Sunday, October 13, 2013

REVIEW: 'Homeland' - 'Tower of David' Isolates Its Leading Duo and Gets So Depressing

Showtime's Homeland - Episode 3.03 Tower of David

Brody returns to his faith for guidance in an unexpected way when he finds himself facing increasingly desperate straits. Back in the U.S., Carrie struggles to connect with Saul when a mysterious man offers to help her but at a significant cost.

How, when and why Nicholas Brody resurfaces on the third season of Homeland has been one of the biggest questions this year. The first two hours were quite good despite his absence. He is still a major player in this world but not a necessary component in order to make the show interesting or watchable. At the end of the second season, the show was more invested in Carrie and Brody's tragic romance than the audience. The amount of viable story left in the Brody character felt like it had hit zero - but the show kept him alive anyway.

So much of the second season was audience excitement. It felt good seeing Carrie in Lebanon and being proven right amount Brody and then gloriously taking him down and turning him. That was fun and enjoyable and masterful to watch Claire Danes and Damian Lewis. However, the fundamental flaw of that second season was its use of piling coincidences on top of coincidences. It was present in the season premiere but grew very fatal by the end of the season. How the show tried to bounce back would make or break the series.

The first two episodes very capably kept the Brody character away and instead chose to focus on how his and Carrie's actions effected the rest of the world of characters. They have been slow and thought-provoking. There have been some ups - the Saul stuff - and downs - basically anything having to do with Dana. But overall I've enjoyed the third season so far. It's taken the time to slow down and make these characters deal with the severity of their issues and really put its two leads - and its two Emmy winners - in truly compromising positions. By hour's end, they are both alone and trapped in holes of their doing. I don't know how the series realistically bounces those characters back to what they once were - or even if they should try.

"Tower of David" is completely depressing. It isolates both lead characters so well. To the point that I don't know if I need to see more of them. Wouldn't it be interesting to see the series put out to pasture its two Emmy winners and refocus more of the series around Mandy Patinkin, Rupert Friend and F. Murray Abraham? I don't honestly see that happening but it's a thought that "Tower of David" at least brings home.

But I probably respect what "Tower of David" is trying to do more than I actually like it. It's all leading up to that final moment with Carrie and Brody. But the overall impact just felt off. Brody dominated this hour. Structural I probably would have preferred either more Carrie or less Carrie. The amount of Carrie story we got didn't parallel as well to the Brody stuff as well as that final shot did. The problem area for me likely is the mysterious man who comes to see her. That scene perfectly outlines her current paranoia. And yet, it also felt more like big picture, wheel-spinning and a plot that will lead to something much larger than the insular character beats that the rest of the hour was in. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Tower of David" was written by the late Henry Bromell and his son William Bromell.
  • I loved Erik Todd Dellums as the Venezuelan doctor. His speeches to Brody about him being a cockroach were a delight - but also very self-referential.
  • Esme was perfectly fine as Brody's caretaker. Not so much as a romantic intrigue.
  • I also really enjoyed the episode's direction by Clark Johnson. The dissolves between the Brody and Carrie stories were the most interesting and it all collimated in that final sequence which was just beautiful.