Last week was the series premiere of Showtime's new terrorist thriller Homeland and it did not disappoint. A slow burning and smart pilot, part 24 with the added unease of a Manchurian Candidate style (possible) brainwashing, last week wasted no time in setting the tone for the series as well as showcasing the phenomenal leads in Claire Danes - as CIA Analyst and psychologically unstable Carrie Mathison - and Damian Lewis - as returning hero or possible sleeper terrorist Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody.
In the first recap, I did not mention the opening titles. They in themselves are quite haunting. Black and white and jazzy and dark. Perfectly setting up this week's episode, "Grace," (as well as every other I suppose) which spends a lot of time in the fractured, half memories of our tortured hero(es). Brody and Carrie are clearly both messed up just in their own way, and we can't even be sure how much of Brody is real and how much is filtered through Carrie's watchful, yet tainted eye.
The episode opens during a Brody flashback/dream sequence, a device that is repeated throughout "Grace," and seems to be a common thread for the series. They are trying to put us inside the scarred mind of the Marine Sergeant, however, as he snaps awake out of the nightmarish flashback so to does Carrie, a constant reminder that we are watching and shaping our opinions of the former captive through the highly skilled yet also somewhat skewed investigative mind of the CIA Analyst.
The Brody half of the episode, both the events directly involving Damian Lewis' captivating work as the returned and possibly turned Marine, as well as those involving his ever adapting family are wrought with tension. The first half of the episode we see him trying to return to some semblance of normality but he's only able to find solace in a corner - still putting on the facade of being fine to his family. When he tries to do something simple like cook pancakes, he ends up viciously wounding a nosy member of the press and then vanishing into the forest.
Lewis at times plays Brody with an eerie calm that makes me think of The Shining's Jack Torrence. The quiet front he's presenting hides the storm happening inside, one you can see break the surface on occasion, like when he and (Captain) Mike have a few, not so thinly veiled, words out back. Morena Baccarin really shines in her role, trying to make the best out of the difficult and complicated situation. Trying to do right by her husband but also remind him that things for her and the kids haven't been so easy either. She, though, doesn't know what he gets up to in the morning.
"That's one interpretation but that's all it is at the moment."
Carrie's story opens up quite a bit this week, both in terms of her professional and personal lives. Of course, she is always on top of the Brody situation and, now that it's been made legal-ish (all is not quite well between her and Saul just yet), that takes up a significant amount of her time. Everything we see of Brody, or almost everything, is shown through her investigative eye - or perhaps her imaginative mind. However, we do get to see another lead in her case against Abu-Nazir that reinforces her credibility as a more than competent agent.
One of Carrie's assets is a call-girl for the Saudi wealthy and while on the job she came into contact with Abu Nazir himself, making her the first to lay eyes on the target in almost a decade. Carrie's obviously thrilled with the sighting, as are her superiors, but the girl is scared and in need of increased security, which, of course, she does not get. Instead she's thrown into the lion's den with another job. I have my fingers crossed that our beautiful blonde informant makes it out of this alive (but I'm not holding my breath).
We also get to see a little of Carrie's personal life, since she has to take a trip to her psychiatrist sister's place for a re-up on her medication. Ah. The mystery of how she keeps the medication a secret from the CIA is solved. Apparently Carrie's father suffers from the "same illness" as she does, whatever that means (paranoid...). Her sister's ringing her in though, no more months worth of prescriptions, instead Carrie will have to pay weekly visits over to her family's place. She's a very scattered, complex and determined woman. And the way she delivers the final line, I can't tell if she feels vindicated, threatened or both...
"He's out there, playing the hero card."
Another very strong, if not as wrenching, episode. The show is very smart in that it puts the pieces in place and lets the tension build. There aren't always a lot of moves, instead the stillness is the move. We're left with the new information, always minor, to brew our own suspense and to come up with our own conclusion
Carrie is - and by extension, we are - watching his every move, except those that happen in his dreams or in the blind spot and then, well, we can't be sure that what we see is happening and is not just what Carrie imagines is happening. Does the praying mean he's been turned? Or is Carrie filling in the blind-spot? What is real, what is a figment of their tortured minds? We have to try and pick up the pieces.