Homeland – Good Night Review: Focused and Engaging
“What just happened?”
Says Carrie as the much anticipated mission takes an unfortunate turn. Last night’s episode, “Good Night” has me saying the same phrase, for completely different reasons. Did the third season of Homeland
just produce an entertaining, compelling episode? An hour of television that is suspenseful, tense, dramatic and engaging, reminiscent of the glory days of the show with no unwarranted plot contrivances or eye-roll worthy moments? I am shocked. Sure, it is not a perfect installment and not mind-blowingly awesome (like the series has been able to do in its first season), but the previous episodes have been so generally mediocre (sometimes frustratingly bad) that “Good Night” easily blows them out of the water.
The episode takes a more focused approach with the narrative, sticking almost exclusively to the events of the perilous Brody operation and the show benefits from this greatly. From the opening moments of the agents partaking in some lighthearted banter the tension is palpable, there is an underlying sense of uncertainty and unrest that the writers tap into wonderfully.
The mission is clear, get Brody across the border, and the stakes are high, Saul’s reputation, his future in the agency, rest on the success of this operation, and we know it. Actually, knowing is a big part of this episode’s success. We finally are privy to all the information that is to be known. Saul’s plan, however unlikely and/or flimsy it is, is out in the open, we know about Carrie’s pregnancy (and the identity of the father), Saul’s agreement with Lockhart, and Fara’s familial situation. So much of this season has been built on giant omissions, elaborate ruses that the writers constructed in order to shock us into liking the narrative that it has become frustrating to watch. Now that we know everything, the drama and tension arise in a much more believable and natural way, it makes for a richer viewing experience. It shows how unnecessary all the big reveals and out of left field developments are on this show and how good it can be when it is just straightforward storytelling. We have all the information with which to build connections and inferences, read subtext, etc. and on top of that there were truly surprising moments in the engaging story.
Of course, the writers had to throw in their misdirection and twist-lite signatures into the episode, it wouldn’t be Homeland
without them, but they were not incredibly over the top. And lets face it, how interesting would it have been if the mission carried out without any hiccups? What storyline would the writers build around that? Everything that could go wrong goes horribly (to an almost comic effect, poor guy loses a leg) but the obstacles introduced are plausible and their resolution does not come off as highly unlikely. With every complication of the operation the tension grows and the suspense heightens, building up the anxiety in both the characters involved and the audience. The highly risky nature of Saul’s operation has been emphasized from the beginning; this was never going to be an easy thing to pull off.
In addition to the great action and suspense sequences, the character stuff is well done. Brody’s experience is particularly gripping; of course he is in the midst of all the chaos. Though his psychological issues with the mission seem to be resolved too quickly, it is fun to see him snap back to badass marine mode. For once, Carrie cannot talk him out of something potentially stupid. Again these actors bring their A-game to their performances, and in that scene, (regardless of how irritating Carrie has been lately) I feel for her, the emotion feels absolutely real. The show is still trying to sell the whole star-crossed lovers thing for those two, which might not be the best use of their time. While there was the hint of their romantic love, particularly coming from Carrie, I appreciate the restraint.
As soon as Carrie begins to talk to Brody I immediately think that she is going to tell him about the pregnancy, it would be an appropriately desperate Carrie move and something that wouldn’t be exactly shocking given the state the series is in. Thank goodness the writers show some uncharacteristic self-control and avoid the potential eye-roll inducing material. Instead Carrie tries to convince him with logic, way to go writers. Saul’s story is also an engaging one, simply because this is all happening because of him. It is surprising how invested in the mission’s success we are, but it makes sense since so much of the season has been about his relentless drive to have this plan carried out. The idea of it not being executed is heartbreaking, but if it had gone awry, it would have been interesting to see where the story would go. Still, it is unlikely that what remains of the plan, given its shaky beginnings, will be pulled off perfectly so there is a lot of drama to be had in the last two episodes.
- I say we “know everything” with great trepidation because the show has seriously scarred me for life and it wouldn’t surprise me if some weird twist comes up in subsequent episodes.
- No doubt that Brody was going to crawl out of that jacked up car, but well executed moment. As was the revelation of the Iranian military, fun scene.
- Javadi is unstable enough to be a wildcard in this second phase of the mission, something tells me he might be up to something.