“Good Night,” the latest episode of “Homeland,” is the greatest indicator so far that “Homeland” was adapted and produced by “24” alums. Given that “24” was fueled completely by shootouts and contrivances, I have to wonder if director Kieth Gordon, as well as writers Alexander Cary and Charlotte Stoudt, had dusted off their copies of “24” Seasons 6 through 8.No matter its faults “Good Night” is still an engrossing hour of television, and the best episode this season.
The plan to get Brody into Iran is in play and takes up much of this episode. There are a lot of shots of Saul, Carrie, and Quinn (plus several CIA lackeys we’ve never met before) watching the action on a screen inside their CIA operations room, but the episode belongs to Brody. He’s near the Iraq/Iran border with the special forces guys he trained with last week, shooting the shit, and then shooting the shit out of things.
“You can’t do this by yourself.”
Damien Lewis can sell the Hell out of anything, but unfortunately “Homeland” cannot sell the idea that Brody could die at any moment. Once guns start firing the tension is supposed to ramp up considerably since Brody could die at any moment, and shutter the whole mission, but we know that’s not going to happen. This all stems from the Rocky-esque training montage we saw last week in “Horse and Wagon.” We saw him go from heroin junkie to soldier in just sixteen days, after being locked up in piss poor conditions for months. Brody has avoided death so many times this season that we know he’s only going to die in the finale, when the writers deem it appropriate. The writers have stripped any ambiguity from Brody and now he’s a fallen hero trying to regain his honour. It’s not a wise decision to take Brody in this direction, and it diffuses some of the tension in this episode, and for episodes to come.
Besides the well staged and shot action, “Good Night” really reveals its “24” heritage stringing us along through a long series of contrivances. First the route to the Iran border is blocked, and then Brody and his team run into the cops, and then the truck Brody is in runs over an IED (which somehow doesn’t obliterate them) all in the name of stretching out the tension. I went along willingly with these delays, but in the back of my mind I couldn’t get over just how obvious these attempts to heighten the suspense were. But whatever, it’s an action episode and action episodes are packed with contrivances.
“If you don’t snap out of it we’re all going to die here tonight.”
Even with the issue of Brody at the center of “Good Night,” and the obvious roadblocks, I still really liked it. I would go so far to say that it is the best episode of this season. All of that good will stems from how simple this episode is. I had thought last week that “Horse and Wagon” was the bridging episode between Act 2 and Act 3, but now I see that “Good Night” is in fact that episode. There’s minimal CIA background shenanigans, only a brief scene about Carrie’s stupid baby, and Lockhart barely makes a fuss. Everything is about Brody’s mission in Iran. Since Brody’s mission is so simple (he only needs to get across the border and surrender) I stayed invested in it the whole time, unlike everything we saw earlier this season with the Javadi play.
Of course, this simplicity does backfire. When simplicity works this well, it throws everything that came before into sharp relief. The plan to bring Javadi in and then turn him had too many parts, and was so overly plotted that I stopped caring. Brody fighting for his life in the middle of nowhere? That holds my attention.
“What you must do is keep a cool head and take great care not to panic.”
There’s the possibility that next week we’ll be right back into the more mystery based world of “Homeland,” since Brody is captured by the Iranians and taken to Javadi. It’s a huge coincidence that bothers me, but at this point in “Homeland’s” run I’ve done my best to get over all of the coincidences. All I can hope for in the last two episodes is that “Homeland” writes off most of the background plots and focuses solely on Brody and his mission overseas, because that is what will hold the audiences attention.
My Rating: 8/10