Flatiron Hot! Critic: Homeland S2E11 “The Motherfucker With a Turban”

Homeland is at its best when it focuses less on the details of its labyrinthine plot and more on the effect the circumstances portrayed have on its characters. Episode 10, humorously titled “The Motherfucker With the Turban,” features some of the worst of the former and the best of the latter, often on a scene-to-scene basis. As usual, Carrie Mathison (Clair Danes), Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) and company are fascinating to watch. But as the CIA converge on the convenient abandoned warehouse where Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban) held Carrie captive in last week’s episode, “Broken Hearts,” we know they’re not going to find the evil genius just like that.

He’s already proven himself capable of materializing on U.S. soil and landing his helicopter in the middle of an open field without getting nabbed by the C.I.A., so we know he must have a more ingenious escape trick up his sleeve than….hiding behind a wall. Seriously, that’s how they catch the show’s main antagonist since the first season? I mean, couldn’t he have at least dug himself a concealed tunnel or something? It all feels a bit anti-climactic, although perhaps all is not as it seems. Homeland has backed itself out of some narrative corners fairly gracefully in the past. Perhaps Abu Nazir is in fact alive and kicking? I could have sworn I saw a brief shot of him in the teaser for next week’s episode. But still, whatever sense of semi-plausibility this show had as a credible portrayal of counter-terrorism is officially gone.

But then again, that’s never what Homeland has ever really been about. Complex characters are what distinguish it from other shows and movies of its genre. And on that count, “The Motherfucker With a Turban” satisfies. Saul Berenson’s interaction with the lie-detector guy, making an irritating but memorable return after being shelved since last season, is hilarious and truly gets at the core of the character we’ve come to know and love. This is exactly how I would have pictured Saul responding to being bound up in red tape by David Estes, but somehow the dialogue still feels spontaneous and clever.

The travails of the Brody family are heartbreaking to watch. A feeling of impending doom truly hangs over every scene, and we can’t help but sympathize with a guy who’s essentially a weak-willed and selfish son-of-a-bitch who was going to launch a terrorist attack on the U.S., only to change his mind so he can carry on an ill-fated affair with a hot counterintelligence offer who “understands him.” Yet, we fear for his future, and a part of us dreads the come-uppance that we suspect is on the horizon (that is, if Homeland’s writers are willing to kill off one of their leads when the writing calls for it).

It’s a good thing that season 2 of Homeland is coming to a close next week, as much as I love it, because in all honesty the plot is starting to feel dragged out. Things have been moving at a glacial pace over the past couple of episodes, drawing unflattering attention to the show’s sometimes-clumsy plotting and repeating itself thematically without much payoff. I’m not as hostile to Dana Brody (Morgan Saylor) and her arc as some critics; her role, while occasionally grating, is a necessary one, reminding us of the effect her father’s actions are having on the family in a straightforward way that his monosyllabic son and simpler wife cannot. But how many times do we have to hear her verbally maul her old man before we get the point?

Speaking of getting to the point, I’ll put my money on Jessica and Brody’s car conversation being the last time they meet. In keeping with Homeland’s best qualities, the relationship resolves in an emotional, dramatic, yet not too over-the-top manner that really shows us the cores of these characters. If they are indeed about to part ways forever, then this was the perfect final interaction for them to have: closure, but not too much closure. Jessica’s decision not to learn the reason behind her husband’s odd behavior (and that’s putting it way mildly) is surprising, but sadly believable.

A satisfying ending to the season will fit that same description. Homeland’s season finale needs to follow through on the harsh themes that it has been pounding into our heads since episode 1 (in part, by killing off Brody), while doing so in a way that also feels unexpected. That’s a tall order, and some of the writers’ plotting missteps in the past few weeks leave me with some doubts, but I’d by lying if I said waiting until next week’s “The Choice” isn’t going to be difficult.

One response to “Flatiron Hot! Critic: Homeland S2E11 “The Motherfucker With a Turban”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s