I can’t believe I didn’t see this coming. I can’t believe that I didn’t, for one second, think that what happened in this episode would happen. Any of it. If nothing else, I’ve proven myself terrible at analysing televisiual situations. If you’d have asked me at the beginning of this third season of Homeland where we’d be at the end, I genuinely wouldn’t be able to tell you. I know that’s difficult to do with any show, but really, Homeland has really put us poor viewers through the ringer. We’ve been all over the place, down so many awful peripheral roads, that it seemed like we’d never get to something resembling a conclusion. Up to the appearance of Javadi, the season was spinning out of control. The acquisition of Javadi as an asset to affect an Iranian regime change in “Gerontion” allowed the writers to regain some semblance of control over the ship, and the gradual streamlining of extraneous narrative – Dana’s plunge into rebellion, Mira’s boring affair – allowed the show to pull focus onto what really matters.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – Brody should have died ages ago. Even Damien Lewis thinks so. But if Brody has to live, at the very least we need him doing cool shit. Since returning from his multiple episode absence, nobody could ever accuse Brody of not giving us our money’s worth. Since returning from the ultimate holiday from hell in Venezuela we’ve seen him wean himself off drugs and get fighting fit within the space of two weeks, survive an IED in Iraq, and smuggle himself into Iran on the strength of his credentials as the Langley bomber. But how far up the Iranian food chain can those credentials get someone? Early on in the episode, Brody is being interrogated by officers in Tehran, during which Javadi makes an appearance. He’s clearly running things, but seems antagonistic to Brody.
When Javadi wouldn’t let Brody rest, I realised that this could be a double bluff. I thought in that moment that Javadi was actually working for the Iranians which, in light of what happens later, was no doubt planted deliberately in my mind by the writers. In believing that, I was being played like a cheap violin, and it worked. You’d have thought that not knowing whose side anybody is really on should have created at least a little bit of tension, but I just didn’t feel it this week.
Last week’s episode was a real pulse-pumper, leaving you breathless at every twist and turn, but it felt more natural somehow. “Big Man in Tehran” just threw in loads of twists for no real reason, ending the episode in the way you’d expect, but having gone through eight different ski slalom courses to get there. It was exhausting keeping up with each pointless twist, each extraneous character thrown in for no reason. That’s not to say that there wasn’t a very definite throughline that the episode needed to take, it just felt like driving down a road with the end in sight but lots of cars getting in your way. An example? Well, Brody met with Abu Nazir’s widow for no reason whatsoever. Literally none. It was explained away in the episode as a way for Akbari – the guy whom Saul wants Brody to kill and Javadi to replace – to vet Brody, but that doesn’t make any sense. Especially in light of how the episode ended.