Homeland Should Just Embrace the Fantasy

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Dec. 1 2013 11:24 PM

Homeland Should Just Embrace the Fantasy

'Cause it sure isn't working as an incisive political drama.

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Saul and Carrie in Homeland

Courtesy of Showtime

This episode, “Good Night,” is an action movie episode of Homeland. It starts with Brody three klicks from the Iranian border. Then nearly everything that can go wrong goes wrong. But despite the body count, gunfire, IEDs, and missiles, Brody eventually makes it across the border and meets up with Javadi, who will escort him to Tehran.

I have been trying to think if we learned anything in this episode about character or plot that we did not know before. Except for the on-the-nose flavor of Saul’s preferred brand of gum, I don’t think so. Saul has way too much invested in this cockamamie plan and has too much “integrity” to kill American soldiers by dropping U.S. bombs on their heads; Carrie is too invested in Brody and bringing him home; Brody is unstable and keeps being the inadvertent cause of other peoples’ deaths, but is also honorable and capable; Javadi is a murderer; the White House has questionable ethics. We knew all of this already and we would have known all of it even if Brody had gotten into Iran as easily as everyone had hoped. “Good Night” was just filler, high-body count filler, filler where Iraqi policemen doing their job get shot by American forces, American soldiers get their legs blown off, cars explode, and everyone exchanges gunfire.

If there was any mechanical necessity to all of this, it was to screw up Brody’s “extraction” plan, which I don’t think anyone except for Carrie Mathison thinks is a viable thing. The extraction plan that existed previously was far-fetched and ill-formed. (Brody kills a high-level Iranian official in the middle of Tehran, but escapes because he is with … a handful of very well-trained American soldiers. You say extraction plan, I say international incident.) Now that that half-baked scheme isn’t even going in the oven, Carrie has been tasked by Brody himself with figuring out an alternative. “I know you’re going to get me home … I have faith,” Brody tells her over the trans-continental walkie-talkie. “Don’t put that on me. That’s a fantasy,” she replies, except it’s her fantasy too, and maybe the fantasy of the whole show—that Carrie Mathison can do anything, and especially will do anything for Brody.

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All of this does seem to be heading one way: Brody dying. Homeland is ridiculous, but a word like “fantasy” is a red flag. Even Homeland’s writers don’t want the show to be a “fantasy.” Maybe Carrie will spend the next few episodes plotting how to bring her man home—as with this episode, she’ll be on the sidelines, making emotional faces, while Brody does all the kickass stuff—ultimately to have that plan fail, because that plan should fail. Brody, especially if he kills the head of the Revolutionary Guard, is basically inextractable. Not only is it hard to imagine the logistics of him getting out of Iran, the White House and the CIA probably don’t want him to get out of Iran. They’d prefer that he die there, having secretly done them a solid, without revealing that they had pegged the wrong guy for the Langley bombing.

That said, every season of Homeland thus far has neared its end with Brody poised to die. Very good arguments have been made that Brody should have been killed with his suicide vest at the end of Season 1. All of Season 3 has felt like a very good argument for why he should have died in the Langley bombing at the end of Season 2. Now he’s in his most dangerous predicament yet. But I think it might be too late for the show to get any real benefit from killing him off. Brody’s continued survival has been very bad for Homeland, but I’m not sure the writers can walk back the ridiculousness just by getting rid of him. Can you really wipe the slate clean after you’ve etched “Carrie + Brody 4-eva” into it?

If Brody survives this mission, Homeland is a fantasy. But maybe it would be better to embrace the outlandish than to try and get “serious” again, when that’s all but impossible. (Brody aside, Homeland is now a show where the head of the CIA goes off and mopes in his office when a completely hocus-pocus strategy for regime change in Iran doesn’t materialize; where soldiers who tell us they have families in one episode really are marked for death in the next.) At this point, Brody’s death probably won’t change the quality of Homeland; it will just tell us something about what kind of show it wants to be.

Willa Paskin is Slate’s television critic.

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