Whatever, The 'Homeland' Season 3 Twist Was Necessary
Carrie Mathison has shown us the hand she was dealt, and it turns out homegirl's got one seriously unbelievable poker face; a fact that rings inauthentic to some when you consider just how many chin quivers we've endured throughout much of Homeland's tenure. But if this show has proven anything to us, it's that volatile, unstable people are sometimes the only ones able to pull off positively Herculean tasks in light of utter chaos. Which is exactly what Mathison did on Homeland's Sunday night oh-of-course-that's-the-title episode, "Game On."
Alert the Unpopular Opinion Police: the twist was exactly what this show needed if for being nothing more than a way to move on because, good lord, was nobody on board with how it started.
The third season of Homeland started off with a time-jump that left us all wondering: wait, why here? Why now? But what about — and that stuff? Wait, how did get here? Now? But there's so much back there! We need to discuss! Fans of the show were positively flummoxed by the realization that we would see no aftermath, no finagling, nothing. How Carrie and Saul and the entire CIA got to this point. How Brody managed to end up in Caracas. We wanted something that moved the story forward from the much-maligned second season, reengineering the love we fostered for season one. And, well, I'd venture to say that's exactly what Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon aimed to do with this here twist-a-rooney.
Carrie knows. Saul knows. The team's back together, fightin' terrorists and gettin' all top secret-y. It's great, right? The band's all here: and yet with a collective groan the Internet went "But! But! But!"
There are well-balanced criticisms of the episodes' at-least perceived holes: why was Carrie so grief-stricken watching the news of Saul's takedown in the comfort of her own home? Would they really fuck with her meds? Would she really act so crazy? And why would Saul and Carrie — even in the privacy of their own homes, the CIA, I don't know, a bathroom stall — why would they not drop their guard?
Well, there are theories (we still don't know who the mole is and I'm thinking at this point it's Dar Adal, hence all the ballyhoo and rigamarole and his semi-recent inclusion on the plot). The easiest way to rationalize this was already done in episode. Carrie's off-handed remarks about the certain freedoms she sacrificed in the name of protecting the country — "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" — are a sort of catch-all for the deception that took place on the audience, leaving some to feel as though the twist was without merit. But as has been evidenced time and time again: Carrie will do literally anything for Saul — including make herself crazy and take her own mental well-being to the brink. Because she's smart as shit — a bit too smart for her own good, at times. Which is exactly what makes her a perfect ploy.
Because this is exactly where Carrie's strengths lie: she's committed and viewed by the world as an unstable liability. So she's playing with that. Totally, fully, and utterly so — and she uses that commitment to suss out the possibilities: could "they" be watching her? At home? While she sleeps? In the hospital? Out of it? Of course. So it's easy to see why Carrie might just go the extra mile on the conspiracy express (or take a page from the Daniel Day-Lewis playbook) and go full method to ensure that she's safe and the game is still sound.
Of course, we still have no idea how deep or surface-level this plan actually is — perhaps she's had to improvise. (Certainly seems the case given her dislike of the hospital.) Naturally, the thought has become one of the bigger point of contention for the audience. Which, yep: totally make sense. How could one person constantly play the victim, permanently "on" and in the game? And how could Carrie make such decisions when she's proven time and again that her love of protecting this country goes above and beyond anything else in her own life?
That's the sort of stuff CIA agents are made of, y'all. Which is why we aren't all CIA agents. It takes all kinds.
And let's not forget that this is still a show about a very broken person. Someone who is emotionally malleable in that even when she's fully in control of the situation, she's affected by her own feelings in those situations, regardless of whether or not she knows they're temporary. That's how believability gets born.
And think about it from the other side: if you were Majid Javadi, a chief operator of an international terror organization, tasked with obtaining inside information about the logistical workings of your target's most top-secret defense agency, you'd probably make sure your Ts and Is were on point. Especially considering the person you're trying to obtain said information from is a "controversialized" CIA agent, you'd want to be sure as shit this person is on the outside looking in and not the other way around.
And Carrie knows that — she's done hypothetical mental aerobics like this for far less high-stakes situations. So would it really surprise you that she, in her unmedicated (and even medicated) state would convince herself that she's being watched at all times by this organization, and must permanently be "on" to protect herself and the country?
Red herrings piss some people off because they fancy themselves gatekeepers of the good: they love a show and because of that, feel they understand the quote-unquote integrity bloodline that's needed to keep it on course. Others still like to think they're just as smart (if not smarter) than the writers in the room, so of course they know what's best for the show. Except that they didn't create the show, so they don't get that right. Alex Gansa, Howard Gordan, and the lot get that. Because — trust — they've thought about it. They've probably thought about a lot of hypotheticals.
But this is the storyline they've chosen: probably with good reason and after the writers that fall on either side of the argument have hashed out the pros and cons. They've probably talked about it, a lot more than the Monday morning/Sunday night TV quarterbacks out there. So don't you think, maybe just maybe, these folks have a plan?
Personally, I've never understood the point of declaring a show's season "good" or "bad" based on a couple of episodes. Especially if that show has hasn't played itself all the way out. I may not love every decision that's been made thus far (WHO is this Majid Javadi and why do we care? How is he so much worse than Abu Nazir? And good lord WHY isn't Brody dead yet askiuehstiudhgi;udfntzaert4iosjfd?!), but I respect that sometimes creativity — just like covert operations — involve playing the long game.
Image: Kent Smith for Showtime