Early in its third season, Homeland seemed to be running in slow motion—and, at its worst, in reverse. But something interesting has happened in these mid-season episodes, as its plots have twisted and its storytelling has tightened: the pace has quickened, to the degree that last week’s episode and this week’s, “Still Positive,” seem to have each packed in a good two or three episodes worth of story turns. If anything, the once stagnant show is now in danger of being too fleet of foot, of being in such hurry to click through the next reveal that they’re not giving themselves adequate time to delve into each beat. But, frankly, that’s a far less worrisome problem than some of the woes they were facing early on.
But it does seem strange to have Carrie give up the ghost on her and Saul’s plan to Javadi so quickly; her deception, and the tension of Javadi possibly uncovering it (though he possibly already had by the end of last week’s episode) seems like something they could’ve exploited a little further. Instead, Carried drops the embezzlement charge by the end of their first meeting, confesses that her and Saul hatched their plot on 12/13, and gets down to the business of arguing over the “procedure” for delivering him to Saul.
No point in quibbling over potential missed opportunities, though; the episode’s snappy pace leads to the killer (literally) set piece in which Javadi visits his ex-wife’s house, blows his daughter-in-law away, and takes out his ex with a broken bottle. Bloody, gruesome stuff, that—and with the eerie human touch of the crying baby left in the crib, the toughness of Saul’s call is brought home by the lingering close-up on his face as the kid wails.
So the elements that matter are all nicely executed in “Still Positive”, right up to Saul’s final clock-cleaning of “the biggest asset of his career”—not an unexpected move, but a satisfying one. Some of the episode’s odds and ends, however, don’t quite add up. Carrie’s previously unrevealed pregnancy provides an interesting new ripple, both in terms of the show’s future and the question of paternity (Has it been too long since she was with Brody? Was it the random hook-up guy she ended up crashing with while on the lamb?). But the insert of the drawer loaded with those positive tests, all neatly stacked, is a bit much, even for someone with Carrie’s considerable psychosis.
Unsurprisingly, things are a little tense between Saul and the missus these days, leading to an important question: Do we care about Saul’s domestic woes? This is Saul, after all, so yes, perhaps a little bit, but they’d be wise not to overplay their hand here; mostly, his shrugging off of his wife’s explanations (“I don’t have any claim on you … not anymore”) provide a none-too-subtle parallel between his feelings about his job and his marriage, both of which seem to be slipping out of his grasp. That beat ultimately works, but the show’s writers should be careful about giving us too much domestic melodrama at the Berenson home, lest they end up with another Dana on their hands.
And speaking of which: we now have a Brody daughter with a new name (“I can’t be Dana Brody anymore”) and a new home, a heretofore unseen friend arriving to take Dana off to her new home. Jess objects mildly, but ultimately goes along with it, which, sure, makes sense, seems totally in character. On the other hand, we beggars can’t be choosers; if this is indeed a Dana exodus of some sort, who am I to quibble with the details? Saul’s advice to the too-late CIA clean-up man would be wise for the show to heed w/r/t Dana: “Keep moving, don’t stop.”