Residual tension and expectations remain high after last week's Homeland, an episode that took Carrie (Claire Danes) to the Middle East and saw her put her life on the line for little more than a pat on the back. In the midst of essentially handing the CIA Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban) – which served as a sort of vindication – Carrie also inadvertently landed physical evidence that Brody (Damian Lewis) is the sleeper agent she suspected him of being.
"I was right," Carrie proclaims at the episode's end. You would be hard-pressed to find three words that mean more to a single character than those do to Carrie Mathison. After all the pain, humiliation and self-doubt, the victory couldn't have come at a better time.
But as 'State of Independence' starts out, it's almost no victory at all. Leaving Beirut, Saul (Mandy Patinkin) is intercepted at the airport by a Hezbollah agent, who rifles through his briefcase and manages to procure the memory card that supposedly contains Brody's taped confession. It's an infuriating moment where Saul is forced to stand idly by, in enemy territory, as Carrie's absolution slips through his fingers. After a terse lecture and demand he never return to Lebanon, Saul reveals to the audience the level of his game and how the confiscated memory card was a fake meant to throw such a search and seizure off the real prize.
While Saul is in the air, Carrie is eager to participate in the debriefing of her mission in Beirut. She's up all night writing a report, and spends much of the following day checking her cell phone, but it soon becomes clear David Estes (David Harewood) and the CIA still see her as a liability. At one point after confronting Estes, he asks her if she'd come to believe reinstatement was imminent, and while it looked much harsher in the preview for the episode, it's still a blow Carrie's not emotionally ready to take. She's been wired since her return from Beirut, and the disappointment is too much for her fragile state of mind to accept.
Carrie's been circling the drain since the end of last season, and though she'd found some reason to hang on, the roller-coaster ride of the past few days sends her spiraling into a dark depression that's made all the more resonant given what Saul is in possession of. Carrie methodically undertakes the process of killing herself, and does so with such a matter-of-fact demeanor that it's clear the thought of suicide was never too far from her mind. It's the pit of despair for the character, but the ultimate low she reaches manages to make Saul's appearance at her home all the more exciting and uplifting. It also manages to make the tape more of a significant tool in the development of the characters than a simple plot device to put Brody in the crosshairs of the CIA once more.
It's troublesome how fulfilling the Carrie thread is, when the very same episode manages to be so lopsided and feature a Brody story that becomes (inadvertently?) hilarious while trying too hard to force the character into a villainous role.
For whatever reason, tailors and spies go hand in hand. And in 'State of Independence' Brody is tasked by Abu Nazir to deliver one to a safe house on the same night he's scheduled to make a speech at the fundraiser hosted by Jessica (Morena Baccarin) and Mrs. Walden (Talia Balsam). It's a contrived little plot device that never really manages to arrive at that place of suspense it was clearly aiming for. Waffling between his obligation to Jessica, and his need to appease Abu Nazir – although warning him a bullet had his name on it apparently wasn't enough – Brody's story intends to take his paranoia and that of the tailor and set them against one another to great confusion in order to create conflict.
Beyond the issue of why a public figure like Brody would be sent to pick up and transport an individual who will soon be on the CIA watch list – if he's not there already – the storyline frustratingly devolves into a series of increasingly funny mishaps, which includes a convenient flat tire, Brody MacGyvering a jack and the tailor galloping along a railroad track in the middle of the afternoon. Following the bizarre sequence, Brody tracks the man into the forest where he's attacked and in the ensuing pursuit, ends up impaling the panicky tailor moments before he realizes his only choice is to kill the guy, bury him in a really shallow grave and then clean off in a car wash under bright fluorescent lights.
All of this happens while Jessica is giving a rousing speech at her fundraiser, and then being taken home by her former flame, Mike (Diego Klattenhoff). Brody catches them preparing to go into the house, and his suspicion is met by Jessica's doubt that her husband was where he said he was all day. There's nothing wrong with creating a some additional drama in the Brody household, and this is a good way to keep Mike relevant, but it all comes at the wrong time following the rather comical journey of Brody's day.
Thankfully, despite some of the rather silly circumstances in much of the episode, the 'State of Independence' ends on Carrie's realization that, mental illness or not, she had Brody pegged all along.
Homeland continues next Sunday with 'New Car Smell' @10pm on Showtime. You can check out a preview of the episode below:
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