Homeland: Still Positive Review

Like a knowing affirmation, Homeland is still positive after Mandy Patinkin's Saul gets to reveal he has more than one temperature in a sting operation laced in venom.

It hardly feels like we’re half a season into Homeland this week, which marked another breathless hour. Now, this is probably due to the show randomly spinning its wheels for the first three episodes (with the third being particularly awful), yet now that we are in the thick of it, the title of tonight’s episode is an affirmation. The show is “Still Positive,” even as we wait for another Langley bombing to drop. And it may have done so very quietly this week in the episode’s other half of a double entendre, but let’s not get ahead of things. The strength of this Homeland was the cohesion and efficiency with which everything tied together. You know this was a terrific hour (on the Season 3 curve) when Dana doesn’t show up until the 21-minute mark. By that point, even her constant whining did little to impede the plot, which centered on the immediate aftermath of Carrie turning her baited hook against the Iranian fisherman. That ill-fated proverbial Ahab happens to be Majid Javadi the Second in Command of Iran’s Intelligence Directorate. Last week, he appeared to have Carrie over the barrel when he invited her to their “meeting” in the most unorthodox of methods. But much like Papa Saul, we all knew this to be simply another small obstacle for the woman who’s “always on her own.” Hence, the much teased lie detector test became nothing but another excuse for Carrie to break protocol (this time as that of the demure interrogation victim) and spit vitriol in authority’s face. When confronted with the obvious (that Carrie failed that lie detector her than the latest ClearBlue test), she immediately spun the table Javadi so fast that it might have cracked in the legs. She declares that the CIA knows he’s been embezzling millions from the Iranian government to invest in a soccer team among other extracurricular activities. And now he is being watched like a bug under the CIA magnifying glass. The beauty of this is that Carrie is totally unaware of her bluff. As seen last week, Peter Quinn lost track of Ms. Mathison in her house and Saul is flying so blind that he still doesn’t have time to talk about his crumbling divorce. Indeed, when his wife comes down to admit she has been having an affair in a marriage she had essentially ended months ago, Saul remains coolly passive, denying he has any claim on her. That moment told me two things about the episode: That it would a crucial one for Saul, as he maintained his even-keeled meditation even after seeing his marriage and career implode on the same evening. The second is that he would explode in a wonderful ball of rage this night. But for the moment at hand, it is all about Carrie convincing Javadi he has walked into Saul’s trap and that he should comply with their wishes, as opposed to kill Carrie. The scene is played superbly by both actors, as Danes is finally allowed to unveil some of that steely professionalism, with just a dash of sadistic schendefreude she reserves for all the CIA’s enemies, which was so important to her in the first season, but has remained noticeably absent as of late. But Shaun Toub, who has presented himself as a new kind of threat to the Homeland team, portrays a very Westernized Middle Eastern foe who is so calm and courteous that it seems inevitable that the other shoe is to drop. For an actor that’s only had two episodes to develop a personality, we are getting a very clear picture of this man that will become painfully sharp by the close of tonight. To continue on the maritime analogies, Javadi turns out to be Saul’s ultimate white whale and the man he has longed to take down. As Saul eventually reveals, it was Javadi who was one of his first contacts in Iran before the 1979 revolution…a revolution that personally ended in horror when Javadi murdered four assets Saul had cultivated in the previous Iranian government and who Saul, as well as Javadi, had promised to protect. The vengeful one-upmanship continued months later when Saul spirited Javadi’s wife and son out of the country and into the U.S. around 1980. Suddenly, it feels as if many of the events in Seasons 2 and 3 are being defined by the portrait of rivalry painted by these two sparring spies. This mostly works because it is an episode that dives into the seedier side of Saul’s life. Mandy Patinkin has always made the intriguing choice to never raise Saul’s voice or even likely his pulse. Even when he is rubbing the arrogance in the new boss’s face or throwing Carrie under the bus before the U.S. Senate, he is doing it with a long sigh and an overwhelming reluctance. His marriage can end in a whisper and so can his revenge. Yet, Javadi is a man that he so blazingly hates that he wears it on his sleeve. Inevitably, this will have dire consequences. Those results come when Javadi chooses not to turn himself over to Carrie (and Peter Quinn) until after he exacts a terrible revenge…upon his wife. His first action is to drive up to her home shared with her daughter-in-law and grandson, which seemed so ominously observed last week, and meticulously execute the ex-wife of his son with a silenced pistol. However, for the own wife who abandoned him, he had needed something more. Javadi is obviously a great man many times over in his own head. When Carrie turned the espionage knife she had held against his manhood with a wicked “make it fast,” his momentary indignation flashed a self-worth high above that of the smiling gentleman he puports to be. And for the wife who took away his true manhood when she fled him for the decedent West, he has only vengeance, which he took with a broken bottle against her neck. Chilling kudos to Homeland for not having Carrie and Quinn appearing in the nick of time. Rather, they arrive to see the pools of blood gather on the suburban home’s floor with a crime scene so grisly that there will be no hope for the CIA to cover this up.
 Which is where I predict the later rub will be for Carrie. I had assumed that U.S. Senator Smuggy McSmuggerson would come after Carrie through the public realm due to her relationship with Nicholas Brody. In fact, it was reinforced this week when he met with Dar Adal—Saul was too focused on his Iranian prize to realize that he was putting a sycophant alone in a room with a politician—and whined again about Carrie Mathison. How little does he know that Carrie and Saul have just bagged one of the moneymen behind the “12/12” bombing. Or that this man also has murdered his long “protected” family members in the D.C. ‘burbs. The repercussions will be intense with the local law enforcement getting to the scene before the CIA fixers, and Carrie just put her DNA on the scene when she ignored Saul to pick up and comfort Javadi’s suddenly orphaned grandson…. It appears children will be a huge problem for Carrie in the foreseeable future, as well because she’s preggers. That’s a bummer, but at least she was able to give her unborn child the gift of a Javadi-free world, because this monster probably won’t be in it for much longer. Not when Mellow Saul treats a broken nose like a hardy hello. Yes, I called that burst of rage at the top of the hour, but seeing the small, frighteningly hot blue flame burn was still ever so gratifying. How odd that it may still be what ends up burning Carrie. Den of Geek Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all news updates related to the world of geek. And Google+, if that’s your thing!

Rating:

4 out of 5