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‘Homeland’ Review: “The Clearing”

Homeland The Clearing Preview
Showtime

This week’s episode of ‘Homeland‘ is probably the weakest of the season so far, but the redeeming moments of intensity definitely overcompensate for the lame, soapy stuff.

“The Clearing” literally refers to the clearing in the woods where Carrie meets Brody during the fancy political white people party (those people will throw parties for anything), but it also refers — however heavy-handed — to the clearing of air. Dana pushes Finn to tell their parents about the woman they killed after Dana attended the woman’s funeral (thankfully off screen), but opening a window to clear the air can often invite another mess into the room, and the Waldens think it’s best, as Finn warned Dana, for everyone to keep their mouths shut.

Saul is trying to do some clearing up of his own with our old friend Aileen, who’s been locked up in a cell in a suffocating prison. She says she can help identify Roya’s mysterious contact, but she has a few liberating requests and Saul will have to face off with a cartoon villain warden to get the info he needs. (Side note: while I love the phrase “heaven-may-care grooming,” how dare that guy talk smack about Saul’s beard.) But Aileen plays on Saul’s emotions about his wife, Mira, and appeals to his humanity a little too much, which leads us to the best moment of “The Clearing” when Saul realizes Aileen’s given him the wrong information and he’s left her in a cell by herself, where she’s slashed her own neck with a piece of broken glass from his little prison picnic. The sheer anxiety captured in that moment when Saul is on the phone with Quinn and realizes what he’s facilitated is almost as intense as him screaming “Aileen!” as he runs down the hallway.

Speaking of feeling played — Brody is all over the place this week, and somehow stuck in the same location for almost the entire episode. He speaks with Rex, a fellow veteran who’s thrown a lavish party for Walden. Rex expresses that he understands Brody in a way that Walden never will because both men have survived war and they’ve been forever changed. But Brody doesn’t really want to be a Vice President, and he shies away from Rex’s offer of support. This world isn’t for Brody — we saw how claustrophobic his world has become last week when the CIA built another wall around him, but I think he’s starting to understand how truly trapped he would be if he were stay in this world of politicking and dumb politician’s wives who ask superficial things about his time in Iran like, “Did you ever want to kill yourself?” Award for worst supporting player this week definitely goes to Fake Rosemarie DeWitt.

And Brody’s also feeling played by the CIA, forced to continuously confront Roya about things she can’t or won’t ever tell him, and then there’s that whole thing with Mike telling Brody’s wife that her husband killed Tom Walker. Isn’t the CIA supposed to have his back? They may not, but Carrie does, as exemplified by their make-out session in the woods, which felt sloppy on many levels, nevermind all that tongue. It seems like a way for the writers to continue an affair that no longer feels necessary, and it’s such a silly plot device to have Carrie just show up in the woods at some old white dude’s party. But they needed to keep Brody at that house because he needed to know about Dana’s hit and run, and he needed to have the conversation with Rex, and it just feels like they were cramming so much in this week.

What did work for me, aside from the Saul and Aileen plot, is the moment when Brody, finally alone, strips down to his trunks and goes for the swim he wanted to take earlier but couldn’t because of that air-headed woman staring at his scars. Brody jumps into the pool and finally feels relief, free from prying eyes, free from the demands of everyone he knows — no wife, no kids, no CIA, no Walden, no Roya, et al. It’s a moment that calls to mind the scene from last season’s ‘Breaking Bad,’ where Skylar jumps into the pool just to have some damn peace and quiet, finding an escape from the claustrophobic criminal nightmare her life has become and the husband she no longer recognizes as anything but a monster. The scene here with Brody is very much the same thematically and visually, and it’s one of the more refined moments in “The Clearing,” which is unfortunately bloated with soapy theatrics and dialogue and stuff that doesn’t really feel urgent or compelling — especially compared to the last few episodes.

And that suspenseful score over the final scene where Carrie tells Dana and Brody that they can’t go to the police about the hit and run? Probably the worst moment this week. Not only is it incredibly hard to believe that going to the local cops about his daughter’s hit and run accident and involuntary manslaughter will have any effect on the ongoing CIA investigation (the stuff with hurting his political career I can buy), but the music is so jarringly mismatched with the tone of the scene, as if it’s trying to make us believe it’s more intense and suspenseful than it is — and it’s just not very suspenseful.

“The Clearing” is a small misstep, much like Brody’s adventure in the woods with the tailor, but one that I’ve no doubt will be righted by next week.

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