Because we live in a contrarian world where a widely held and mostly accepted view is ripe for knee-jerk reconsideration, there’s been an outbreak lately of “In Defense of Dana Brody” pieces. The trials and tribulations of Nicholas Brody’s daughter, a mild distraction last season, have been targeted by many writers (including this one) as season three’s biggest drag, so now we’re hearing how the Dana-hate is overblown, hateful, and transparently sexist, Homeland’s equivalent to the frequently worrisome online venom directed at Breaking Bad’s Skylar White. To which I say, poppycock—and last night’s episode, “The Yoga Play,” was a fine example of why.
First comes the housekeeping. Quinn’s early visit to Saul lets us clear up the questions left by last week’s big reveal—primarily, how far back did this thing go? (All the way, it turns out.) Saul is on his way to a geese-hunting weekend with the President’s chief of staff (the great character actor William Sadler, from The Shawshank Redemption and Die Hard 2) and his old nemesis Senator Lockhart, presumably to grease some wheels for his confirmation as permanent CIA head. Ha ha, funny story, Lockhart’s actually gonna get the gig (“So this isn’t really about tempering your views, it’s about changing them”), and when Saul heads home early, he finds his wife in the middle of a dinner date. So, in summary, a red letter day for Saul!
Intermingling that plotline is Carrie’s progression towards her rendezvous with Javadi. Director Clark Johnson, the Wire vet who did such a bang-up job with the season’s third, Brody-heavy episode, puts together a tight, unnerving sequence late in the episode, as Javadi’s goons unexpectedly invade Carrie’s home late at night, their intentions unclear (what do they know? What will they do?) and Quinn too far away to know precisely what’s happening, or to step in effectively even if he did. It’s a crackerjack sequence, and the uncertainty of Javadi’s closing line (“You’re in good shape. Must be all that yoga”) ends the episoe on just the right, uncertain note.
So all of these elements work—and Patinkin is in rare form this week, his passive/aggressive toast to Lockhart pretty much summing up everything that’s so perfect about Patinkin in the role. But then… there’s Dana, whose short-lived getaway with dreamy/scary Leo (“Two teenagers run away on a fuckfest, Romeo and Juliet,” sneers the FBI guy to Carrie, making for a nice in-joke reference to Danes’s own history with that play) comes to a shrugging conclusion, finally.
To be clear: the problem with the Dana Brody subplots isn’t just that they’re out of tone with the rest of the show, or that they’re about a teenage girl, or any of the other straw man arguments that have been posited in her defense. It’s that they don’t move the show forward. If anything, they move it backward; they make the show around them, and the people around her, dumber. Don’t agree? I have a shiny dollar coin for the first person who can actually convince me that Jess would go to Carrie, of all people, for help finding Dana. And then I’ll buy a fucking car for the first person who can convince me Carrie would help her, when doing so, as Saul notes, compromises an operation they’ve been surreptitiously working on for weeks.
Near the end of the episode, Dana goes home, assures her mom she’s okay, and goes to her room to cry, and that’s pretty much it. Her escapade seems to have served no purpose, aside from jeopardizing Carrie on her way in to the Javadi meeting—a fine notion, but one that needs to be grounded in a more believable way than this. Maybe now that this little arc is over, Homeland will finally sideline this gratuitous and distracting character for a bit, or figure out something interesting to do with her. I certainly hope so, because I’m about as tired of writing “this week’s episode was quite good, except for Dana” every week as you are of reading it.