About this blog

This is the official blog of Phoenix Roleplaying, a multi-genre simming site, created in August 2010.

Run by the players, we hope to achieve great things.

Where our journey takes us, who knows.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

The Blonde Spy Who Came In From The Cold (Grand Review: 'Homeland' Season 3)


Three episodes into this third run of the tales of TV's favourite bipolar analyst, I actually said on Gallifrey Base, I wanted this show cancelled. More specifically I said "Kill It. Kill It With Fire". An episode later, I'd changed my opinion. Eight episodes after that, I'm starting to think that my first view might have been right.

This review naturally contains HUGE spoilers.


At the end of Season 2, the CIA blew up. Well, a large assembly hall in the compound, but still 212 people died. Saul (as I kind of predicted) ended up acting head of the CIA by virtue of dead man's shoes. Nicholas Brody, framed for the attack, legged it across the Canadian border with assistance from Carrie, who as we learn later on is pregnant - naturally he's the father. Ironically, Clare Danes spends this run pretending to be pregnant... and last season was actually pregnant (it's noticeable in some shots).

Two months have passed and the remaining Brody Bunch (h/t Gallifrey Base) have the associated problems when your primary breadwinner is apparently the biggest traitor to the US since Benedict Arnold. Jessica doesn't do much, but Dana (after an off-screen suicide attempt) ends up in a young person's mental institution, later runs off with a wholly unsuitable guy she met there, changes her last name and finally ends up working as a maid in a motel. A good part of this stuff occurs in the first half of this twelve-episode run and is largely inconsequential to the rest of it.

Brody gets shot while crossing from Colombia to Venezuela. He ends up in a dingy half-finished (but still inhabited) apartment building in Caracas, where he ends up hooked on the heroin used as a painkiller. In fact, he doesn't even turn up until episode three (where his attempt to hide with an imam merely ends up with said imam calling the police and a number of deaths; a reminder, as if it were needed for most people, that most Muslims hate terrorism) and disappears again for a while. While Damien Lewis is clearly a brave man for willing to go bald for a role and spends much of it clearly trying for another Emmy (he lost last year to Jeff Daniels from The Newsroom), it's abundantly clear through much of this run that his arc is heading for a conclusion.

Meanwhile, the CIA decide to launch a batch of reprisal attacks against Iranian linked targets, with six simultaneous strikes involving drones and snipers. Quinn is involved in one of these and in the process manages to shoot dead a kid, something that doesn't really come back on a guy that later on shoots Carrie in the arm.

Naturally, the US Congress decides to investigate the '12/12 bombings' and the CIA, its very existence in jeopardy, has to try to obfuscate just how much trust they placed in Brody (they don't know he helped kill Vice-President Walden and it appears they won't ever know... it was put down as a heart attack). In the process, Saul Berenson pretty much throws Carrie (who remains convinced that Brody was framed) under the metaphorical bus without naming her explicitly live on television and in the process is nasty to a financial analyst just because she wears a headscarf.

(My general response to comments about headscarves is that the Queen wears one too - and she's the head of the Church of England)

Carrie tries to go to the press with her side of the story... and her meeting is rudely interrupted by two cops with a warrant to have her put into detention because she's crazy. Her treatment this season made me wonder whether it would be kinder just to throw the poor woman into a tank of slurry.

At this precise point i.e. episode three, things have gotten so dull, pointless and depressing that I declared my desire for flames to consume this show.

A group of shady lawyers manage to get Carrie out of the place and reveal who they're really working for - Iran, who were behind the CIA bombing, retaliating for Israel bombing their nuclear sites (the first mention of that one in a while). Carrie reluctantly agrees to provide them with information if she gets a face-to-face meet with the Iranian spy, deputy Revolutionary Guards chief Majid Javadi, at the head of this... then goes to Saul and the grand plot twist is revealed.

The whole three episodes - her trashing on TV, the sectioning (although that went on a bit longer than planned, something Carrie was not happy about) and Saul's seeming abandonment of her, were a ruse lifted straight from John Le Carré; specifically The Spy Who Came In The Cold, which involves Alec Lemas doing some porridge (that's jail time to my US readers) to get close to East German intelligence.

