Claire Danes in Showtime’s “Homeland”
If nothing else, you’ve got to give this show credit for pulling off one hell of a fakeout in this, its fourth season. Admit it. You blurted out “What the HELL?” or some variation, didn’t you? We, for our parts, yelled out something along the lines of “NO!” and “Oh, COME ON!” But dammit, they got us. They got us to have a fairly intense emotional reaction and we can’t find fault with any show when it manages that.
But we’ll try, of course.
Part of the reason the Brodie hallucination actually worked was because it was playing on the show’s reputation for pulling some fairly outrageous stunts to keep that relationship alive long past the point it made any sense. Sure, it was pretty obviously a hallucination after a second or two, especially since Carrie had already been shown to be hallucinating twice before; once with the security guard in the hospital, who she saw as Quinn and once when she thought she was firing a gun at her pursuers. But it felt like the show playing with the audience’s expectations for insane twists that strain credulity. If the scene wasn’t so intense, we’d characterize it as a wink at the audience. They did title the episode “Redux,” after all.
But the intensity was well executed, because Claire needs something for her Emmy submission and this would seem to be the scene for it. If we sound cynical, we don’t mean to. Like Jessica Lange playing a succession of tired bitches in American Horror Story, Claire’s always giving an amazing performance, but it’s not exactly revelatory to see her doing this kind of scene anymore. In season one, we would have been devastated and blown away by the performance, but with the show’s history and the seeming direction of the story this season, we barely noticed Claire’s patented ugly crying because we were so busy trying to figure out who was in the room with her.
We have to give the show credit for spinning a John LeCarre-like tale of intrigue and danger for the characters in the wake of Brodie’s death. We wouldn’t have thought this direction would work, but it’s keeping us engaged, even as we acknowledge how over the top it all is, from kidnapped CIA directors forced to watch terrorists have sex to Ambassador’s husbands working as counterspies to CIA station chiefs playing finger guns on the streets of Islamabad in the middle of a hallucinatory episode. It’s all pretty ridiculous. And we don’t deny that we feel something of a remove from the story; at least in comparison to earlier seasons. Without the (at one time) compelling story of Brodie and his doomed attraction to Carrie, this all plays out like a Bond or Bourne movie to us. Fun to watch, wondering what happens next, but not feeling the emotional weight of the characters anymore. Even when they unleash their patented, Emmy-winning ugly cry.
The only character whose fate truly interests us is Saul. We can acknowledge how silly the whole storyline is, but he’s the one character whose fate truly seems up in the air, because, as Carrie rightly noted, he’d rather die than have any effort expended in saving him. We wonder if he won’t attempt to kill himself to end his role as a living shield. It’s the only thing that captivates us right now. The Carrie meltdown shook things up nicely, but it’s not like we fear for her life or anything. She’ll snap out of it soon enough, because that’s how the show tends to treat her mental illness. It’s something they can pick up or put down whenever they feel like it.