Season three of “Homeland” begins with a bang, or at least it begins with a guy in a dingy basement constructing a bomb, which will presumably go bang at some point.
It’s Peter Quinn, with a 5 o’clock shadow that makes him look like a young Inigo Montoya (perhaps an homage to castmate Mandy Patinkin?).
Something about the way Quinn ‘s character is written and the way that Rupert Friend plays him continues to make us wonder if he’s a good guy or a bad guy. Is this opening a flashback? Was Quinn the one who planted the bomb in Brody’s car that blew up the Langley building and led to what the show’s version of America is calling “the second 9/11”?
The bomb has the same cool toggle switch and red light indicator that Brody’s bomb had when he almost killed the vice president. Is Quinn another operative of Abu Nazir?
This is “Homeland” so we’ll obviously get at least five more questions before we receive any answers. So we cut to Carrie Mathison solemnly swearing to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help her God. It’s 58 days after the Langley explosion and Claire Danes’ character is testifying behind closed doors before a committee to investigate the bombing.
The chairman of the committee is Senator Andrew Lockhart (played so menacingly awesome by Tracy Letts) and he is quite antagonistic, telling Carrie and her lawyer that, “It’s beyond argument that the agency is now crippled, its managerial ranks decimated and its reputation in tatters. The question before us is plain: How can the CIA be expected to protect this country, if it can’t even protect itself?”
Majority Counsel David Portillo (Pedro Pascal) then grills Carrie about the break in her employment for the CIA.
Uh oh. This is gonna bring out the crazies!
Carrie nods a little bit and jerks her head a little bit. If this were another show Bill Bixby would soon be done shooting for the day and Lou Ferigno would be getting ready for his closeup. But Claire Danes plays both regular Carrie Mathison and Crazy Carrie, and we’re starting to see little hints of the latter coming out.
Portillo asks Carrie about how she was reinstated and her role was to stop an attack by Abu Nazir.
Her voice wavers when she testifies, “If you’re asking did he outsmart me, yes he did. If you’re asking will I ever forgive myself, no I won’t.”
Then we see Saul (Mandy Patinkin) and Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham, hey he was just in "Lincoln" on Showtime before this aired!) walking and talking about the very committee hearing that we just jumped from. Saul is saying that Lockhart has been after the CIA “since Abu Ghraib” and that he should be sitting next to Carrie for moral support. Dar Adal is saying that it would send the wrong message to the committee if Saul were to support Carrie. He brings up her history of insubordination and mental illness.
Oh yeah! That! Damn, she’s usually such a good employee except for that whole insubordination and mental illness thing.
Dar Adal then says that those pesky things that may or may not pop up on Carrie’s quarterly reviews under the “needs improvement” section might actually be helpful in helping the CIA bounce back from this whole mess.
Saul then lays it down for the retired black ops specialist: “I won’t throw Carrie under the bus.”
Read: Yes, she may be crazy and may go against my orders all the time, but I’m not going to actually tell people that. This is basically what the whole "Homeland" sketch on "Saturday Night Live" so expertly made fun of.
Dar Adal then suggests that he doesn’t have to throw her under the bus, but he should at least “just jump up and down on her really hard.”
Ah, the understated wit of F. Murray Abraham. He used to be really good on “Weekend Update” during his tenure on the aforementioned “Saturday Night Live.” I know that’s incorrect. I know that was A. Whitney Brown, but I always get these guys mixed up for some reason. Is it the initial before the name that does it? I don’t confuse either of them for C. Thomas Howell. That guy used to be such a heartthrob, didn’t he?
Anyway, back to what’s going on in “Homeland.” Saul and Dar Adal (I’m still not comfortable just calling him Dar) argue about what the future of the CIA is, with Dar Adal telling Saul that he doesn’t see any construction vehicles working on the site where Langley used to be and “they started repairs on the Pentagon the day after 9/11.”
