It’s a strange thing to watch an hour of television and find yourself frustrated by it being quite good. But that’s how I felt after watching this week’s episode of Homeland, an episode that was indeed, ‘quite good’, but left me frustrated because the previous few episodes have been so bad, and the events in those episodes have led to the events of this episode, meaning that what I enjoyed about it are a direct result of plot developments that I hated.
After his training montage last week, Brody is now ready, willing and able to accept Saul’s offer and attempt to infiltrate Iran’s revolutionary guard and has started to bond with the team who are tasked with getting him across the border into Iran safely. And that’s where most of the action takes place, as the mission starts to go badly wrong. Firstly, three police officers approach their vehicle, and when they don’t believe the cover story and spot Brody (who is pretending to be asleep in the back seat), Azizi (Donnie Keshawarz) is forced to call for back up, and snipers take out the officers. As the team start to move towards the border, Azizi drives over a landmine, critically injuring himself, with Brody able to pull him to safety. Now the team watching from US soil are forced into a decision. The mission appears to have broken down completely when the border control starts firing at the team, with Saul yielding leadership of the mission to an army Commander, who orders the team to pull out.
But Brody refuses to give up on the mission, having worked his way back from addiction and the loss of everything else around him, and is determined to make it to the border, even if he is being ordered to abandon the mission entirely. In the end, he and Yousef Tourani, whom Brody has become closest to, make it across the border, only to be immediately intercepted by Iranian police. They are taken back to a cell when Brody identifies himself and they come face to face with Javadi, who executes Tourani in front of Brody.
And despite the fact that I’m planning to give up on Homeland at the end of this season (and unless the final two episodes are truly spectacular television, I’m sticking to my guns), I did find this to be a reasonably compelling hour of television. But the problem is all the nonsense that Homeland has subjected me to throughout this season just to reach this point. The show has asked us to believe that Saul has planned, and pulled off, two extremely elaborate long cons, first with Carrie, in order to turn Javadi, and then with Brody, keeping him in Venezuela (although Brody getting shot on the Colombian border and developing a crippling drug addiction weren’t part of the plan) before bringing him back to America, just to send him to Iran in order to assassinate the leader of the Iranian revolutionary guard. Both Carrie and Brody have been through personal hells to make Saul’s plans come together, but the biggest issue I have is that I’m supposed to just accept that the director of the CIA would not only choose to place his faith in a schizophrenic, unreliable analyst (Carrie) and a traitor to his country who tried to blow up the vice president (Brody), but that no-one working alongside him would say ‘Are you nuts?’ and go over his head to get the whole thing shut down (although Senator Lockhart did try his best).
Alex Gansa, Homeland’s showrunner, seems to think that keeping the audience (and the characters in the show) in the dark about what’s really going on makes Homeland special, but it’s hugely frustrating to watch, and makes Saul, arguably the best character in the show, look like an arrogant know-it-all who is never wrong, regardless of how wild his plans are and how many peoples lives he is putting at risk by implementing such elaborate plans. It’s just not believable that those plans would work, because they not only require a huge amount of luck to work, but need their targets to be a bit stupid too. Are we really expected believe that Javadi would not only find it easy to get into America, but that he’d even be willing to cross the border into the country just on the off chance that Carrie might actually switch sides? And how could Saul really believe that Brody would be able to pull himself together to go to Iran, when he’s turned his back on his country multiple times?
This whole season has been a frustrating mess, and I don’t buy what I’m seeing any more. It seems increasingly likely that Nicholas Brody will still be a character in the show’s fourth season, and Alex Gansa will continue to hide things from the show’s audience, and I’m just not willing to devote my time to a show that keeps digging itself out of holes with plot developments that just don’t add up.