Written by Chip Johannessen and directed by the reliably excellent Michael Cuesta, “I’ll Fly Away” was the second super-soapy Homeland in a row. It was ludicrous and very satisfying. Plenty happened. Brody, who was being torn in all sorts of directions (by Nazir, the CIA, and now this hit-and-run cover-up) told Carrie “everything’s falling apart” and informed his handler, Roya, that he was out. Carrie changed his mind by banging his brains out in a motel room. Brody called Roya, post-Carrie-boinking, and told her he was back in. Mission accomplished! Roya put two and two together and brought Brody out to a remote stretch of wooded highway. The leader of the Gettysburg massacre stuffed Brody into a chopper that flew him to a warehouse where Abu Nazir met him and said, “Neeeee…coh-lusss.” (Abu-speak for “Nicholas.”) “Roya’s pulling you into something, huh?” Carrie asked Brody last week, right before they locked lips in the woods. Apparently so, judging from the chopper flight and the presence of Nazir in the warehouse.
But what is Brody being pulled into? This episode didn’t tell us. Maybe the answer awaits on the other side of this week’s cliffhanger.
In other news, Dana visited the home of the daughter of the woman that she and the veep’s son ran over and killed, and tried to salve her guilty conscience by apologizing. When the young woman referred to Dana as the person who left her mother to die, Dana equivocated. “‘I was in the car,” she said. The response: “It’s the same ... exact ... thing.” Maybe not in the law’s eyes, but by any reasonable moral standard, yes: Dana was complicit in the decision to drive away rather than take responsibility for the accident.
But the payoff of this “apology” scene was chilling: Turns out that the veep’s people have already paid hush-money to the family, and the deal will be nullified if anyone squeals. Dana can’t go to the cops, because she’s been asked not to by a relative of the victim. “That would only make things worse,” she told Dana.
Despite the clichéd setup — how many times has a hit-and-run been injected into a TV show to add excitement and moral struggle? — this was one of the episode’s strongest scenes. It insisted on moral clarity, for better or worse. It gave a major character no escape from the implications of what she’d just been told, and no doubt as to what choice she’d have to make. And it illustrated just how corrupt Homeland’s version of Washington is. Compared to this show’s second season, the typical inside-Hollywood satire seems like a happy dance through a field of lollipops.
I feel horrible for Dana. She’s the only major character who hasn’t sold out her idealism. That idealism is a byproduct of her youth, aided by what appears to have been a somewhat moral upbringing (she’s no Finn Walden, at least). Kudos to Jessica, who did most of the grunt work while her husband was missing and presumed dead. She raised a girl whose first impulse is to do the honorable thing, even though the adult world keeps overruling her.
All the moral quandaries on Homeland are bundled together now, so that you can’t untangle any single aspect — or change any individual wrong into a right — without affecting others.
If Brody tells Abu Nazir’s people that he’s working for the CIA, they’ll kill him and his family (provided they don’t try to turn him into a triple agent, which would be tough to do with the CIA listening to every conversation Brody has). Brody has to keep deceiving Nazir, a man to whom he still feels loyalty and affection (Stockholm Syndrome emotion still feels real).
Brody can’t refuse Vice-President Walden’s offer to join the next presidential ticket because Nazir wants Brody to stay close to the veep, and the CIA wants Brody to obey Nazir’s wishes so that they can figure out what he wants and how deep his influence goes.
Brody can’t tell the CIA, “Sorry, I’ve changed my mind,” and walk away from them, because they’ve promised him immunity in exchange for acting as a double agent, and if he walks away, they’ll revoke it and serve him up as the traitor that he is. (I don’t remember him getting anything in writing, though — do you? This whole operation is off the books, I believe, so does any promise made by anyone have any weight at all?)
“Where did you spend last night?” Roya asks him during their car ride, just before the drive to the clearing.
“I was with Carrie Mathison,” Brody eventually admits.
“And you called up this morning to say we were both on the same track,” Roya says sarcastically.
Brody says he was given the go-ahead by Roya to “renew the relationship, which I wouldn’t have done by the way, but, as instructed, I fuck her, I get the information I can to you, and now you’re giving me a hard time about it?”