Again. Yowch. This whole season premiere really drives home the point that Season 2 was totally “The Empire Strikes Back” of “Homeland.” Then we learn that Peter Quinn has put into place “the last piece of the puzzle” in an initiative that we have to imagine relates to that bomb he was building in the first scene. Maybe Season 3 is “Return of the Jedi”-ing already!
But no. Before it can get better, it gets worse.
Back in the hearing, Lockhart is really grilling Carrie. We can almost see her skin turning green and her clothes expanding as she is referred to a document that divulges that Nicholas Brody was given immunity. She is clearly thrown. She’s gonna go crazy!
“At what point,” he asks, “did the agency know Brody was a bad guy?”
“I don’t think Brody knew the bomb was in his car,” she says.
Shock registers on the faces of the committee members.
Her lawyer tells Lockhart that Carrie’s view is in the minority.
And then Lockhart comes down like the school principle who has authority, but isn’t hip to what the kids are saying.
“What is it that you’re smoking, Miss Mathison?”
Her lawyer then tells Carrie in private that the suicide vest is the one thing that the committee can never know about. She also tells her to stop making the case for Brody. And then, we see the first crazy eyes! At just under 12 minutes in, she’s Crazy Carrie! In full force! She bugs her eyes out and shakes her head: “He’s innocent!”
She goes out for air and leaves her notebook behind. Her lawyer picks it up and it’s super cray-cray. A closeup reveals some funny phrases in the tradition of the “Bourne Identity” crazy notebook, featuring things that nobody would ever write.
“Total DEVASTATION!”; “Frame Brody while destroying the CIA”; “Does the betrayal of Brody set this in motion?” and hilariously, another “Princess Bride” tribute with “You killed my son — prepare to die.” Seriously! All of these phrases, including the last one, are in her notebook! Pause the show at 12:26!
Or just look here...
Carrie then calls Saul and tells him to find the leak. How did the committee learn that the CIA gave Brody immunity?
Then we see Dana Brody (the brilliant Morgan Saylor) in a group meeting. It’s her last day with this group. She seems fine. What kind of program is it? She has a flirty rapport with one of the guys sitting around the circle. Wasn’t that guy on “Dexter”? Yes! It’s Sam Underwood, who was Dexter’s protégé on the final season of that show. It’s always interesting when one successful series ends, to see who gets to jump on another show on the same network. Well done, Sam Underwood! Showtime likes you! We like you too, so congrats on getting another gig.
We then learn that Dana tried to kill herself! What? Yes, she got in a bathtub and slit her wrists. Jessica Brody (Morena Baccarin) is talking to Dana’s therapist and he is recommending further counseling. She says that she doesn’t have any insurance or income.
Nicholas Brody probably didn’t really consider that the first time he considered blowing up a whole bunch of Americans: Insurance companies must have a clause about being a traitor against your country. Maybe you can buy a rider for it though.
We learn from Jessica all of the fallout from the 12/12/12 attack. (Remember? That’s when it happened. If that happened in real life, that Sandy benefit concert that happened on that day probably wouldn’t have happened. Or would it be one of those things where Americans would be all, “If we cancel the concert, we’re letting the terrorists win”?) But basically, the Brody family members who aren’t on the lam aren’t able to go to their church anymore or school.
Then we cut to the CIA offices where Saul is detailing the plan to take out six strategic targets. This is the plan that Quinn was the final piece of, and the plan for which he was making a bomb in the beginning or the episode. One of the president’s men is trying to get Saul to get Brody too, which just isn’t possible, because they don’t know where he is. The guy, a national security advisor, basically spells out that if they’re doing something to try to make the CIA look better as a PR stunt, then they should probably kill Brody too.
They discuss who the targets are. They’re nobody that I remember, and I’ve watched both of the previous seasons. One guy is called The Magician because “he likes to make people disappear.” Woooohh! Intense.
Saul is a little reluctant to wholeheartedly put this plan into place. Dar Adal and Saul discuss how important this mission is in regards to Carrie’s botched performance in front of the committee.
“What we need right now is a big honking win to take the pressure off,” says Dar. (There! Tried referring to him on a first-name basis. Still feels weird.)
