[This is a review of Homeland season 4, episode 7. There will be SPOILERS.]
Well, that was underhanded, sneaky, and manipulative. And for a brief moment, it sure felt like just maybe it could work. That, of course, is in reference to Homeland bringing back Damian Lewis for a brief, two-minute interlude that the episode – rather revealingly titled 'Redux' – used to tease viewers into thinking the impossible had happened, that Sgt. Nicholas Brody had somehow been pulled from death and was holed-up in some swanky mansion in or around Islamabad. And, to the show's credit, given everything that has come in the three and a half seasons before that moment, it didn't seem entirely implausible that the show would actually attempt to bring Brody back.
Now that's not to say that it wouldn't have been implausible for them to do so within the context of the narrative. Had the writers actually brought the character back, the show would have almost certainly lost all of what little credibility it has left. But for the writers to recognize that Homeland has become the series in which something like the return of Brody, especially in such a convenient location, could happen and that it would feel like a very Homeland-y thing to do is actually pretty smart. Sometimes, that level of self-awareness can help make moments like this one pay off in a bigger way, than if the series hadn't fallen into a destructive narrative loop that went on two seasons too long.
Thankfully, they didn't bring Brody back – at least not for good. Although, one can imagine how tempting it must be for the writers to have Lewis pop up every now and again, like Dexter's dad, just to keep Carrie on the straight and narrow, or to really sell her compromised mental and emotional state every time she's been drugged by a foreign intelligence service. That's unlikely to happen, as Lewis' appearance here was quickly wiped away with the reveal that Carrie was having a hallucination – thanks to her taking some other compound that superspy Denis Boyd planted in her room at the request of the ISI agent that's been blackmailing him – and was actually in the arms of Aasar Kahn (Raza Jaffrey).
The question is: can a stunt like that really be wiped away so quickly? There were plenty of clues to suggest it was all in the troubled, drug-addled mind of the show's unstable protagonist, but even then, outside of a "did you see that" water cooler moment, what good could possibly come from this? It certainly puts the show in a tricky situation, as having Brody show up – even hallucination Brody – makes it look like the series not only doesn't want to let go of the past, but that it has no idea where to go without revisiting it. And now it really needs to prove that it has the stuff to go on without him.
To be fair, though, despite the issues that Lewis' appearance raise for the series' long term wellbeing, 'Redux' should at least be commended for pulling its stunt off so successfully in the first place. Sure, the episode managed to set it up by having Carrie lash out at the hospital security guard/staff member her brain was telling her was Quinn, and subtle dialogue cues aside it was fairly obvious the guy she throttled wasn't Peter. The same goes for the imaginary gunplay out on the street, where she took out two shadowy figures and turned her gun on the police, only to realize she wasn't packing heat at all.
What's remarkable about all of this is that the appearance of Brody was still a shock. Moreover, it worked as both a solid manipulation of the audience that reflected the manipulation of Carrie and, for the first time in a long time, made the viewers feel (and see) what Carrie was feeling and seeing. In the end, the impact of the stunt might be to prove that Homeland still has a few tricks up its sleeve, even if it had to symbolically dig up a dead body in order to utilize them.
What's interesting about 'Redux' is that it was actually a solid follow-up to last week's equally solid 'From A to B and Back Again'. The episode was taut and fast-paced, as it focused primarily on verbal confrontations between people and groups of people whose unmet needs were resulting in the escalation of conflict. Primarily, those confrontations were centered on the current and former head of the CIA, as Lockhart had arrived in Islamabad to help with the recovery of his predecessor, Saul, who was last seen as a prisoner of Haissam Haqqani.
While Lockhart presents himself as the aggressor, using a review of Pakistan's aid bill as leverage to pressure the government into acting in Saul's best interest, Saul finds himself having a moral, ethical, ideological, and even theological argument with his captor – briefly before he was forced to sit a stone's throw from where Haqqani and his wife made up for his three-year absence.
Nothing gets resolved; it's all set up for more intrigue down the line, but at this point it doesn't need to be anything more than that. Homeland effectively rebooted its season with the death of Aayan, creating some necessary structure and developing some meaningful tension. It's a shame that it seemingly has to come at the expense of Mandy Patinkin having almost nothing to do for six episodes, but at least here he has some dialogue that shows his character, like Homeland itself, still has spark left in there somewhere. It's just a matter of finding the right time to use it.
The same goes for Carrie. If seeing Brody while having a drug-related episode gets her to a place where she can have a more direct impact on what's going on, then maybe bringing back such familiar narrative crutches will wind up having been worth it.
Homeland continues next Sunday with 'Halfway to a Donut' @10pm on Showtime.