The deeper we get into season three of Homeland, the more it seems that you can neatly classify each year thus far as being, primarily, about one of its leads. Season one was about Brody, season two about Carrie, and season three—after threatening, terrifyingly, to be about Dana—has turned out to be mostly interested in Saul. Its most compelling plotlines have concerned his tenure as head of the CIA, his conflicts with Senator Lockhart, his savvy use of Carrie, and his (it seems so far, anyway) strategic brilliance. And if his marital woes have been a bit of a drag, a soapy sidebar on a show that seldom does that kind of thing well, last night’s episode, “a red wheelbarrow,” indicated that there may be more to that subplot as well.
If one thing was certain going into this edition, it’s that there would be consequences for Saul’s treatment of Lockhart last week; you don’t get to just lock a blowhard like him in a conference room and not pay a price. What’s wonderful about the scene with Chief of Staff Michael Higgins (the great William Sandler) is how Saul manages to put the Senator in his place again, his reveal of a Top Secret folder about Lockhart’s security clearance a baller power play to indicate he’s not yet done paying back the Senator for the duck-hunting weekend. Saul may be burning bridges, but he’s having a fine time doing it.
Meanwhile, flush from an apparent night of rekindling and breakfast in bed the morning after, Mira meets with her something-on-the-side and breaks it off. She’s “giving the marriage another chance,” and he objects, rather intensely. On first viewing, the scene seems to be marking time, writers Alex Gansa and James Joshimura trying a little too hard to give some stakes to this romantic distraction. Come to find out, there’s more going on here than we think; he’s no mere sex buddy but a spy himself, swiping information off of their home computer. (Whether Saul is dumb enough to have private CIA spy shit on his home computer remains to be seen—hopefully they’re not going to ask us to buy that.)
Most of this season’s supporting stand-outs get a least a good scene in “a red wheelbarrow” (being utterly clueless when it comes to reinterpreting poetry into a narrative framework, I’ll leave you, gentle readers, to explain in the comments how the William Carlos William poem connects to the episode, beyond its obvious text-message quotation). It’s a real pleasure to watch F. Murray Abraham and Martin Donovan go at each other in that bar (“Twenty years ago I might’ve fallen for that weak shit… Come after me if you want. I’ve got nothing to hide”), and Fara’s crisis of conscience is a good ripple, giving her some new, conflicted beats to play.
Director Seith Mann (who has helmed episodes of Dexter, Nurse Jackie, Californication, House of Lies, and even a few series that aren’t on Showtime) pulls off some snazzy visual tricks—I like how those low, Dutch angles provide a visual compliment to Carrie and Saul going at each other—and wrings some fine suspense out of the climactic set piece at the motel, with its frankly unexpected turn of Quinn just cold bustin’ a cap in Carrie. She wakes up furious in the back of the ambulance (understandably!), railing, “Something is going on, none of this makes sense. Where the fuck is Saul?” And Saul turns out to be poking around the Tower of David, where Brody has become a smelly, dirty, all-but-comatose junkie.
A few scenes flail, and I’m still not quite sure where they’re going with Carrie’s pregnancy subplot. But her comment about how she “needs to make some things right” with the father indicates that Brody’s return to the narrative will come right on time for her as well. His appearance at the end reveals this to be, primarily, a transition episode—getting us from one place to another, tying together various elements and loose ends. But it does so well, and based on the ducks it’s got in a row now, Homeland may go to some very interesting places in this season’s final four episodes.