With the recent news that Showtime executives forbade Dexter writers from killing their serial killer her in the finale, it’s hard not to be weary of what Homelandseason 3 will be like when it comes to Nicholas Brody. Nick Brody has escaped certain (logical story death) twice now and seemingly used up all the story oxygen one could muster to keep him around. “Tower of David” which is written by Henry Bromell & William Bromell, directed by Clark Johnson, rightfully wonders “Why is Nicholas Brody still alive?” No one ventures forth with something resembling an answer but the fact he question is at least being put forth is a sign I’ll read as good for now.
That question is beaten into Brody as he finds himself in yet another hole in yet another country Caracas, Venezuela (how you get there from Newfoundland is beyond me). By his Doctor friend, his would be nurse, and his Jailer El Nino. The Doctor goes so far as to characterize Brody as a cockroach. Continually surviving and trudging along as everything and one around him dies. This week it is an Iman, his wife, two police officers, and a thief who die around him. It’s like Brody’s mere presence just fucks everything up. So why is he alive?(Hint: to win Emmy’s) What story is there left to tell beyond breaking him down (again). There is the real chance to this devolves into some slightly more stylish Sons of Anarchynihilism. At some point he’s got to wonder if he isn’t just better off dead. Ending this episode contemplating a does of heroin to dull the pain of existance.
Homeland season 2 was built on bold plot points. Points that often forced the rest of the story (the nebulos emotional and character parts) to operate on a massive amounts of coincidence, structural failures, and dumb luck. Saul getting the Brody tape is no different than Carrie and abu Nazir finding themselves in a mini-slasher film. The only things that separated them were about 4 episodes and weeks of television.
So far Homeland season 3 has gone with subtler bold choices and plot points. The first two epsiode play like a reboot of the series, shifting focus off of Carrie and Brody and on to the bead of Saul. Putting Saul under the pressure microscope as he deals with running a maimed and green CIA with old devils like Dar Adal and spooks like Quinn still haunting the corridors. Carrie has been written out of the main thread, locked away in a psych ward. While Brody isn’t around at all in the first two episodes and is now so far removed from anything resembling a main thread. Now in episode 3 this shift in focus changes and it’s once again all about Carrie and Brody as they adjust to their new prisons and lack of agency. Homeland has put their two leads into cages ala LOST season 3. That is a bold move.
We spend the first half of “Tower of David” on Brody. Recovering from two bullets to the gut, thanks to some Colombian friends as he crossed the border. Watching him learn the limits of his new leash and attempts to escape this new hole are a bit heavy handed. They never go anywhere you wouldn’t see coming 10 minutes before the idea popped into Brody’s head to seek refuge in the mosque. Director Clark Johnson takes this weak plot and gives it some much needed texture. With several beautiful shots of the Caracas city sky line, juxtaposing such urban sprawl against the smallness of Brody and the hugeness of the titular Tower of David. Getting to follow Brody has he explores the tower is filled with such a mixture of playfulness and terror that it almost makes up for having Brody alive in the first place. Venezuela is so different compared to the white metropolitan District of Columbia or the faint hints of the Middle East we have gotten.
The new setting allows for Homeland to surround Brody with vaguely interesting characters. The pedophile Doctor, who is constantly trying to get Brody addicted to heroine to earn compliance. Who is played with a vaguely southern drawl. What’s up with him? A question that applies to all these dwellers. How did El Nino gain control of the tower and what about his daughter, who really becomes more than the sum of her parts thanks to the performance she is given. Brody finds himself living in this tower of misfit toys according to the Doctor. A place that accepts though who have been cast aside or need shelter. Still Brody finds himself apart from these people and more alien than if he were to go to a mosque and claim he was a muslim. It is alienating to the audience as well due to an utter lack of subtitles when spanish is being spoken, or any sense of how much time is passing (only that time is passing).
After the halfway point, “Tower of David” begins to cut away to Carrie, now three weeks into her stay in the psych ward. Henry Bromell & William Bromell connects the two would be lovers by mirroring their plots throughout the back half of “Tower of David”. With Johnson coming in and visually connecting the pair through editing. Brody alone with only a single light shining down upon him contemplates using the syringe of heroin to dull the pain of existence. Johnson then cuts Carrie sitting in the corner of her own cell with only the moonlight illuminating her. Almost connecting the two together even if they don’t realize. She could be in one of those dark corners of Brody’s cell. This is the kind of texture and thought that makes me love “Tower of David” as a singular piece of media. A meandering and unsurprising plot is transformed filmically into something beautiful. The focus on the connection shared between Carrie and Brody isn’t on their tortured doomed lovers status but instead on the connection they share as broken cogs that were grinded out by the machines they worked for.
Carrie doesn't want to admit she may not be entrapped in some kind of CIA conspiracy to shut her up or teach her a lesson. A paranoid delusion to explain why she finds herself in the psych ward in the first place. Then she appears to be pulled into a big o’ll CIA Conspiracy. The mysterious visitor isn’t Saul, Dar Adal, or Peter Quinn. It is a lawyer who is only visiting because a partner has asked him to. Carrie almost immediately jumps to the conclusion she is being worked over to flipping for another spy agency. It’s so crazy it has to be a paranoid delusion. I stick around for the preview and credits for Homeland. I don’t do that for most shows actually. Showtime has the knack for being a bit spoilery in how it presents these previews. This latest batch isn’t all that spoilery, it just seems to confirm that Carrie is right (this show seems hell bent on not letting her be wrong in a meaningful way). Can you hear the insane plot train startting to rev up?