[This is a review of Homeland Season 3, Episode 4. There will be SPOILERS.]
Whether one is perpetrated on the characters within the story, the show's audience, or both, people seem to enjoy when a long con is revealed to have come to fruition. That enjoyment is one of the reasons movies like The Sting and The Usual Suspects (among many others) became such a part of the pop-culture landscape at the time of their release (the decades between said releases indicates something about the enduring popularity of the long con as a story element).
The thing is: When it's revealed that the proverbial wool has been pulled over the audiences' eyes, it generally then becomes a game of retracing the steps to see when and where things happened and how well they fit together. And sometimes the viewer needs to check and see how much of what came before is negated by the reveal, in terms of rendering important narrative moments somewhat pointless.
In the case of Homeland revealing Carrie and Saul had been collaborating in order to draw out the Iranian terrorist who ordered the hit on Langley, the further back you go, the more it strains credulity and the more of the season it seems to negate. The writers (i.e., Alex Gansa) may be able to point out certain dramatic moments early on (like the end of episode 2) and say how they can now be reinterpreted, but if it's not clear without the aid of their commentary – or, in this case, entirely convincing with it – then it's probably a good idea to question the strength of what has transpired.
So, the question, then, may be: How much does the actual con walk the line between being truly captivating and being a cut-rate bit of course correction? It's safe to say that depending on your feelings on Homeland season 3, and your concern as to when and how the details of the con occurred, your acceptance of it will vary dramatically. As mentioned above, the further back it goes, the more it seems to become troublesome. (Again, your mileage on that may vary.)
That's not to say that in the course of 'Game On' the elements of the con were executed poorly, because there was a great deal of tension early on with regard to the rather desperate situation Carrie found herself in, after being suddenly released on furlough from the mental hospital at the behest of Bennett (Martin Donovan). Additionally, when the reveal happened and Carrie was standing in front of Saul, tearfully accepting his praise on a job well done, there was a flash of the relationship between the two that had gone missing this season and it was a terrific moment to have it back.
Regardless any questions that might stem from the specifics of the game Carrie and Saul were playing, in terms of dramatic moments, 'Game On' delivered some terrific bits about their characters that will likely reinforce them for some time to come. Carrie's warning to Saul about leaving her in the institution was handled wonderfully by Danes, but the most compelling part of the episode belongs to Saul. Although it's clear he cares about Carrie and trusts her a great deal, we definitely get the sense that there is nothing and no one he wouldn't sacrifice in order to get closer to the people he's trying to hunt down.
If this is the kind of elaborate ruse Saul is able to pull off, then no terrorist in the world is safe.
Homeland continues next Sunday with 'The Yoga Play' @9pm on Showtime. Check out a preview below: