Homeland: 202 “Beirut Is Back” Review
Reviewed by Rich Jepson, cult TV enthusiast and author of 24: Terrorism Through Television.
WARNING – FULL SPOILERS
After last week’s scorcher of a season opener, Homeland continued to keep up the thirst for action with a well-scripted, absorbingly entertaining episode centred on a potential hit of prime suspect Abu Nazir. Whilst the episode moved at a high octane pace from the start, it managed to keep the adrenaline running throughout, right up until the moment Saul stumbles across Brody’s video confession – somehow I think that’ll get more hits than that sneezing panda if it hits YouTube.
As the title of the episode suggests, things start off back in Beirut. Following from last week’s aborted meet up Carrie manages to hook up with her former asset, Fatima Ali, outside her local mosque. Quickly, Fatima lights the fuse on the explosive plot of this episode by revealing that Nazir will be in town the following day. Carrie’s reaction is short but we see a huge spark in her eyes as she is dangled a Nazir shaped carrot.
Whilst all this is going on Brody is busy smooching weapons dealers at a high-class penthouse party alongside the VP. As the two discuss the possibility of supplying Israel with a bunker buster bomb that can penetrate an Iranian nuclear site, we’re reminded of just how close to the line Homeland places itself between fiction and reality. Brody’s inner conflict between his honour to his country and his adopted loyalty to the Middle East are once again put to the test when the VP asks him to convince the secretary of state to push through the weapons deal, despite the President blocking it.
In what was a difficult scene for Carrie we see her once again trying to convince Estes and in many ways Saul of her reliability when it comes to new information about Nazir. It’s obvious that prior to Brody, her quest to find Nazir was most likely on a similar level of obsession to that of the famed former POW. This is what makes Carrie her own worst enemy when it comes to pursuing a target – she’s as infatuated with her target as much as she is determined to get them.
This conversation was a reality check for Carrie’s redemption in the field, her mental state is always going to be called into question whenever a decision is based on her intel. Estes was a complete jerk brushing off her information without even a second thought. This seemed a little too aggressive in that surely any sort of evidence about Nazir should be followed in the hope of capturing him, especially when an attack on America is ‘imminent’.
Carrie overhearing Saul and Estes’ conversation about her state of mind and reliability worsened all of this and promoted a distressing scene as the velocity of this situation collapses her emotion. The scene on the rooftop was fantastic; it summed up in a matter of minutes just why Claire Danes deserved her individual Emmy – she knows when and how to explode the bipolar bomb.
Contrasting all of this was Dana and Jessica’s visit to the Vice President’s house, the initial drive up to the mansion was a calmer conversation than the two have had in recent weeks. Although, when Jessica asked about Brody praying she still doesn’t know how to handle her husbands new found religion. Dana on the other hand begins what looks to be the basis of a longer relationship with the VP’s son. It’s interesting to think that this youthful connection could put Brody in tight situations if Dana gives too much away of her father’s home life.
The action then began to unfold in an intense and enthralling sequence with Brody secretly tipping Nazir’s man of the impending attack. What was most enjoyable about all this was the fact that the two were both watching the same events unfold from opposing perspectives. It really questioned the fabric of the show’s whole premise – who do you root for? In any other context the answer to that would be a hero like Carrie but not here, you actively wanted Brody to warn Nazir off. It’s scary to think that regardless of your true-life opinion, Homeland can convince to support a plot that you’d otherwise hate to.
In all, this scene was on a par with the bunker sequence from the season 1 finale, the intensity was overpowering and drew you deep into Brody’s actions. If all that wasn’t enough there was still the little matter of Saul and Carrie’s extraction to take care of, which in it’s Bourne-like rooftop to rooftop chase was an incredibly enthralling sequence, particularly when the rebels were rocking the car outside. If you were anything like me you would have found yourself screaming at the TV for Carrie to hurry up.
Before things could wrap up Brody had a series of short interactions with his new partner in radicalism, Roya, his marine buddies and Dana. Most significant in all of these was his reaction to the Tom Walker situation, a situation that isn’t going to go away with a short speech about how he turned. In a stark sense of realisation Brody says ‘he stopped being a marine the day he turned traitor’ was this a comment about Walker or himself? Judging from his actions so far I don’t think Brody even knows anymore.
The icing on the cake to this episode came in the shape of an SD card found stitched into the bag Carrie took from Fatima’s place. Hats off to the writers for dropping this in so early on in the season. The slow burning tempo that surrounded the early part of the first season isn’t reoccurring this time around, which demonstrates the fact that this show is constantly evolving. The big question facing us now is what will Saul do with this evidence? It’s surely too big to bring Brody down in flames so chances are something will happen to it. If Saul’s the mole he’ll destroy it, if he’s not, will it get stolen or destroyed by a third party? There are simply too many scenarios to contemplate.
Adding a sense of bittersweet to her safe coming was Carrie’s reaction to her house. How can she lead this tame life that she’s been using as a rehabilitation of her psyche? Hopefully the discovery of Brody’s file will bring Carrie back into the fold because those vegetable lasagnes aren’t going to be quite that appealing anymore.
Scene of the Episode: “I’ve never been so sure and so wrong” – The scene between Carrie and Saul on the rooftop epitomises the intense levels of acting that this show demands of it’s cast. Touching and thought-provoking this interaction reminded us that Carrie is still a long way from being okay.