'Homeland' 3×02 Review: Dana's Vulnerability Finally Makes Her Likable
In light of the government shut down and Americans’ baffling passivity towards our obviously incredibly dysfunctional government, it was a bit bizarre to watch this week's Homeland, "Uh…Oh…Aw," and to think to myself, “what would happen if all these people were furloughed? Would they bother showing up to work? Would Quinn (Rupert Friend) step out of the darkness to threaten a bank executive? Would Saul (Mandy Patinkin) have been at work at the precise moment in time he made an uncomfortably racist comment to the new Muslim economic analyst?” These are questions to which we will never have the answers because, mercifully, Showtime decided to make money instead of a political statement… and Homeland aired as usual.
Disclosure: I enjoy Nick Brody’s (Damien Lewis) absence from these episodes. I think that his disappearance has been a helpful respite from the utter chaos of this show, during which we’ve been able to become familiar with characters that seemed one-dimensional before. Example: I’ve always hated Dana (Morgan Saylor). Always. Though obviously you have to feel sympathy for anyone in her position, her totally justified mistrust of her father manifested itself with petulant shrieking a few too many times for my liking. This season, though, we learn that Dana has made an attempt on her own life and spent the time since the attack in a psychiatric facility- not an institution in the traditional sense, but something that seems like a boarding school for troubled kids. During this time, she has received extensive therapy, but it seems like her greatest progress has been the result of the connections she’s made to others and the boyfriend she’s started seeing. Jessica Brody (Morena Baccarin), struggling to cope with the idea of her daughter being in a relationship with someone in the psychiatric facility, makes a series of disturbingly insensitive comments and judgments (“he’s obviously unstable,” she remarks, gesturing to the facility that her daughter had checked out of only a week before. Well done, Mom). In an especially poignant and genuine scene, Dana brings her mother to the scene of her suicide attempt and patiently explains to her that she had wanted to die, but doesn’t anymore, and with tremendous clarity, articulates what brought her around. It’s Dana’s most meaningful monologue to date, and truly showcases how far her character has come and how she continues maturing.
Conversely, the other person in this show struggling with mental health problems is Carrie Mathison, played by the stunningly talented Claire Danes. Throughout the course of Homeland Carrie has seen some serious ups and downs (typical of those with bipolar disorder, atypical in that she’s an intelligence agent working for the United States and deliberately hiding her disorder). But she has never been portrayed like this. Since the attack on Langley, she has been an absolute wreck. Her mental illness exposed to a Senate investigative committee, her stay at a psychiatric ward while in police detention, unexpectedly flipping between moments of intense lucidity and terrifying delusions and paranoia- Carrie’s illness is spiralling out of her control. No matter how many times she explains to judges, doctors, her father, and anyone who will listen that she’s been practicing yoga and running, they insist she take medication. Carrie’s present state was brought on by the trust she placed in those closest to her, and their betrayal. The juxtaposition of Dana and Carrie makes me wonder, with all the trust Dana’s begun to have in others, is Carrie her future?
The episode is suspenseful, but not in the traditional Homeland sense- no one gets killed, for example. But the simplest exchanges between characters- Saul advising newcomer Fara (Nazanin Boniadi) to keep one of her findings between them, Quinn’s intense threat and implications to one of the bank executives grilled by Fara earlier in the day, and Dar Adal ‘s (F. Murray Abraham) sketchy threats are enough to pique the interest of any seasoned Homeland viewer, who has learned by now that not a single word or scene of this show is wasted. What would Carrie Mathison do? The answer is simple: keep her eyes open.
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