I have spent much of this season ripping into “Homeland.” Throughout all of season three there have been individual bright spots, namely in regards to acting and directing, and how the show has portrayed Saul. Overall though, the master plot of the season has been weak and full of lame twists. And then, just when I thought it couldn’t possibly be any dumber, “Homeland” goes and does something like “Big Man in Tehran”… and totally redeems itself!
Brody is finally in Iran, and “Homeland” can finally kick into gear. For much of this episode anything not related to the mission is jettisoned, and we get equal amounts of Brody on his mission, and CIA politics and spy craft. No episode this season has been as focused as “Big Man in Tehran,” which is full of lovely character moments and scenes of serious suspense. The episode ends with Brody’s mission complete, though in an ad-hoc way, with a cliffhanger that leaves me legitimately excited for the finale.
“So this is where it all started?”
“Big Man in Tehran” has so much going on that I wish many of the earlier episodes had been done away with entirely or severely truncated so that we could spend more time with Brody in Tehran. The episode jumps ahead six days for the third act, and I really wish I could have seen what happened in those six days. It’s almost as if Chip Johannesson and his writers realized that they had taken too long to unspool their story, and had to rush to move everything into place for the finale. It took way too damn long, but I’m glad they finally realized what they had done.
Ever since he returned two episodes ago Damien Lewis has been a live wire, harkening back to late season one. He’s coiled tight as he has to repeat lie after lie, trapped in the spy game he tried to leave behind. You really see it in his face how much of a toll this takes on him. “Homeland” has always been good at showing how the lifestyle, and the choices you have to make, wear down your spirit, and it has never been finer than this week. We also saw the complete transformation of Saul as he agrees to assassinate Brody, after repeatedly saying he would never kill an American. Everyone has to make choices, and the writers made the right choice in focusing on the consequences of working for the CIA.
“Why did you come here?”
If there is one thing I worry about in “Big Man in Tehran,” it’s how “Homeland” treats Iranian citizens. After his first plan fails Brody digs uncomfortably deep into his cover as a terrorist who hates America, and he is praised as a hero across Iran. To be fair I’ve never been to Iran, but portraying Iranian common folk as American hating, terrorist loving people seems incredibly racist against Iranians. “Homeland” started fairly progressive by giving us an American terrorist, and I feel it has only regressed from there. Any show or movie about terrorism and the Middle East is going to have a racial component, and I feel that there is an obligation to show more than one side of the Middle East and it’s people. So far on “Homeland” all we have is Fara, and she’s been a non-character for most of this season. Hopefully it doesn’t become a larger issue.
The other major point about “Big Man in Tehran” is that the show finally calls Saul on all of his bullshit. His whole plan to draw Javadi out, and then bring Brody back into the fold, all to eliminate the head of Iranian intelligence, is ridiculous, and could only ever have the faintest hope of success if everything went exactly according to plan. Aside from Javadi’s dead ex-wife, everything has. Thankfully in this episode Senator Lockhart sits down with Saul and they have a serious conversation about how much of a long shot this whole plan was. One conversation certainly can’t redeem episode after episode of ridiculous thriller nonsense, but it’s a step in the right direction.
“It was all a long shot.”
Overall I couldn’t be more pleased that “Big Man in Tehran” is as good as it is. Last week’s episode “Good Night” gave me hope that this season could end on a high note, and now that hope is even higher. Everything came to a head in a relatively plausible way, and the tension was so thick and palpable in every scene that I didn’t know what was going to happen next. “Big Man in Tehran” is the high point of the season, and one of the best “Homeland” episodes yet.
My Rating: 9/10