episode of 'Homeland' season 2, considering the major plot developments and action -- all of which felt like some penultimate episode-level stuff. So what's happening in Beirut this week?
Carrie seems to have successfully dodged her would-be captors to meet with her former informant Fatima at a local Mosque. But she wasn't supposed to meet Fatima alone, and although she finds out where Abu Nazir will be the next day, Saul and David Estes are having a hard time buying it. Carrie is determined to help Fatima escape Beirut -- even though she's just putting her on a plane to Detroit, and really, is that any better? All of this goes a long way to give us one of the most powerful moments of acting from Claire Danes, who lies in bed resting when she hears Saul on the phone saying he isn't sure he can trust her and he didn't want her to go to Beirut in the first place because she isn't well. Danes does some amazing work here as a panic attack begins to escalate -- it starts as labored breathing, her eyes darting about the room, and it ends with her shakily putting on her shoes to run to the roof for fresh air.
But Danes isn't done yet -- Carrie gives this moving monologue about how she can't even trust herself anymore after being wrong about Brodie, thus verifying that even Carrie now believes she was wrong and Brodie wasn't a terrorist. The old Carrie may have lingered on lashing out at Saul, but the new Carrie is quicker to examine herself, and how and why she has these feelings. It's all very good positive mental health stuff, but it's frustrating for the viewer when we know that she was right, and if there was just some way we could tell Saul...
Ah, but there's the thing -- after convincing Estes to set up a team to stake out the location where Nazir is meeting with Fatima's husband, Nazir actually shows up and it's a big score for Carrie, who has something to prove to the CIA. Unfortunately, Brodie has been brought into a surveillance room to watch the whole thing unfold and sends a cryptic warning text to Nazir that reads "May 1," alerting him to the operation. It's the closest the CIA has come to taking the terrorist down, and it's a thrilling few minutes of television, but even more thrilling is watching Damian Lewis' face and body as he tries to discreetly send his warning in a room full of government men.
Still, Carrie's information wins Fatima a ticket out of Beirut, but just as she gets her informant in the car, Carrie grabs her apartment keys and runs back to see if there's any information Fatima's husband has that might be helpful to the operation, putting the lives of Saul and Fatima in danger as an angry crowd gathers around their vehicle and Saul demands that they risk their lives to wait for Carrie's return. This brings, in my opinion, the most enthralling moment of the episode, which is already littered with action and intrigue -- as Carrie flees Fatima's apartment, she comes under fire, bullets whizzing past her head and hitting walls just inches behind her. This action would seem highly unbelievable, but 'Homeland' has a certain gravity that it's both earned and proven since the beginning of season 1. The lack of music during this sequence lends an extra layer of intensity.
But back to that whole "If only Saul knew..." thing -- turns out Carrie did get a valuable bit of information from Fatima's apartment: a memory card that contains Brodie's video, explaining his planned terrorist attack. At episode's end, we watch as Saul views the video and that glorious moment of realization that Carrie was right, and all of her pain and struggle has been unnecessary.
This week has a lot of forward motion (and some B-plot stuff involving Jessica and a fundraiser, and Dana's new love interest from school), but it also touches on some things thematically -- namely, anxiety, and the way the show plays with different levels of stress. Carrie has her obvious bi-polar anxiety, but this week we get a return to the anxiety that drives Brodie, and the very thin line he's walking between being a congressman and aiding terrorism. "Beirut Is Back" also plays with the ideas of hunches and gut instincts, how they pay off and validate us, and the ways in which a faulty instinct can make us wonder if our own mind is betraying us. This doesn't just apply to Carrie and her big monologue -- it also applies to Brodie and his instinct to warn Nazir of the impending attack. It was almost second nature for Brodie to pick up his phone, but does he still really care about Nazir, or is Brodie's own mind turning against him?