Homeland’s “I’ll Fly Away” heightens the passion between Carrie and Brody while complicating the head games that continue to escalate between them. Now in a tug-of-war representative of an entire intelligence chess game, Carrie’s explosive personality threatens to not only damage the risky operation she built, but also Brody, her apparent lover’s, life. Falling somewhere between the tense, plot-oriented episodes that filled out the middle of Season Two and the kind of character-oriented work that elevates the series, “I’ll Fly Away” helps tie off some arbitrary plot threads and also places Brody back into the arms of the terrorist organization that trusted him.
The episode begins with Jessica and Brody having an aggressive, candid conversation about why Brody was unable to tell the authorities about Dana. It becomes clear that Brody’s cracking under the weight of the CIA’s pressure and Jessica, in her typically confused-cum-selfish lack of awareness, can’t actually support her husband. Carrie convinces Brody to meet with Roya again. Once there, Brody tells Roya he’s done working for Abu Nazir, sending the CIA into a frenzy. After Carrie and Brody sleep together at a motel (as Saul et al. listen on), Brody agrees to continue the operation and meet with Roya again. Taking a ride into no man’s land, Roya leads Brody into the arms the mysterious terrorist who’s been on the peripheries of Homeland the entire season. With Carrie chasing them through an open field, a helicopter lands and whisks Brody back to the custody of Abu Nazir.
The key scene of “I’ll Fly Away” occurs when Brody and Carrie each use their sex to convince the other that their feelings are real. Or maybe their feelings aren’t real? Maybe they are real, but the other isn’t supposed to be sure? Either way, sex means everything and it means nothing to our leads. In a clever, if awkwardly comic scene, Saul and his team listen as a lustful session of grunts and bed creaks scream from their surveillance equipment.
As if looking too deeply is ever an issue on Homeland, I couldn’t help but ponder if Carrie’s semi-pornographic moans were an allusion to her “faking it.” Great cinema (and to a lesser extent great TV) forces us into dark spaces watching others go through all the emotional, taboo excess that public life forces us to repress. As we watch Carrie and Brody fuck, there’s seemingly nothing emotional about it. It’s like a study in icy deception, if also broken love. Yet, Carrie’s face drops when Brody casually confesses to Roya that he “fucked her” to “keep her close.” As Paul Thomas Anderson’ Magnolia tells us, this stuff “doesn’t just happen.”
In an angle that remained flabby and inconsistent, Dana’s hit-and-run complications seemingly come to q close with the young girl facing the realities of governmental corruption. Brody’s daughter continues to be an emotional core to the already decayed world around her. The writers seem intent on using her presence as a reflection of how slowly people become calloused by selfish pursuits and bankrupt morality. Unfortunately, the melodramatic scene between Dana and the murdered woman’s daughter plays as a conspicuous, if predictable, revelation that doesn’t entirely justify why this plot line was thrust into the center of the season.
“I’ll Fly Away” ends on a breathtaking high point, when Brody is unwittingly airlifted back into the trap set by his terrorist captors. Brody has officially played too many bad hands and now finds himself exactly where he started. Homeland has done a tremendous job of turning the characters who seemed like lynchpins for huge governmental agencies into rag doll pawns, forced against their protests into whatever positions larger entities decide for them. While Brody pouts his way up into the helicopter, Carrie remains ferocious, fighting and clawing as long as she can until she loses everyone’s trust, including Saul’s.
From a directorial perspective, the handling the final sequence left me disappointed. By shifting focus away from Brody and Roya to Carrie’s pursuit, we lose whether Brody puts up a fight as he pushed towards the helicopter. This seemed an easy choice against what could have been a dynamic moment for Brody. Does he choose to continue to play along or do we see him slowly tear apart behind growing nerves?
The intrigue of Homeland’s plot is back with Carrie and Brody’s feelings once again in question. The CIA looks like an indecisive group of inexperienced people lead around by a spitfire of psychologically-impaired emotions. Yet, these tough guys follow her lead, putting up gentle fights with little impact. Now in the hands of a less spineless operation, with a less forgiving woman behind the wheel, Brody will be forced to choose between his former allegiance or an apparent connection with his country and a woman. [B]