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For anyone who’s been following Alex Gansa and Howard Gordons’
fascinating and suspenseful drama so far, the quality of this last episode will
have come as no surprise. This first season of ‘Homeland’ has delivered at
every turn, offering us a riveting mix of drama and character study from a cast
of actors that rivals the highest budget Hollywood blockbuster.
Our protagonist, Carrie Mathison (Clare Danes) has to be one of the
most unconventional female leads to ever be featured in a drama series. A driven
career woman and dedicated intelligence agent, Carrie is brilliant,
unpredictable, passionate and audacious, with a non-linear way of thinking and
a personality that thrives on risk-taking; apparently all symptoms of her
carefully hidden mental illness.
In Brody (Damian Lewis) the marine she initially suspects of being a
“turned POW”, Mathison finds another damaged human being whose mental scars
seem to overwhelm his own free will and jeopardize his personal relationships,
and is drawn to him despite her primary agenda: to uncover the mole
working for Al-Qaeda.
After the revelation at the very end of “Achilles Heel” – that Brody HAS
secretly been in touch with head of Al-Qaeda in Iraq Abu Nazir after all – we
join him at the start of “Crossfire” in his local market, buying groceries for
his family and struggling with the alien concept of “vitamin water”. There’s
something painfully human about him as he asks the cashier for help deciphering
his wife’s shopping list, before being forced to acknowledge his celebrity
status yet again when the woman recognizes him. We’re reminded that,
no matter how long Brody spends back in his native country, he will always feel
out of place now, forced to live a tame, manila life to which he can’t adjust.
Perhaps it comes as a welcome respite when he’s jumped and beaten brutally
by two guys in the parking lot, who then inject him with a sedative before
bundling him into an SUV.
Meanwhile, in the wake of the FBI’s mistaken shooting of innocent Muslims,
Carrie visits the mosque, which is now surrounded
by a heaving mass of press. She makes her way quietly and efficiently inside to
consult with Special Agent Hall (played in wonderfully uptight fashion by Billy Smith) and figures out exactly how Tom Walker (the US marine turned terrorist
agent) came to be there. Yet again, Carrie shows us how she differs from her
peers in her attitude towards gathering intelligence by asking Hall to remove
his footwear in the mosque, not because she wants it will ‘look good’, but
because she finds it personally offensive that he isn’t showing respect.
After questioning the Imam thoroughly, it’s obvious he knows more than
he’s saying and Carrie realizes she will have to use more than just her natural
charm to get what she needs from him. Meeting ex-colleague Hall informally in a
diner, Carrie records his candid conversation in which he admits that the FBI
fired without provocation on the men in the mosque, and proposes to Estes to
use it as leverage to get the Imam to speak to her again. Amazed at her
audacity – “is there no bridge you won’t burn Carrie?” – Estes orders her not
to interfere with the FBI’s hunt for Walker, and so forces her to try another
approach, which thankfully pays off when the Imam’s wife tells her Walker had
been seen meeting a Saudi diplomat.
Having been taken from the parking lot to another location, Brody is
lying drugged and bound to a bed and, either as a result of the drugs or just as a consequence of unconsciousness, we’re treated
to a heaping helping of useful exposition. As we learned a few episodes back
that Brody and Nazir had developed a close relationship as a result of the
man’s unexpected kindness to his prisoner (Stockholm Syndrome seems too simple a
term to describe it), we’re now told how this came about.
Having removed Brody from his cell and daily torture regime, it seems
that Nazir appointed him as tutor and guardian of his young son Isa, allowing
him to live as a free man within his home. As we see the relationship between
the man and the boy grow closer, it becomes obvious what fate will befall the
kid and act as a catalyst for Brody’s supposed sway in allegiance. Sure enough,
Isa’s school is decimated by a US drone, killing him and maiming his classmates
and Brody and Nazir watch the news together as the vice president (Walden)
declares the attack a victory for America.
After the carefully planned journey we’ve traveled to at this point, I have
to say that the device of Isa felt rather a clumsy and indelicate way to reveal
the mechanism of Brody’s ‘turning’, but having said that, it’s still not
entirely clear what Brody’s mission – the vow he made with Nazir in the wake of
Isa’s death – actually is. Is he planning on assassinating the vice-president?
Force him to publicly acknowledge the truth about the intelligence behind the
attack? Whatever it is, it’s clear that as a result of his experiences with
Nazir, Brody is committed to aiding him and getting as close to Walden as
possible in order to carry out his duty, even if it means running for office
himself. Which leaves us wondering what Tom Walker’s role is after all?
Overall, my general feeling about this week’s installment is that there
wasn’t enough Saul/Carrie interaction for my liking. Mandy Patinkin’s character
is the heart and the backbone of this show for me, and every scene he and Clare
Danes share is sheer joy to watch. The lopsided, weirdly paternal relationship
the two characters have is one of the most believable aspects of Homeland and
it’s wonderful how – sometimes with only the sparsest dialogue – they convey so
much of their own. Although such different people, it’s clear they share a
common bond: an overwhelming obsession for their work and for the execution of
their duty at all costs, including any hope for a stable, loving relationship.
It is fitting then, that we leave the two of them together at the end of this
episode, staking out the home of the Saudi diplomat acting as Nazir’s contact
as a substitute for the home life neither of them can sustain.