Looking back over the previous episodes of Homeland, it’s difficult to name a single thing that has gone the way that Saul or Carrie intended. It’s like the original kidnapping of Brody, the seismic event that cast the die for the series, also cursed everybody involved, and its pall lingers over the participants like the stink from an inside-out sock. The events of “Good Night” also amount to a giant clusterfudge, but through luck, rather than judgement, Brody ends up gaining asylum in Iran. The events shown take place pretty much in real time, without any B-story or distractions from what is ultimately driving this episode – getting Brody face to face with Javadi.
When the eventually meet, right at the end of the episode, it’s electric. You can actually feel the sparks between them. Then again, every minute of “Good Night” feels like kindling waiting to explode – as the mistakes and miscalculations start to pile up, all you’re wondering is just how the hell they are going to get Brody into Iran. Sure, they’re close – within hundreds of meters – but there’s an awful lot standing between them. And what will happen when they get over the border itself? Why wouldn’t the Iranians just shoot them?
I’ve said this before, but where Homeland excels is in providing a deeper moral context for the actions you’re watching on screen. If Brody or Carrie are running around with a gun, you know there’s a damned good reason for it. Not a single death goes unmourned, nor unchallenged. Unlike 24‘s Jack Bauer, who was apparently given free reign to shoot anyone he saw fit, the characters of Homeland need justification to take a life.
This aspect of Homeland‘s ethos does get muddied somewhat by what takes place, but as with all shows of this type, it always comes down to “the ends justify the means.” Even if those means are pretty terrible.
To say that things don’t 100% go to plan is a drastic understatement: in fact, it doesn’t even go 10% to plan. But what is the plan? Brody, along with a couple of special ops agents, will pretend to break down on the border between Iraq and Iran, to put any Iraqi border guards off the scent. They will then cross the border to Iran and claim asylum as the perpetrators of the Langley bombing, and hopefully get face time with Javadi in the process. So far so good, right? Pretty flawless plan, right? Well, what if the Iraqi police don’t buy the cover story, and instead assume that you’re al-Qaeda? That’d be pretty terrible, I think we can all agree. One of the worst things that could happen actually.
Well, the Iraqi police don’t buy the cover story, and instead assume that they’re al-Qaeda. D’oh!
Giving the Iraqi police the instinct to not let the guys pass because they’re assumed to be terrorists is another boon for the show, which although at times is clunky and dunderheaded in its view on race, does allow for some complexity in the situation. It’s important not to lose sight of the fact that, at that moment, Brody and the special ops guys are terrorists. Imagine some Iraqi soldiers on the US border at Mexico attempting to infiltrate the country to depose a highly placed political target – that is an act of terrorism. What the CIA is committing, if it doesn’t work out, is terrorism. Saul knows this, Lockheart knows this, Carrie knows this, Quinn knows this. This adds another layer of tension to scenes that are already thick with the stuff.