These are memorable times for those of us who are dues-paying members of the Saul Berenson Fan Club. He’s had two badass moments in as many weeks: last week’s ending beat, with Saul punching Javadi dead in the face, and the climactic moment this week when, having finally had enough of Senator Lockart’s bullshit, he just locks the smug blowhard in the conference room. (His second best moment is related, the offhand instruction that “Senator Lockhart managed to get himself locked in the conference room. Can you ask facilities to let him out?”) Between those moments, a series of slow-burn interrogations of Javadi, and his marital woes, this week’s episode, “Gerontion,” is the season’s most Saul-heavy to date. And this, obviously, works in its favor.
It’s not entirely his show, of course. There is fallout to be dealt with after Javadi’s gruesome double murder, since dumb ol’ Peter Quinn, supposedly the slickest of the agency’s black ops dudes, went and got himself photographed on the premises. Then again, maybe slipping was some sort of unconscious self-sabotage—I’m not entirely certain that his crisis of conscience is believable, but his “confession” to the crime is pretty riveting stuff.
Helping matters is his scene partner: the great Clark Johnson, who directed two earlier episodes this season (“Tower of David” and “The Yoga Play”), but is familiar as an actor for his role as Gus the newspaper editor in the final season of The Wire. He also directed for that show, so apparently any program that hires him to direct gets him as an actor too; that’s a pretty good bonus, since I now want a spin-off show about his Bethesda police detective who just hates “national security” people.
“Gerontion” is directed by the wonderful Carl Franklin, whose films (including One False Move, Devil in a Blue Dress, Out of Time) are paced within an inch of their lives. That quality comes in handy here; there’s an urgency in those Saul/Carrie/Peter conferences that permeates the entire episode. And since it’s all moving so quickly, maybe we don’t notice that a few loose ends have been left hanging (hey, remember all those pregnancy tests in Carrie’s bathroom drawer?), or that potential future ripples have been set up somewhat clumsily (Fara fingering those scissors as Javadi exits).
What’s important is that Carrie’s who-did-what-when investigation of the CIA bombing has been teed up (and nicely at that—the driving scenes of Javadi trying to get into her head, and her batting back, are beautifully written and played), and that Mandy Patinkin is crushing it. His scenes with Shaun Toub’s Javadi are a testament to the power of underplaying (which has laways been Patinkin’s speciality); the simplicity of his instructions—“ From now on, you work for us. For me. I’m your new case officer”—is chilling, and he is totally unflappable as Javadi screams and carries on. Saul never raises his voice. In fact, he mocks Javadi for doing so (“You seem upset”).
The performance is painstakingly modulated, building to the moment when he finally does blow his top: as he faces off, over his desk, with Lockhart, a moment that Franklin captures with an equally well-executed dolley move. The whole day would be the giant victory lap he thinks it is when he gets home, were we not aware that his earlier phone call to Mira, with all the kind things he “needed to tell you before it’s too late,” was in fact just that. So, yeah, his timing’s not perfect. But hey, you can’t have everything.
Final note: You didn’t honestly think I’d go this entire recap without mentioning what a thrill it was to have another entirely Dana-free episode, did you?