Sunday, October 20, 2013

REVIEW: 'Homeland' Releases a Desperate Carrie and Pushes Dana on the Run for Some Reason in 'Game On'

Showtime's Homeland - Episode 3.04 Game On

Carrie learns that even in its crippled state, the CIA can still exercise power when needed; Dana goes AWOL, forcing Jessica to go to the police; Saul and Fara follow the money trail to an unexpected location; and Carrie has breakfast with a new client.

Even when Homeland has produced great character bits in its third season, these first four episodes feel like an expository prologue and info dump to the main story the season wants to tell. Yes, there have been moments of greatness. Carrie being strapped down and medicated in the second episode made me care for that character again. And then, there is stuff that is just terrible. The on-the-nose quality of Brody in Caracas and the over-focus on Dana both being glaringly off.

Dana is largely one-third of the show now. And for a character who is at her most useful and insightful when she's interacting with her father, that is very disconcerting. I can understand why the show wanted to keep the Brody family around this season. And yet, it also feels like the show is pushing Dana because we like her the most out of that trio of characters. That is a severe miscalculation. Dana and her father together are interesting and her little romantic stuff was pleasant in the first two seasons. But now, she is so off-putting. Every time her story is on the screen, I want to fast-forward through it. By skipping those scenes, I wouldn't be missing anything from the main story at all. It would be a whole different story if this somehow was connected to what Carrie or Saul were up to. But it's an island right now. An island I no longer can stand to be on.

When last we saw Carrie, she has down and defeated in the mental institution. I really like how the show is really tackling her mental illness this season. In retrospect, that was something the show really glazed over in its second year. The first season finale had her undergoing the electrotherapy but the second season then immediately put her back in the field. This year, they are having her deal with the consequences of her actions. She was put there because she was deemed a threat by Saul via Dar on his shoulder. And now, when she gets released by these guys trying to buy what she knows, it's exciting to see how desperate she is to get away. She literally has no where she can go or to anyone who the CIA isn't already on top of. Her only option is the guy she had sex with in the premiere. That's a definite low point. But one that doesn't ultimately matter at all. She still is reluctantly pulled into the meeting with Martin Donovan's big law firm partner.

But the episode ending twist reveals that Saul only put Carrie in the institution to try and lure out the Iranians and Carrie was in on it the whole time (well, maybe the whole time, that wasn't clearly stated). That severely makes me rethink everything from these first four episodes. And not in a good way. It's a twist simply to have a twist. You question why Carrie would be acting certain ways - especially in the scenes where only the audience can see her. But Mandy Patinkin is phenomenal in that last scene that the show almost gets away with. You see his joyfulness over this plan actually working out somehow. But the more you think about, the murkier it gets.

Some more thoughts:
  • To clarify, I do like Morgan Saylor a lot. It's just this plot she's in is doing absolutely nothing for her or the show.
  • Brief reappearances by Mike and Virgil. Like always, amused by Virgil and just wondering why Mike is there in the first place.
  • Dar is pleasant as the devil's advocate on Saul's shoulder. But that aspect also felt different than what F. Murray Abraham was being asked to do in season two. Before he was dark and mysterious, and I enjoyed how those qualities popped up a little bit in 'Game On.'
  • I also enjoy the interactions between Saul and Fara but they also immensely feel like buildup. I'm eager to see where it goes as it likely dovetails with what Carrie will be doing.
  • But I'm already groining over the fact that every plot is revolved around Caracas somehow. It's all going to connect but I really don't have a need to see Brody ever again.