‘Homeland’ Review: “New Car Smell”
It’s all eyes on Nicholas Brody this week as ‘Homeland‘ finally brings Carrie home to the CIA and she and a team get to work keeping tabs on the wayward congressman. And hey, Virgil’s finally back in perhaps the best episode since episode two.
This week wastes no time putting Brody’s terrorist video in front of Estes so we can skip right to the part where he calls for a few good men to keep an eye on the congressman, including our girl Carrie and newcomer Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend), whom Estes has placed in charge of the surveillance operation. Quinn is an interesting addition — a guy seemingly void of a filter who doesn’t realize (or doesn’t care) that he offends others with his personal assessments and inquiries. A few glances shared with Carrie seem to indicate that he has the potential to be a new love interest, which hopefully isn’t the case — the last thing this show needs is additional romantic melodrama where none is necessary.
Carrie, Saul, Peter, and Virgil (finally!) have Brody wire-tapped and are tuned into cameras everywhere he goes, but first they need to set him off, and they’ll do that by having Carrie “randomly” bump into him so he knows that she’s back with the CIA. They hope this will send him straight to his terrorist contact(s), and it does, but Roya Hamad’s cover as a journalist is played smart and cool, and with all the people Brody speaks with every day, it’s going to be damn hard to nail down the bad guy.
Lucky for them, Brody’s been kicked out to a local hotel by Jessica, who’s still pissed about his absence at the benefit, and after a few drinks he’s on the phone to Carrie and she’s on her way to the bar with Peter watching from their headquarters. Watching Carrie and Brody interact is maybe more compelling than I remember — each of them obscuring their secrets in a verbal and suspiciously friendly game of chess. “It all ends with a bullet in my brain,” Brody jokingly says when Carrie refers to him and Jess as the new Kennedys — it’s a dark line and most other shows would take that foreshadowing and render it tangible later down the line. I’m not sure ‘Homeland’s aims are that literal, and I don’t think it’ll take something awful to happen to Brody to make this line resonate when him just saying it is eerie enough, considering his dalliance with the suicide vest last season and the company he keeps.
When Brody mentions the electroshock therapy, Carrie is briefly upset and seems to think she’s revealed her ulterior motives. Saul and Peter beg her to leave the bar and promise that she’s done a great job and Brody has no idea what’s going on, but Carrie — as usual — can’t let it go. It’s a fascinating blend of her intuitive nature and her questionable judgment that give birth to these ideas that nag at her and make her anxious until she has no choice but to follow through, and so she goes up to Brody’s room and announces that she knows — and the CIA knows — that he is a terrorist, and Saul and Peter have to send in a cavalry to arrest Brody because their cover is blown.
Earlier, Peter had mentioned to Carrie that if she were out for revenge, it would be understandable. After all, Brody had sex with her, cheated on his wife with her, led her on, then told her boss that she was unhinged, made her think she was crazy, and she ended up going to the loony bin for electroshock therapy and losing her job. Part of what’s so great about Saul and Estes finding out the truth about Brody is that the show doesn’t automatically switch gears and become a cold, hard revenge thriller. That motivation for Carrie is there, and we see it when she can’t resist going up to his room and blowing the mission, but the show is concerned with more aspects of its characters than that — which is why it has no problem blowing the surveillance mission less than a full episode into the arc.
As for the Brody family — Jessica is, as aforementioned, suspicious of Brody and is once again relying more on Mike to be there for her. When their old Marine buddy Lauter stops by, drunk and spouting off about conspiracy theories, Jess calls Mike to take him off her hands. But then Mike starts listening to Lauter’s theories about Brody’s involvement with the Elizabeth Gaines shooting, and it’s kind of making sense. This is, by far, the silliest plot thread the show has introduced, and that’s even after last week’s wacky and implausible adventure through the woods with The Tailor. Jessica suspects Brody of something. The CIA is onto him. His daughter knows he’s a liar. And by episode’s end, the CIA has arrested him — why, then, do we need his former military buddies speculating about his terrorist involvement?
Now that the CIA has Brody in their possession and the proof to keep him locked up, I’m more interested in how this plays out over the course of the remaining eight episodes than I am in something like a meathead Marine and an alcoholic wounded veteran trying to cook up theories about their friend.