On one hand, it’s not fair to a show that’s been as good as Homeland to have contemplated jumping ship on it after two bad episodes. On the other hand, those were two really bad episodes. But I’d take no pleasure in abandoning the show at this point (particularly since I’ve already signed up to recap the entire season), so it is a relief that “Tower of David” is such a welcome return to form for the show. And it’s not that hard to figure out why it worked: lots and lots of Brody.
From his initial appearance, handed off bald and badly bleeding to heavily armed men on a Venezuelan beach, it’s plan that Damian Lewis’s bleary-eyed intensity is exactly the shot of adrenaline this show needs right now. He squirms away in the back of a pick-up truck on his way to a makeshift surgery session in an unknown location. “Are you a doctor?” he asks the man going to work on him. “Interesting question,” he responds. Yeah, that’s really one you want a yes/no on.
But he’s patched up, given a bit of white powder for his pain, and sent off to his room. He’s now in Caracas, shielded by a man who counts Carrie as a friend in common. He slowly mends, and “Tower of David” becomes something like Breaking Bad’s “Granite City” episode: an account of an antihero off in exile, catching us up. The season’s first two episodes suffered badly from a lack of Brody (and Lewis), but this one makes up for it; the first half of the episode is his entirely, and he continues to dominate the second half, albeit in rotation with Carrie, rotting away in that mental facility.
“I was wondering if you could tell Saul Berenson how much better I’m doing,” she tells her doctor, already having pivoted away from the “Fuck you, Saul” pose that ended last week’s episode. Her doctor grills her, testing her on her forgiveness of her former boss (“So Saul did you a favor, putting you in the hospital?”); based on her responses, she wouldn’t make much of a poker player. But she still clearly needs his support and affirmation, and as she stares out the window longingly, hoping for her Saul to come, there is the tantalizing hint that this season’s rift between the two characters could allow some exploration of the co-dependent nature of their relationship.
“Tower of David” is directed by Clark Johnson, who helmed two first season episodes of the show, in addition to installments of The Shield, Homicide, and The Wire (and he played city editor “Gus” Haynes in the final season of the latter show). He’s a top-notch director, and he invests the episode with a smooth professionalism, handling the dramatic and action beats equally well—the shoot-out at the imam’s, for example, left this viewer gasping, the season’s first truly great set piece.
Most importantly, he makes clear the connections between Carrie and Brody in the little prisons they’re stuck in. “I need my meds,” Carrie says, after her disappointing meeting with the (maybe, maybe not?) law associate, and shortly thereafter, returned to an even tinier and more depressing room, Brody reaches for the needle that’s been left for him; he needs his meds too. Johnson cuts to a high angle shot in a cold, spotlight, and then fades to a similar set-up for Carrie, also looking forlorn in some very moody light, ending the episode on exactly the right, slightly depressing note.
On the downside, the telescoped two-handed narrative means “Tower of David” features no scenes with Mandy Patinkin’s Saul. But if the trade-off is no Dana, hey, works for me.