Saul agrees that another win would be nice, but says, “Another f— up would be fatal.”
Now THAT sounds like a quote for the intro! Maybe get rid of the Crazy Carrie quote where she’s like “I missed something before, I can’t! I WON’T let that happen again!”
Then we see Carrie’s dad visiting her place while she’s out and seeing maps with yarns and newspaper clippings. Crazy Carrie is at it again!
“You’re off your lithium, aren’t you?” he asks.
She says she’s medicating herself in other ways, and he counters that he saw a lot of empty bottles of booze in her recycling bin.
Jessica brings Dana home. The Brody family are still under government surveillance. Dana waves.
Dana greets her grandmother. When she sees her brother, she says, “Hey dingus.”
Actually, maybe THAT would be a better quote to use in the intro.
She walks by the bathroom where she tried to kill herself and observes that her mom has had it redone. Is she offended by that? It’s not exactly a happy memory.
It should be noted how amazing of an actress Morgan Saylor is. She nails the subtle nuances of a teenaged girl in a way that rivals the way Claire Danes used to nail the subtle nuances of a teenaged girl in “My So Called Life.”
Then she picks through the stuff of her bedroom and takes a topless selfie of herself and then texts/emails/snapchats it to Sam Underwood’s character. Jordan Catalano was never that lucky.
Saul is drunk in the next scene, telling Mira (Sarita Choudhury) that he never signed onto a job like this.
By the way, hey, Mira’s back! At the end of last season she was leaving him to live in Mumbai.
But just because she's back doesn't mean that all is right with their romance. They’ve been sleeping in separate bedrooms for the past two months. He’s probably not on the receiving end of too many nude selfies from her lately either. Or maybe that's how they choose to supplement the fact that they aren't sleeping together. Regardless, there is no evidence of nude selfies being exchanged here. This is all speculation.
Then we see that Carrie is back in front of the committee. She’s retracting some of her comments from the previous day. Lockhart digs right in and asks for her whereabouts after the attack.
“There are roughly 14 hours you haven’t accounted for,” Lockhart hisses.
The story they’re going with is that Carrie was in the ladies room and she was knocked unconscious by the blast, where she remained for all of those 14 hours.
“People saw her leaving the auditorium with the congressman,” reports Lockhart.
Carrie leaves most of the talking to her lawyer.
Then Lockhart leans into her, “I don’t buy half of what you and your colleagues are selling. You’re hiding something, Miss Mathison, and when we find out what it is, we’re going to put the whole lot of you in jail. ... You are doing and have done great harm to your country, which you will pay for one day, I promise you.”
Cheers to Tracy Letts for totally owning this character. Hopefully we'll see a lot more of him this season. He's almost like Hank on "Breaking Bad." You don't want him to defeat the protagonist, but he's so devoted to his cause that you almost want him to. By the way, show of hands if you're reading this recap because you decided to watch the "Breaking Bad" series finale instead of the "Homeland" season premiere.
In the next scene Saul overlooks the rubble where Langley was, and Dar walks up to him. Saul has decided to go through with the dirty half-dozen mission. That’s what we’re calling it here at Metro, because there are six targets. In this episode of "Homeland," however they use “Wizard of Oz” characters for all of these targets, thus the “Tin Man Is Down” title of the episode.
Next we see Quinn in Venezuela, following his target. He sees that the guy is with his child, so he backs off. That’s kind of “Bourne Identity” too, isn’t it?
They have 16 minutes to carry out the mission. All other ops are in place. But Quinn didn't do what he set out to do. The mission isn't complete unless it's 100 percent complete.
HQ contacts Quinn. Can he come up with a Plan B to kill his target?
It's Quinn! Of course he can!
Quinn sets off the bomb we saw him building in the beginning, goes inside the target’s house, kills a whole bunch of goons and gets his target by shooting under the desk. He takes a photo of his victim to send back to HQ, along with a message that says “Tin Man Is Down.”