“She knows,” Carrie says, after Roya takes the battery out of Brody’s cell phone and makes it impossible for the CIA to track them via satellite. When Carrie demands that she be allowed to follow Brody in a car with Max and Virgil, it’s a practical decision — there is an impending terrorist attack, and Brody represents their best chance of stopping it — but it’s also a personal one. Nobody else in that room, or in the CIA, gives a damn about Nicholas Brody as anything but an asset. There are several factions that want to own Brody, in whole or in part, and almost nobody in any of them cares about Brody as a person. The only exceptions are Brody’s wife and kids, Carrie, and, in a roundabout way, Mike. Carrie and Mike’s sympathies are complicated by other factors: Carrie’s desire to revive her damaged career and prevent a terrorist attack on the U.S., and Mike’s desire get back together with Jessica.
Carrie, meanwhile, is so gung-ho about continuing her affair with Brody that the affair is starting to seem more ridiculous than tragic. It’s awfully convenient that the interests of homeland security/Abu Nazir/whoever/whatever just naturally lead them to get close to each other/pretend to be having an affair/meet in the woods/screw in a motel room.
Carrie keeps insisting to Saul and Peter that she’s not really in love with Brody, that she’s got it under control, that it’s all just part of the mission, that she’s working Brody’s Achilles’ heel to keep him in line. Brody no doubt makes similar claims about Carrie to his handlers, though we don’t get as much insight into their handling of him because Brody is the mysterious one, the question mark. But we did get a little taste of what I bet Brody tells Nazir’s people: that he’s banging Carrie to keep the CIA within arm’s reach.
Carrie is addicted to Brody, Brody to Carrie. They might as well be a couple of drunks whose cover story happens to involve spending lots of time in liquor stores. “Will you visit me in prison?” Brody asks her in the motel. “I’ll probably be in the cell next to you,” she replies. I doubt it, but a girl can dream.
Odds and ends
- I’m tired of the “Carrie does something impulsive that drives her bosses crazy but turns out to be a great idea” trope. She did it again this week, demanding and receiving clearance to make “one clean pass” by Brody, Roya, and the Gettysburg shooter, then getting out of the surveillance van to check out Brody’s abduction on foot. I know it’s part of her character, and embedded in the show’s DNA, but it’s just so network TV, reminiscent of those CBS crime shows built around a troubled and narcissistic genius that everyone puts up with because he/she is brilliant.
- Dana’s scenes at Mike’s place didn’t advance her plotline dramatically — mostly they just kept her busy but safe while her dad was off having adventures — but they reestablished Dana as the only fully sympathetic character on Homeland. Almost every week she says or does something that reveals a new layer of empathy. I love the moment this week when she notes that when her father came home from the war, Mike had practically moved in, and that having to give up surrogate fatherhood “must have been hard for you — vanishing from our lives in the way that you did. So was it?” “Yes, it was,” Mike replied.
- I love the scene where Peter and Saul argue about Carrie while a roomful of technicians listen to their X-rated grunts and groans. Like the scene in “State of Independence” where Brody chokes the tailor to death in the woods while half-assedly lying to his wife on the phone, it confirmed that Homeland does, in fact, have a sense of humor. It’s so dry that the audience might mistake it for unintentional if they aren’t paying attention, but it’s there. This sequence was a sharp comment on the basic pleasures of watching Homeland — the soapy aspects, including the “Will they or won’t they?” dynamic of Carrie and Brody. It was a self-aware scene, practically a self-critique. It reminded me of the moments in season one where Carrie sat on her couch watching surveillance feeds from the Brody family’s house with the relaxed attentiveness of a person watching her favorite a R-rated cable drama.
- I just remembered that Carrie’s season one surveillance of Brody was off the books, too. Who’s the head of the CIA in Homeland’s universe, Oliver North?
- The producers of Homeland should send thank-you notes to General Petraeus, Patricia Broadwell, and all the other participants in the CIA sex scandal. There were several points during the last couple of episodes when I started to jot down notes about how a particular twist was implausible or a particular character was behaving like a hormone-addled idiot high schooler, but didn’t. Truth, fiction, etc.