Homeland: “Still Positive” Season 3 Episode 6 Review

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This week amped up the intensity with a major reveal and a brutal conclusion.  Not everything landed, but it was still a wild ride.

There’s a well-known roller coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey called the Kingda Ka.  Once you’re strapped into your seat, the carts begin to slowly move toward a launching point a short distance away. You sit at this point for what feels like an eternity, which is when panic starts to set in.  All of a sudden, you hear a click.  The carts move ever so lightly, like the trigger on a pinball machine has just been pulled back and you’re the next ball in the queue.  Before you can even take your next breath, you’re being torpedoed over 400 feet in the air at a speed of 128 miles per hour.

The same can be said for the structure of Homeland this season.  The beginning episodes were a build-up, slowly taking us to the launching point that was the twist of Carrie and Saul working together.  Now that that’s out in the open, the show has been let loose.  This week’s episode marks a significant change in pace.  It’s moving at breakneck speeds towards some unforeseeable goal.  A lot of the goings on in “Still Positive,” were exhilarating.  Still, there were moments where I wished it would slow down so I could catch my breath.

Okay, it was really only one moment, and I’m pretty sure everyone can guess which one it was.  The surprise news that Carrie has been pregnant this whole time has left me feeling extremely torn. As soon as they showed her taking out a home pregnancy test, a million questions started swarming around in my head.  How long exactly has she been pregnant?  Wouldn’t there have been some sort of blood work done on her at the psych ward that would have revealed this?  Does this have anything to do with her not taking her medication? Is Saul aware of this as well?  Of course my biggest question was, is Brody really the father?  It makes the most sense that he would be, but with Homeland continuing to pull the wool over our eyes, you can never be sure of anything.  Quinn and Carrie had some nice moments together this episode, so I wouldn’t be completely surprised if it was revealed they’ve secretly been seeing each other.

On the other hand, I’m intrigued by where this story could take Carrie.  Pregnancy plotlines often feel very contrived, in that they’re used as a last-ditch option for female characters who have nowhere else to go.  But the Homeland writers are smarter than that, and I think they could find a way to make this feel fresh.  Carrie has a lot to think about with this baby, especially with possibility of passing down her bipolar disorder to him or her, so there is a way this could be unique.  The scene where she tries to quiet Javadi’s grandson was excellently done.  Her character is anything but motherly, but that was a smart way to subtly highlight her impending decision.  I just wish this whole idea had been built up organically, instead of randomly popping up like this.

This startling discovery aside, the rest of the episode proved to be quite masterful at creating some heart-pounding thrills.  I like that Carrie got right to the point and revealed herself to Javadi.  He seems like an incredibly smart man, and so I doubt he would realistically buy her double agent act for too long.  Even more interesting was his relationship with Saul.  Finding out about their shared past, makes his character a more fierce villain that Abu Nazir ever was.  To borrow a clichéd phrase: this time, it’s personal.  Homeland has never shied away from being explicit, but Javadi’s murder of his ex-wife was one of the most unsettlingly violent things I’ve seen on TV in a while.  There was just something so ferocious about it, and I couldn’t look away.

Furthermore, putting a greater emphasis on Saul and a much lesser emphasis on the Brody family felt very astute.  Mandy Patinkin is always wonderfully subdued, but this week we really got to see him flourish.  I loved watching Saul go through one of the worst days of his life and having to bottle up his anger, only to have it explode on Javadi when they finally meet face-to-face.  Dana, meanwhile, was given a fairly simple plot this week that had a satisfyingly calm resolution.  Her decision to move out of the house could have been met with hysterics, but instead it was treated with a quiet sadness that was very realistic.  I’m not going to lie and say I wasn’t hoping this meant the end of her character, but I still think it was a well-executed subplot.

Also, can I just ask, what is the point of Chris Brody?  I seriously forget he exists sometimes, and I think the writers do too.

This was one of the strongest episodes of the season so far, even with the confusing pregnancy plot.  I wish Homeland didn’t feel the need to make everything into a shocking twist, because it’s exciting even when it’s being straightforward.  From the looks of this episode, the second half the season is going to zoom by.  Brace yourselves.  The ride has just begun.  Grade: A-

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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