[This is a review of Homeland season 3, episode 5. There will be SPOILERS.]
The storyline for Homeland began in such a way that the audience was thrust into a strange and dangerous situation involving the return of Sgt. Brody that in many ways triggered the deterioration of Carrie Mathison's mental state. That particular dynamic was undoubtedly what captivated everyone watching during the first season, and it has been an aspect the show has repeatedly attempted to recreate with varying degrees of success.
One of the reasons that element of the show is so difficult to capture again is because it all hinged on what we didn't know about the characters and, more to the point, what they didn't know about one another. But now the proverbial cat is out of the bag and while Carrie and Brody have grown closer, and we as the audience have gotten to know them better, there is still one aspect of Carrie Mathison that we haven't really seen yet, and that is: Carrie operating in the field as a spy.
For much of seasons 1 and 2, Carrie was operating under extreme duress and anxiety over not only her apprehension with regard to the complicated relationship she had developed with a sleeper agent, but she was also operating out of fear that another 9/11-like attack on the U.S. was imminent. Obviously, as a result of several different factors, she was unable to prevent that attack from happening and several hundred people lost their lives. But now we know everything that's happened in season 3 (much of which was part of an elaborate ruse cooked up by Saul and Carrie in response to the Langley bombing) is an attempt to show just how good a spy Carrie can be, and why she's not only Saul's protégé, but why he'd be willing to use her in an incredibly sensitive operation like drawing out Majid Javadi (Shaun Toub, Iron Man).
A lot of Saul's decisions – as they pertain to Carrie – appear to fly directly in the face of common sense, but they have to be based on something. To its credit, Homeland is trying to rebuild the standing of its characters by demonstrating their ability to do the job the series and its storyline needs them to do. And although she's possibly the most unreliable character on television at the moment (a fact that actually makes her compelling), the writers still have at their disposal an unexplored facet of Carrie that makes her compelling. The exploration of Carrie's abilities in the field as a spy opens up a whole new arena for the character, in terms of what the audience has seen from her.
Unlike Brody, whose past was revealed as part of his motivation to strap on a bomb vest in season 1, Carrie's past was really only explored insomuch as it pertained to her failures, and her story from then on became an extension and, arguably, a progression of failures that now threatens to put the entire CIA in the hands of the guy who wrote Killer Joe (Tracy Letts).
There have been hints and suggestions of Carrie's abilities in the world of spycraft, but we've never really been able to see them in a non-Brody related manner until now. And although Brody is still the catalyst for what she's doing, the fact that he's out of the picture (for the time being) may be exactly what the character needs in order to let her inner spy out, to do some much-needed good.
Homeland continues next Sunday with 'Still Positive' @9pm on Showtime. Check out a preview below:
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