Well, well, well... aren't you just the cleverest show, Homeland? I'm slow-clapping for you in my mind.
Last week's episode was certainly a doozy with the Brody-centric plot that prompted countless "How to fix Homeland"/"What's wrong with Homeland"/"Why Homeland sucks" think-pieces on the Internet, but tonight's hour did one better on the mind-bending front: It conned us, the viewers, with that last-minute plot twist. And I think "Game On" pulled it off -- but only at first.
It turns out Saul and Carrie were working together all along, and I for one definitely didn't see that coming. (I've been distracted by all the signs pointing to him as the mole. Anyone else?) He set the wheels in motion by exposing her at the hearing, which led to Carrie getting herself in trouble by going to the press, which landed her in psychiatric detention, which, finally, is exactly where Saul wanted her to be. No, he never says, "It's all going according to plan," but his smile in that final scene said it all.
That said, even though this twist comes exactly when the show needs it, with viewers clamoring for it to return to its season 1 highs, it's not executed as carefully as I think it could be. After all, Claire Danes is a great actress, but Carrie? Is Carrie Mathison, bipolar CIA agent who struggles with compartmentalizing her emotions, really such an actress that she'll weep even when she's alone and watching Saul spill her secrets at the hearing from the premiere? Was she saying, "F--k... you... Saul" two episodes ago just for show? And more important, would she seriously just blindly follow Saul like this, subjecting herself to such scrutiny and nearly losing everything she has just because he has a plan? Yes, Carrie's always trusted Saul, but it's still a stretch for the character who's always followed her own instincts first. That last scene makes it seem like he's the one pulling her strings, instead of Carrie being in control, which doesn't feel right to me after we've seen her work her independence the past two seasons.
And what about Saul? How does he know so much about Javadi, and how did he figure this plan would work? What is his connection to Leland Bennett? And why does he need Fara in on this game if he already knew Javadi's the one behind everything and was targeting him anyway?
It's not all making sense. The show's clever, but it might be too clever for its own good.
Because to me, it's careless to toss in this twist. Sure, it's a fascinating, elaborate ruse, but for us, it's frustrating to watch. And I think a major problem stems from how little we've seen Javadi, who the show is selling as the ultimate Big Bad, a villain worse than Abu Nazir. With only endless exposition about the target for this season, it's hard to get behind Carrie and Saul's excitement that their plan to bring down Javadi is working. It's hard to care.
Even if we as an audience suspend all disbelief and not question how Saul and Carrie formed this plan or why they're so confident it's heading in the right direction, we're just too much in the dark. It's simply not enough for a show to just tell us to trust it -- it needs to work for that trust.
But for now, I'll play along.
Read EW's interview with 'Homeland' showrunner Alex Gansa, who talks tonight's big twist and defends season 3, over on Inside TV.
We open with Carrie waking up to some commotion down the hall, where a new patient is being restrained. Carrie runs back to her room when an orderly catches her watching from the doorway. Though she tells him that "everything's okay," she lies awake on her side, looking fearful. Still shaken the next morning, she tries to gather herself for her hearing, which her lawyer believes will finally grant her release from psychiatric detention.
It goes smoothly at first -- her doctors and Abby provide positive sound bites ("She's setting a good example for her fellow patients," Abby attests) -- and Carrie even manages to thank everyone in the boardroom, despite feeling anxious that her father and sister didn't make it.
But the hearing falls apart, because this is Carrie Mathison we're talking about. Miss Liability Number One. As she waits for the judge's ruling, she glimpses Dar Adal exiting the facility and realizes the CIA's involved with her release. She's right: The judge tells her the Department of Justice has ordered her to stay, against the wishes of the doctors and the appeals from her lawyer, because, as he tells her, "You've been designated a security risk." As a last resort, Carrie calls and asks her dad to talk to Saul and tell him that she is willing to do whatever is necessary to get out. She walks back to her room, sinks down on her bed, and waits.
NEXT: "We know who you are, Mrs. Brody."