Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison and Damian Lewis as Nicholas "Nick"… (Kent Smith / Showtime )
One of the things that makes "Homeland" unique among its genre of rock 'em sock 'em spy thriller shows is the pace of the show. This week’s episode had both the explosive confrontation between Carrie and Brody that we’ve longed for since Saul saw that tape flicker on his laptop and a handful of beautiful, understated moments. The scene between Finn and Dana at the top of the Washington Monument, their reflections overlaid against the twinkle of D.C. below, was one of the more beautiful things that’s been on television lately. And the excitement of their budding teenage attraction serves to undercut the bitterness and deception that’s in Carrie and Brody’s relationship.
Last week’s episode was the slow, torturous build-up to this installment’s payoff. Saul sweeps into Esters’ house and shows him the precious SD card that reveals just how right Carrie was all along. He slumps, the realization creeping across his face. Carrie’s return to the CIA is a matter of triumph, even if she has to work with the new surveillance guy, an off-putting yet charming type named Quinn. There are already tiny sparks between Carrie and Quinn, and he’s sure to play off Carrie’s emotions in interesting ways later.
Estes plan is to be slow and deliberate about Brody’s capture, and at first Carrie goes along with it. Step 1, show that Carrie is back and send Brody running back to his handlers. Step 2, watch him at the hotel he’s conveniently been banished to by marital discord, hoping for a clue on who his contact is for Abu Nazir. Any other show could have drawn this out for a few more episodes, the tension building, the close calls between Brody and Carrie reaching a point of feverishness. But "Homeland" isn’t much for keeping up with audience expectations. The last 10 minutes of the show dramatically reverse the course of the whole plot.
Brody, who had been encouraged to “renew the relationship” with Carrie, invites her for a drink at the hotel bar. Damian Lewis and Claire Danes are electric in this scene. Their acting vividly illustrates how many layers of emotion are invested in this interaction: Carrie's rage at Brody for making her doubt her sanity and sending her to the psych ward, Brody’s fear and curiosity about how much Carrie knows, and at the center, some real kernel of attraction for each other. When Brody ends the drink abruptly, Carrie can’t quite let him go. Against the advisement of Quinn, who’s shouting in her ear to go home, she goes up to Brody’s room and knocks, slyly. Is it a seduction? A way to cement her way into his life again? No: It’s Carrie spitting at Brody that she finally has proof of his treason.
Perhaps the best detail of this interaction is seeing Saul, staring at Carrie through a screen and frustrated beyond all reason at her rashness, bristle when Brody looks like he might place a finger on her. Carrie’s wayward and hasty, but she’s still one of them. A team of soldiers breaks into the room and wrestle Brody to the ground as Carrie hisses at him that he’s a disgrace to his country. This is the kind of take down we expect in the finale, but it’s barely four episodes in. It signals another directional change for the show, and what’s building up to be a season that may even trump their first one.