Damian Lewis as Nick Brody in "Homeland" Episode 210 "Broken… (Kent Smith / Showtime )
The writers of "Homeland" better have something pretty spectacular up their sleeves in the next two episodes. The fast-paced thrill ride that this season has been ran up against a brick wall with Sunday night’s installment. It’s unclear where the writers can go from the direct confrontation between the world’s No. 1 terrorist and our scrappy heroine, and they have more plot ends to tie up than Saul can shake his wizened salt-and-pepper beard at.
"Homeland" has always been a show that requires trust from its viewers about its verisimilitude. It’s not a deal breaker when the writers veer decidedly off course from plausible world events as long as there’s a payoff, either emotionally or narratively. But this week, unlikely events unfolded with such speed that the whole pacing of the show got thrown off. "Homeland" went from restrained and smart to slam-bang and hackneyed, if only for an episode.
Some of the dialogue was positively cringe-worthy. Dana’s actual response to a guilt-ridden Finn Walden was that they had killed their blossoming relationship “just like we killed that woman.” And the scene where Walden meets his demise at the hands of a Brody-aided Nazir had a great emotional payoff -- seeing Brody actually get to say what he thinks to the vice president’s face was all kinds of cathartic -- but then he ruins it by saying, out loud: “I’m killing you.” "Homeland’s" usual brilliance is that it doesn’t overstate or highlight things. This week’s script was an overwrought, triple-underlined mess, like an over-enthusiastic third-grader’s book report.
Abu Nazir, whose plan was indeed foiled last week, decides to slink away and plan to kidnap Carrie. It’s unclear how Nazir knew anything about Carrie, unless Roya passed it down the line, and it’s equally unclear why a known terrorist thought that capturing an active C.I.A. officer would lead to anything but his demise. Nor is it clear why he would use Skype to talk to Brody, aside from making it very clear that he has Carrie in his grasp. In any case, he makes a deal with Brody: Carrie’s life for the serial number of Walden’s pacemaker.
It usually doesn’t pay to be nit-picky with a show like "Homeland." The rules it follows are far from actual real-life logic. But what’s frustrating is that this plot twist violates the show’s own laws. Nazir of the first season would never operate by himself, nor would he risk exposure for a death that he could claim no reward for. What we know about Nazir is that he looks for targets with maximum impact. We’ve also been led to believe that the focus on Walden was something that Brody needed to get on board with the attacks, not Nazir’s actual focus. Setting out to kill Walden is an assassination, not a terrorist attack.
Nor does using Carrie as a bargaining chip really ring true with Brody’s complicated relationship with the agent. Does he really care enough about her that he would take such an enormous risk? Damian Lewis and Claire Danes, as always, give performances worthy of their characters. But the pieces don’t quite come together. By the end of the show, it’s not clear what we should be looking for next. Carrie on a vigilante mission to capture Nazir? Saul as a secret mole? Quinn as a surly James Bond character? Next week is shaping up to be a doozy of an episode. And it better be, if "Homeland" has any chance of getting back on track.