5
Nov
2012
Homeland: Season 2, Episode 6
A Gettysburg Address
Jordan
A Gettysburg Address is my least favorite episode of Homeland so far this season. It doesn't do anything glaringly stupid with Brody, like "State of Independence" did with its silly trek through the woods, but it gives a lot of its screen time over to what have quickly become the show's two weakest plot lines: Detective Mike and guilty Dana. Both of these are time sucks, the sort of story beats we've seen elsewhere before that will either not amount to anything or are taking far too long to get there.

I liked some small moments of the Detective Mike storyline. I enjoyed the show finally pulling back the curtain enough to reveal how out of his depth Mike is by throwing him in a room with Saul. I liked the brief, momentary hesitation from Jessica before she denied Mike's assertion that Brody killed Tom Walker. She doesn't trust her husband anymore, but beyond that, I think she immediately wonders whether he did kill Tom, but while working for the CIA. Either way, that moment was nicely ambiguous. The rest of this story, though, continues to be stupid. So Mike sees that Brody has fired his gun at some point, and that proves he killed Tom Walker? Either Mike is smart enough to be putting pieces together, or he's being dragged down by Lauder into a swamp of conspiracy; the show can't have it both ways. And the longer this plays out without going anywhere, the more I feel like Mike showing up on screen is an excuse to check my email or make a sandwich (I call this phenomenon, in which I completely tune out whenever certain characters are on screen, "Dexter Disease," and its very bad for my feelings about the overall show in the long term).

Detective Mike's storyline doesn't make me sad, however, because I've never been a huge Mike fan. Dana, on the other hand, is actually a well drawn character who is often utilized very well by the show. I enjoyed the build up to her relationship with Finn more than I ever would have guessed, but the hit and run last week has caused this story to veer immediately into territory that is frustrating, boring, or, at its worst, both. This all plays off as an excuse to give Morgan Saylor, a very capable young actress, things to do, and while she handles what she's given well, that can't save this plot line from seeming like a dead end from the beginning. Homeland is a show that can make seemingly irrelevant details incredibly important, and it wouldn't surprise me if this is actually going somewhere, but that doesn't exclude how poorly it is getting there. At its worst, the show feels like 24 with a prestigious cast and a longer-lasting structure, and Dana and Finn's hit and run feels like something that show would have come up with to distract a CTU employee for a few episodes when there was nothing better for them to do. This is leagues better than "Kim Bauer fights a cougar," for the moment, but if I have to write "Kim Bauer fights a cougar" in a review, things aren't going well.

With those two slow-moving train wrecks out of the way, the rest of "A Gettysburg Address" feels like piece-moving, which I have to admit the show is entitled to after last week. Homeland blew up its status quo with "Q&A," and it needs some time to adjust to its new normal, with Brody working for the CIA. And I admit that calling an episode that kills off at least one, and arguably two major characters a "piece mover" is a little harsh, but that late-episode twist aside, this was mostly an episode-long adjustment.

And ultimately, that twist feels more constructed than I'd like. I've talked before about my worries that Abu Nazir is a sort of magical terrorist ninja who is always several steps ahead of everyone and can do things that are seemingly impossible just to make him seem more threatening. I can buy that Nazir is having the tailor's shop watched. But to have a SWAT team-like force ready to go in and gun down 7 CIA agents (if Carrie's body count is correct) to remove whatever WMD was in that box stretches credulity. I know that Homeland takes place in a different reality, where terrorist attacks occur more frequently, but the idea that this attack goes down in a vacuum as it appears to here, bothers me. This show is smarter about political implications than 24 ever was, and it was disappointing to jump from the gun battle to Carrie's reaction, without any sense of the aftermath.

That being said, Carrie's reaction was wonderful, as was (unsurprisingly) every scene between Carrie and Brody tonight. The show shines when it deals with these two, and their evolving relationship gives it a lot of places to potentially go, most of which are very interesting. This is a show that is often inelegant when it needs to get us from point A to point B, but it nails every single scene between its leads, and excels at character development like few other dramas currently on television. And, ultimately, if episodes like "A Gettysburg Address" mean that we can reach the heights of hours like "Q&A" a few times a season, I think it is probably worth the slight strains to get there. And as much as I have harped on some of the negative aspects of the episode, the show really does its best to minimize the strict piece moving stuff, or at least to keep it interesting. Morgan Saylor can carry her plot well enough that it isn't in Dexter Disease or Kim Bauer fighting cougars territory yet. And all of the heavy lifting the Brody-Carrie scenes had to do was eased by a lot of well utilized tension. Virgil's inability to get audio was frustrating in a visceral sense, and Brody's meeting got added suspense out of the idea that we may have lost audio again.

Plus, this new status quo is one that excites me for all of its potential. Brody and Carrie working together means more shared screen time for Damian Lewis and Claire Danes, and that can never be a bad thing. Watching Brody juggle his lies is always a pleasure, and seeing the high-wire act of Carrie back in the intelligence game is as exciting as it is dread-inducing. As much as I love watching our hero do what she does best, Homeland is great at reminding us that, even when her methods pay off, Carrie is brash and dangerous, usually only a few steps from making a terrible mistake and sending everything cascading out of control. And then there is that shootout, a twist that leaves Danny dead and Quinn TV-show dead (which is to say, almost certainly alive), and indicates that things with Abu Nazir are a lot more serious than we had previously worried. Again, the twist felt magic terrorist ninja-y to me, but I have to admit I was shocked by it, and am withholding judgment on whether it ultimately strains credulity too much for me. We'll see where its going. If "A Gettysburg Address" is laying the groundwork necessary for another episode like "Q&A" in the back half of the season, I expect this will all seem worth it in hindsight.

Grade: B-

Notes:

-"The deal is full fucking disclosure, not pick and choose what you say." Quinn is a bit of a loose cannon himself, and I enjoy how he has started to bemusedly accept that Carrie's hunches tend to be right. Let's all hope really hard he isn't dead. Though, as I alluded to above, TV shows that give us a shot of one of our heroes still breathing after being shot usually tend to let them live.

-Virgil didn't have a great night, effectiveness wise.

-"Don't you lie to me." "Carrie!" "Don't you touch me, don't you fucking dare!" Yeah, Claire Danes is good at acting.
Tags: Homeland
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