Now that the universe of Homeland loyalists have officially conceded (myself included) that perhaps the show isn’t the context with which Kiefer Sutherland will penetrate the social realism of The Wire and solve crucial life questions, it takes on a new and, all the more entertaining, existence. As such, a chase scene between Abu Nazir and Carrie Mathison, like a breakdown by Dana Brody, and a frustrating interrogation of Saul might have otherwise felt contrived, but here play with a sense of urgency and weight. While I feel somewhat condescending saying that the newest episode of Homeland,“In Memoriam” (formerly “The Motherfucker with a Turban”), works because it does exactly what I have now come to expect, in fact that’s precisely what its charms are. Homeland had its moment as a “great white hope” and it’s now settled into what’s it’s actually always been: a great bit of pulse-racing political thrills.
“In Memoriam” begins with Carrie losing Abu Nazir at the mill and alerting SWAT that he’s still inside. Saul gets called into a dubious interrogation about the death of Aileen Morgan. Saul confronts Estes, knowing that he has arranged this as a way of eradicating Saul’s knowledge of the CIA’s plans to kill Brody. Nazir chases SWAT and Carrie through the dark mill, killing one team member before being gunned down by a firing squad. Carrie collapses next to Nazir’s dead body. At the safehouse, Jessica and Brody are informed of Nazir’s death. After Brody restrains his emotions, he and Jessica finally come to terms about their crumbling marriage. Brody goes to Carrie and confesses his feelings for her.
Officially reduced to a desperate man carved into the shadowy bowels of Washington D.C., the once mythically bad Nazir emerges in “In Memoriam” as a desperate being on the brink of inevitable death. While seeing a terrorist in this light, especially when considering the financially sound and regal company with which he was associated in Season One, can be slightly bizarre, it does reinforce the man’s zeal and determination. From a plot perspective, I assumed that he had one more trick up his sleeve – a mass bombing of the facility he hides in, perhaps – but instead, he’s just a man. A committed, fading, and lost man, who had hoped he could avenge his son’s death. It’s a good slice of mythos and Nazir goes out with the smallest of appropriate bangs. Maybe the best moment of the season comes when Carrie kneels next to Nazir, knowing that she has finally exorcised her greatest demon.
The chase scene that culminates in Nazir’s death is perhaps the tensest scene in the entire series. Shot from a straight-on perspective, the camera watches Carrie, her frenzied state finally feeling appropriate, through the twists of dark hallways. We know Nazir now physically lurks behind her, just as his presence has for so long. Using classic suspense tropes and those emotional screw-tightenings that make Homeland excel, the scene keeps you peaking through your fingers. It’s rare for a small screen moment to carry enough weight to achieve this end, but, then again, this scene has been built for two compelling seasons.
Brody somehow feels that telling Carrie he chose her over the Vice President (a man they both know he wanted to kill) is a way into her heart. And, alas, it seems to be precisely that. Bad writing aside, Brody does finally spill what we have to assume is his most honest admission yet: he does care about Carrie. As she hopes, he cares enough to leave his wife for her. After all the fireworks, labyrinthine plot twists, leaps in logic, and descents into occasional farce, there’s something cathartic about coming to a short rest and assessing the true love behind Brody and Carrie’s relationship.
Jessica and Brody’s official parting spelled the most mature awakening for the couple since the show began. In some respects, Brody and Jessica, youthful when he went off to Iraq, never had the opportunity to grow as a couple, instead living on the idea of what good military families were “supposed” to be. The frank reality is that they’ve fallen out of love and while their immaturity bordered on irritating for many scenes until now, their realization somehow diffused and explained all of it. The proper thing to do was break it off the moment either of them examined their own infidelities. Yet, realistically, they clung to the notion of family and ethics that was so obviously already torn.
While “In Memoriam” again resorted to instances that felt anti-climactic, rehashed, or predictable, it also provided intriguing interactions amongst the characters, interspersed with some nicely paced, tense entertainment. Homeland has evolved in this season, from a show that had unfairly high expectations as a hybrid to bind what we knew about TV with what the future holds into a committed, politically-inspired thriller. The evolution feels like a reduction but really it’s just becoming something altogether different and maybe, considering what surprises must lie ahead, just as exciting. [B]