Then a flashlight shines through the window of where Quinn is, so he shoots.
Yup. It’s the kid. The kid that he almost called off the whole mission for.
Then we see Carrie in the liquor store. Some dude razzes her for “buying in bulk.” She’ll be having sex with him on her stairs in the next scene.
Wait, was there supposed to be a “spoiler alert” before that? C’mon! You KNEW she’d be doing it with that guy the moment he flirted with her.
Then we’re back at the Brody family dinner table. Jessica talks about how she’s going back to work because the government has cut her off.
“Wasn’t that his whole argument for enlisting? That he could take care of his family,” asks Jessica’s mom.
To break the tension Dana then makes a joke: What did the optimist say before he jumped off the building?
THIS spoiler shall not be revealed! You’ll have to watch the episode for this punchline.
The next day Carrie wakes up in bed when the sun is high. She’s obviously hung over. Her dad calls her asking if she’s seen the paper yet.
The headline is “CIA officer linked to Langley bomber.” The text reveals that a CIA officer may have had a sexual relationship with Congressman Nicholas Brody in the days and weeks leading up to the attack on Langley.
She gets dressed and rushes to a restaurant where Saul, Dar and a bunch of the other guys involved in that “Wizard of Oz” mission are quietly convincing themselves that they’re celebrating a victory.
She’s in full-on Crazy Carrie mode. She accuses Saul of giving that story to the press. But here’s a question: Can we call her Crazy Carrie when her behavior is warranted? Because she really does have a right to be pissed here. She refers to Dar as Saul’s little lapdog, which is kind of funny, and actually kind of true.
Dar doesn’t like this and he kind of poses what could be considered as a threat.
“Is that about to intimidate my ass?” she asks, starting to make a scene at the restaurant.
“F— you! F— all of you!” she yells before being escorted out.
Saul implies that Dar might have planted the story. Dar says although he didn’t, he thinks it was a good move.
We’re back in Dana’s room. She’s taking down posters. She’s listening to Misun. Do teenage girls really listen to Misun? This is the part where the journalist pretends he’s known something for a lot longer than he really has. I had to Shazam the scene to figure out who it was. It’s the song “Cutoff” by the band Misun. Never heard of them before, but they sound cool enough.
Dana then gets a shirtless selfie from her guy. She’s happy. Then she walks out of her room to overhear her mom and grandmother talking about her suicide attempt. Her grandmother thinks it was a cry for help.
We then see Saul testifying before the committee, but it’s not a closed door session. The seats are crowded and cameras are flashing. He’s bragging about the mission.
But Lockhart sees right through it.
“These were civilians that were killed, am I correct?” he asks.
Then he lays into Saul as relentlessly as he laid into Carrie: “I guess I question your timing, Mr. Berenson,” he says, “coming as it does when the American people have lost faith in your ability to get things right. Frankly, it feels convenient, and this committee will not be distracted from fulfilling its purpose.”
Saul then steps to Lockhart: "Which is what, exactly, apart from pointing fingers and assigning blame?”
This pissing contest escalates when Lockhart asks Saul to comment on the article about the CIA agent who had the sexual relationship with Brody.
And Saul, gallant Saul, does exactly what everybody knows he’ll do and defends Carrie’s honor by … wait, what’s that he’s saying?
We then cut to see Carrie watching him live on TV.
“The case officer in question has a history of erratic behavior. She’s unstable. … She’s been diagnosed as bipolar, a condition which she concealed from her superiors for more than 10 years.”
Lockhart then asks if Carrie (oops, sorry, “the case officer in question”) concealed the fact that she was sleeping with Congressman Brody.
“I’m afraid she did, yes,” responds Saul.
Carrie says “Gah!” out loud and starts to cry and shake her head. Then the credits roll and we hear that jazz that Carrie loves so much.
Thankfully we didn’t have to witness her listening to jazz this episode. We also didn’t see Damian Lewis once this episode, save for when Dana looks at a photo of her dad.
Overall grade for this episode: B+