Homeland: “One Last Time” (Episode 3.09)

TV Reviews
Homeland: “One Last Time” (Episode 3.09)

As we enter the final third of Homeland’s third season on Showtime, the show has continued its wade into murky waters of ethics and duty. Who is in the “right?” At what point does at-all-costs desperation go too far? We’ve followed this cast of characters down the winding halls of Montezuma and to the shores of Tripoli, but should we continue to remain faithful to them as the show’s writing staff delivers blow after blow on their noses to save the face of a show fighting to get out of one of Brody’s fever dreams.

“One Last Time” begins with our two favorite former bedfellows, both bedridden but in somewhat different circumstances. Carrie’s got a fancy new sling, but she’s back on hospital lockdown, recovering from Quinn’s well-placed bullet that spared her life but should’ve ended her CIA career once and for all. Brody is stateside again, curled up in a ball and battling torturous withdrawal symptoms after a few months locked up in a burned-out building in Caracas with only the dope to keep him company. The needle’s done quite a bit of damage to him already; in addition to hollowed-out eyes and hep-C, Damian Lewis is rail-thin and convincingly weakened.

He’s under CIA control now, though, and Saul is itching to force him—cold turkey—back into the service of the red, white and blue. The play is another doozy from Saul’s pie-in-the-sky playbook for peace in the Middle East: Brody will seek political asylum in Iran, where he will claim responsibility for the Langley bombing with the backing of the agency’s new toy, Majid Javadi. The conquering hero will be paraded through the streets of Iran, where he will meet with Javadi’s boss, “the number-one impediment to peace,” who we’re somehow just hearing about now, nine weeks into the season. Brody will take him out, installing Javadi in power and giving Saul control of the country. All this has to happen, of course, in the week before Sen. Andrew Lockhart takes office and scuttles Saul’s plan.

Lockhart pays an unwitting Carrie a quick visit, letting it slip that Saul had disappeared to Caracas. She puts two and two together, realizing that while she was jumping in front of a bullet, Saul had found her spider-man’s hiding place for Brody. The armed guards at her door, though, seem like they’ll be putting the stars-and-stripes-crossed lovers’ reunion on hold. But as always, the CIA can’t quit Carrie, and she winds up being needed to try and help whip Brody into shape and convince him to carry out Saul’s plot.

Throughout its three-year run, Homeland has had to draw up scenario after scenario where Carrie is as magic as Quinn’s bullet and represents the only way forward for an agency that should’ve been rid of her altogether. At the beginning of Season 2, for instance, she was disgraced and suspended until an old contact overseas would speak only to her. With each new season, Carrie’s CV has been ripped to shreds, only to be reassembled as she runs roughshod through global political conflict. Though any agent with the caseload that she’s had over her time at Langley would’ve had her hands in lots of pots, it’s become absurd how often she winds up pressed into service in spite of how unstable she is. Here, again, Saul and his crew of bearded Marines wind up needing Carrie to coax Brody out of his stupor. As a result, the agency has had no choice but to continue to allow her to do whatever she wants.

This is epitomized by a late-night sneak off-base with Brody to see Dana, whose extended sleepover with friend Angela seems not to have worked out. She’s left cleaning rooms in a dumpy motel, and before her father get a chance to say anything, she cuts through his attempts to explain and sends him on his way. When Carrie and Brody first pulled up to the motel, I wondered how much more the show could drag out of this tortured father-daughter dynamic that has tried (and, of late, failed) to stand in for so much. But at this point, they really don’t have much more to say to each other.

The Dana character represents perhaps the most significant collateral damage of Brody’s betrayal on a few different levels. Obviously, being the teenage daughter of the most wanted man on the planet was never going to get her any votes for homecoming court. But once Brody bid goodbye to Carrie and slipped into Canada, he took with it Dana (and the rest of his family’s) relevance to the story. More than ever now, those first few episodes feel like a debt owed to the Brody family for being the only “good soldiers” in this place. But after the bomb went off, they were so far outside of the blast radius that they were no longer people of interest.

It is good to have Brody back, though with the season’s final third underway, a lot of these face-offs (Saul finally getting the chance to tell Brody what he thinks of him, Carrie sitting silently behind Brody as he sleeps, and Dana’s rejection) have a degree of finality to them, as if this really may be our last Brodeo. Though over the years the character has ultimately proven problematic—after Season 1, the writers really seemed to have no idea what to do with him—he still added a more workable instability than what we’ve been dealing with the rest of this year. Even when he was spinning his wheels, the show still felt like it had forward momentum. Without him, as we saw through much of this year, things were merely adrift.

Meanwhile, the mystery of Mira’s French mister is solved pretty quickly thanks to Virgil and Max’s detective gadgetry. Alain Bernard turns out to be an Israeli intelligence officer, and his successful bug helped Lockhart learn of Saul’s trip to the Tower of David. Once Max snaps a few photos of Bernard and Lockhart meeting on his trusty DSLR, Saul seems to have again bested Lockhart.

As the two meet, Saul’s on his soapbox over ethics in spite of the fact that he’s just pumped Brody full of illegal recovery drugs. Revealing that Lockhart had knowingly gained information from an illegal wiretap would undercut his candidacy and keep Saul at the head of the agency, but Saul trades the title for time, agreeing to bury the evidence and give Lockhart the keys to Langley in exchange for a few more weeks to ready his plot. Saul’s reason for not turning Lockhart in—that it would hurt the agency and his wife’s feelings—is weak. If we’re to believe Saul’s aggrandizing the last few weeks, putting Lockhart in charge would’ve hurt the agency. This represented a way to stop that, and I’d like to think that Saul was professional enough to put what was best for his country ahead of his marriage, as he had throughout much of the first two years.

With the ticking clock slowed slightly, it all comes back to Brody. Forgive me for psychoanalyzing here, but the sergeant was always a character whose motivation came out of his own ideas about right and wrong. He worked his way out of an Iraqi cell and endeared himself to Nazir by becoming Issa’s teacher, but he was only really radicalized after a drone strike killed the boy and hundreds of his classmates.

Saul’s offer—“Being a marine again”—seems like the last thing Brody would want to do. He doesn’t want to “be” much of anything. He doesn’t even want to live. Carrie is forced to dig deep, blaming him for the deaths of political strategist Elizabeth Gaines, two Secret Service agents, and the imam and his wife in Caracas. Sure, that’s more blood than anyone should have on their hands, but these things don’t really add up. It’s convenient that, for the first time, Carrie remembers the suicide vest just in time to ask Brody to strap on another one, of sorts, in undertaking this mission. Only this time, he’s playing for the “good guys.”

Of course, Carrie convinces Brody the value of karmic retribution and, through the magic of montage, he’s whipped back into shape in the 16 extra days Saul scored. There is an easy fraternity between Brody and the crew of bearded men who will be watching his back in Iran as he re-enters marine life. But it seems likely that Brody’s only getting a one-way ticket, and that the season’s final three episodes will bring some resolutions that the show desperately needs.

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