Javadi arrives in the US and after he brutally murders his ex-wife and daughter (living in the US after fleeing Iran in 1979) is captured by the CIA... who also have to cover up the murders. Javadi has been embezzling money from the Revolutionary Guards and Saul persuades him to become a high-level CIA asset in Iran, where he can steer their policy to a more peaceful one. Javadi, a man whose relative lack of loyalty to anything is demonstrated by the fact he worked for the Shah's secret police before he worked for the Ayatollah's lot is allowed to head back to Iran. Now we're into some proper cloak-and-dagger stuff.

The writers said they had no convincing reason for Brody to return to the US... but were telling a load of fibs (TV writers frequently do these days, which isn't entirely sporting). Saul suddenly turns up in Caracas where the dragon-chasing Brody is and takes him back to the US, where he is given cold turkey... and a shot at redemption. He is to go to Iran, claim asylum as the actual CIA bomber and get close enough to IRGC chief Danesh Akbari to kill him... so Javadi can take his place.

In the meantime, Saul et al follow a lead for the actual Langley bomber and results in the CIA (to avoid blowing Javadi) allowing his employers to kill him - when Carrie tries to stop this, Quinn shoots her in the arm. She is not happy about this - well, most people wouldn't be when they'd been shot.

During this point, Saul learns that he won't be made permanent chief - a nasty manipulative Senator called Andrew Lockhart will get the gig indeed... the CIA has a long history of putting non-intelligence people in the top spot. Lockhart is persuaded to delay his confirmation, but only by so long and soon starts to cause serious problems for the mission. Saul gets his partial own back when he 'accidentally' locks him in a conference room, definitely the funniest bit in the entire run.

With a cleaned-up Brody now ready for action, he and a CIA team head for Iraq to be covertly inserted into Iran... where things start going a bit Pete Tong MBE. The insertion party manages to set off a landmine and bring down the Iraqi army, but Brody manages to get across the border into Iran with a buddy. They got picked up by the Iranian troops... then Javadi puts a bullet in the buddy's head, demonstrating that he is one ruthless human being.

Brody is taken to Tehran, where a now brunette Carrie, packing a Swiss passport, passes him (through Mossad, who are brought into the op when one of their operatives is caught sleeping with Saul's wife) a poison needle, but he is unable to get close enough to Akbari to jab him. Instead, Brody appears on Iranian television and denounces America... making the CIA think he's turned and order a hit on him. Carrie, who is still loyal to her man (and correct) stops the killing. Brody, in a turn of events I saw the end of coming, lets it be known to Akbari that he has some information for him only.

They have a meeting, he tells Akbari that Javadi is a CIA agent... and before Akbari can tell anyone else, Brody launches a lethal Attack of Opportunity with a heavy glass ashtray. As this scene began, I was thinking "OK, what's he going to use to kill him with" and that wasn't my personal guess.

Brody legs it, but the Revolutionary Guards aren't stupid and figure out that he's the killer, with Javadi assigned to lead the manhunt.

The CIA at this point, to secure Javadi's position (the guy can't exactly start by failing to find his boss' killer), demonstrate an unpleasant streak of Realpolitik, by helping him capture Nicholas Brody - but Javadi intervenes with his men to leave our female spy at liberty. Brody is tried, sentenced to death and publicly hanged from a crane as Carrie watches, powerless to intervene (again, this is something out of a Le Carré) as the former Marine chokes to death. It became pretty obvious by this point that Brody was going to die; his narrative arc had reached a point of conclusion and he'd achieved some form of redemption, even if he wasn't explicitly looking for it. Not mentioned is how embarrassing this whole episode would be for Iran... with Brody going from national hero to hanged traitor in a few days

Four months later, with Saul now ex-CIA, Iran caves in and Carrie (who would have been justified in leaving the whole agency), about to give birth, accepts a job as Station Chief in Istanbul. As the final episode ends, she adds an extra star to the CIA memorial wall (now with 132 new ones, but not one for Brody as Lockhart doesn't want to honour him) using marker pen to commemorate her baby daddy.

Roll credits.


While this continued to be an enjoyable series, the decision to renew it for a fourth season when it had reached some form of narrative conclusion was not one particularly welcomed by my fellow posters at Gallifrey Base. The writers will need to pull something spectacular out of the hat to avoid a low-ratings cancellation after Season 4... but they might just do it.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...