Episode 11 - The Vest
15 October 2012
I feel like I'm fighting a scene by scene battle with Homeland at this point. One scene leads me to see it as a 24 knock off and the next we are jumping toward Breaking Bad territory. I think I will just talk you through my perspective on this episode as it happened.
We start with Saul coming to see Carrie in hospital and finding that she is manic. He is shocked by how unhinged she seems, takes her home and discovers her bi-polarity from her sister.
This was another sharp change in tone for the show. The last few episodes have seen Carrie's mental problems largely ignored while she became the leading figure in the search for Walker. Now suddenly she was having to play manic in a way that naturally had an overtone of comedy. Saul's shocked reaction actually came across as callous as he seemed to want her to just be "fixed" and able to come back to work. "What do I have to do?" he asked irritably as her sister asked for his help.
Then we were out on the road with Brody as he took his family to Gettysburg. His passionate description of what Joshua Chamberlain did that day was effective and interesting. It was clearly intended to make his case that what he was about to do made him more like Chamberlain than Osama Bin Laden. He then prepares Dana for the day when he isn't around so now we know that he is planning to die.
Brody then sneaks off to get his explosive vest which is quite a moment it must be said. Here is an American soldier taking on the weaponry of his nation's enemies in the War on Terror. The little un-translated dialogue in Arabic was a nice touch to give the scene some authenticity. This is where Damian Lewis really shines in the role. As he stares in the mirror and imagines what will become of his body the little twitches in his face give us a glimpse into Brody's inner doubts and fears.
Despite how good this was it was still gnawing at the back of my mind that Brody was doing all this to avenge one child. The story hasn't been explicit enough (for me) that Brody came back from Iraq hating war. Right now I still don't like the idea that he is doing this all in Issa's name. He was a soldier long enough to know that collateral damage is part of war.
Anyway back to the story and Brody heads to the diner where a man recognises him and announces loudly to the restaurant how brave he thinks he is. I thought this was an inorganic moment that suddenly meant the whole restaurant came rushing over to see Brody. That hasn't happened before, even though you could imagine it, and the way the man talked so loudly and impolitely felt forced.
Then Saul apologies to a sleepy Carrie for not caring more about her mental health after she came back from Iraq. I liked that moment a lot because we have seen him ignore her glaring problems all season. I also liked that the show was getting back to the central idea of Brody and Carrie as two damaged souls that the war in Iraq had created.
We then got the "montage of drama" as Saul pieced together her rabid colour coding to create a wall chart of Abu Nazir's movements for the last few years. This was a very solid piece of plotting as it allowed Carrie once again to be the only person who could see what was truly going on with Brody and Nazir. However the presentation of it felt clichÃ©d.
Back to Brody and he tries to say goodbye to Chris and Jessica who is at last happy with the direction her family life is headed. Cue more guilty twitching from Brody. Next morning Dana actually starts to rip open the package holding his bomb vest which was good believable stuff as her curiosity couldn't be stifled and he grabbed her a little too firmly.
Carrie wakes up vindicated in her ramblings and her father comes round with her sister. This was a lovely scene because he shares her disorder and tries to convince her not to do anything rash. His care and pleading is very sweet but she calls Brody anyway, realising that only he could know what happened to Nazir in the time the CIA have no intel on him. He is clearly disturbed that she is so close to the truth and arranges to visit her. Even in her addled state she still wants to look good for him but instead of Brody it's David who appears at her door. The jazz music gets haunting as David takes away all her classified documents and presumably ends her career. Meanwhile Dana's videos of the family trip expose Brody's catatonic thinking state while standing alone at Gettysburg.
The last few minutes were fantastic. Dana's video was a reminder that Brody is never more compelling to watch than when being secretly filmed. Meanwhile we got to see the Carrie from the pilot once more, desperate and pleading and sounding insane even as she is the only one who understands the truth. It was all really sad as the music swelled and she became increasingly distraught about what was happening.
So what to make of it all? Despite the flaws I thought this episode moved the show back toward what it does best. We got back to seeing Carrie falling apart and back to Brody being a fascinating figure to keep your eye on. The episode was much more about character than it was about plot and set up the season finale really nicely. This wasn't the smoothest way to get to this point but I'm very glad we got here. It's been a fascinating show to write about and the finale has a lot riding on it.
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