On Sunday night, the Internet masses were hashtag happy about the series finale of Breaking Bad, largely leaving the season premiere of a younger Emmy-decorated-darling in the dust. Last night’s episode of Homeland was engaging and suspenseful, but it was also a little sleazy. Sex sells, but whether the intention of the Homeland team was to break into the fall lineup with a bang (literally) or simply strong-arm some Monday morning water-cooler attention away from Breaking Bad is unclear. But touché, Showtime— though some of these seemingly unnecessary plotlines were distracting, they’re difficult to shake from thought.
The end of last season left us at ground zero of what the show called the worst terrorist attack since September 11. Nick Brody (Damian Lewis), POW turned terrorist turned Congressman, had a bomb in the trunk of his car that detonated in the CIA headquarters, killing way too many important people. The act was likely terrorist Abu Nazir’s (Navid Negahban) posthumous swan song, but despite Abu and Brody’s close relationship, Brody tries to convince enemy/lover/CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) that he knew nothing about the attack. Though he is a known compulsive liar, Carrie can’t tame her ginger-boner long enough to consider her options or his motives. She stands by her (sociopathic) man, helps him disappear, and at the opening of the episode, which takes place months later, he is still gone and she is very screwed.
Season three begins with a timid Carrie submitting to a Senate committee interrogation of the CIA. The committee believes Brody to be the culprit of the attack (duh, the bomb was in his car AND he’s a terrorist), but Carrie claims that he’s innocent. The chairman squints, leans forward, and condescendingly promises her that the truth will be found and her life is effectively over. He also asks her what she’s smoking—which is obviously Brody’s fiery hair.
Soon enough, timid Carrie gives way to crazy Carrie, replete with chin quivers, eye bulges, and croaky yelps. Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin)— who’s been appointed the CIA director in the wake of former director David Estes’ (David Harewood) death in the bombing— tries to convince Carrie that he is in her corner and will vouch for her.
Mid-manic tantrum, we learn that Carrie has stopped taking the lithium that tempers her bipolar disorder, a condition that previously had her fired from the CIA. She tells her father that she’s been practicing alternative medicine to treat her disorder—a cocktail of long runs, meditation, and tequila benders. We see her shopping for liquor when a tall man in the aisle tries to make conversation. He glances at her basket—which looks like a sorority girl’s spring break suitcase—and coolly suggests that she try Costco instead—bulk shopping FTW. Since the liquor store Casanova obviously reminds Carrie of Brody, with his red hair and bad dad jokes, she immediately takes him home and beds him, sorry, stairs him… with very explicit angles. We see that Carrie is mentally unstable, still in love with Brody, and has awful taste in men.
Like Carrie, Brody’s daughter, Dana (Morgan Saylor), is a mess. She slit her wrists after the bomb killed her boyfriend, the Vice President’s son, and post-suicide attempt, she spent enough time in residential therapy to procure a boyfriend. When she gets home, she heads to her bedroom, undresses, snaps a topless photo, and sends it to her rehab fling. Later, he sends back a topless shot of himself. From this we learn that Dana is sexually forward and that her boyfriend doesn’t know the appropriate progression for sexting. Dana seems to be crying for help—she wasn’t even using Snapchat—some part of her must want someone to find that picture.
Saul, who is not sexually forward, is growing even more distant from his wife, who recently returned from a years-long stay in Mumbai. The two are unable to make a decision about the state of their marriage, just as Saul is hesitant to make tough choices on the job. Constant waffling leads Saul to a breaking point. He outs Carrie’s bipolar disorder and sexual relationship with Brody in a televised questioning with the Senate committee. Though he thought protecting Carrie was his sole option, he quickly grew a pair and realized that scapegoating her was easier and more effective.
Unless it’s not. We haven’t seen Brody, and should he reappear, he’s going to interact with Carrie. Brody needs Carrie. Saul needs Brody. Saul might need Carrie. The control may very well end up in Carrie’s unstable court.