Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison and Mandy Patinkin as Saul Berenson in "Homeland." (Kent Smith / Showtime )
You can’t trust the writers of "Homeland."
They aren’t there to pull the rug out from you, like the team behind "24," nor are they likely to kill off a major character at random, as in "Game of Thrones." But the rapid-fire way that the writers have laid bare the solutions to last season’s agonizing puzzles in the first three episodes of the second season means that the audience can’t ever quite get its bearing.
At it’s worst, it’s a cheap thrill, the extra jolt that the roller-coaster operator gives on the way down to provoke the dangling passengers. But at its best, which "Homeland" often is, it’s far from cheap. It’s flat-out thrilling.
You can quibble with the believability of "Homeland’s" plot twists this week all you want — would Saul have really been able to anticipate the Hezbollah search so accurately? Why on Earth was that chip in Beirut in the first place? Would he really have waited to disclose such groundbreaking information until he got home? Why would Abu Nazir have used a valuable operative like Brody to do his cleanup work? — but the show is grounded in a fictional country that feels much closer to our own than most spy thrillers.
The work that Estes and his team do is mostly fruitless and monotonous. For every glamorous car chase, there are 20 mind-numbing night shifts. We know that they prevented Brody’s attack, but they don’t know it. Until, of course, this week.
Watching Carrie’s arc this episode was knife-twistingly, gut-wrenchingly awful. Her embarrassment to be excluded from the briefing followed by her move out of the house where her family distrusts her left Carrie lost, unsure of who she was.
She dresses up to go out, puts on her faux wedding ring, and takes an overdose of her psych meds. It takes a few minutes of lying down, peacefully, to die, before she bounds to the toilet to retch it all back up. She’s miserable: The operation in Beirut gave her a taste of the life she misses so desperately. When Saul knocks on her door with the SD card, her tears aren’t just those of vindication. They’re of someone who came within a few minutes of never knowing how right she was.
Brody was slated to speak at the veteran’s charity the vice-president’s wife was pushing, but he ran into some trouble. Nazir sent him to collect the tailor in Gettysburg hours before his speech. Brody is grumpy about it, and the tailor is frightened and uncooperative. After a flat tire, an escape attempt and a brief skirmish in the woods, Brody snaps the tailor’s neck. Was that what Nazir was hoping all along? Was it simply a test of Brody’s loyalty again?
In either case, it sure messes up Brody’s speech plans. A wobbly Jessica stands at the podium in front of a sea of honored guests and delivers an impromptu, impassioned speech about the need to adequately prepare families for the trials of bringing a veteran home. Her transformation from reluctant spouse to enthusiastic political wife is one of the more interesting shifts of the series. No doubt her closeness to the vice president will complicate things for Brody later down the line.
When Brody returns — wet, dirty, the blood scrubbed from his knuckles — Jessica barely looks at him. It’s the beginning of the end for Brody.
← Previous recap
Timeline: Emmy winners through the years
VIDEO: Watch the latest fall TV trailers here