Tuned In

The Morning After: Homeland: Let’s Twist Again

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Quick spoilers for last night’s Homeland follow:

So to begin this write-up of Homeland honestly, I must go back to my writeup of the stunning “The Weekend,” about whose events I wrote: “As with any mystery-based serial drama on TV now, you can work yourself up anticipating the next triple-twist and quadruple-cross, but for now I think Homeland has earned our trust that it will not collapse into the constant switcheroo mania of a latter season of 24.”

Well, if my judges’ notes are correct, that did appear to be a triple-twist with one-and-a-half rotations in the last moments of “Achilles Heel,” setting up a potential quadruple-cross on the landing. As we saw in the final scene, Brody—who seemingly had been exonerated in that breathtaking everything-on-the-table scene with Carrie—is in fact in league (one way or another) with Abu Nazir after all, seemingly along with his fellow captive Walker.

Or is he! He’s been lying to Carrie and everyone after all. Or has he! Now there’s no one we can trust except Carrie and Saul Or can we!

You can see where this potentially can lead—you can see it, because you’ve seen it in so many TV serials for the past decade. Now, it’s been just a couple episodes, so it’s hard to say whether this is going to become Homeland’s standard mode of operation from here on out, in which case it could get tiresome quickly, or simply a one-two fakeout planted in the middle of the show’s first season. I don’t believe there’s any prize for being the first to declare that a show has jumped the shark, and there’s enough in Homeland that’s well worth watching now, plot twists aside.

Beyond the quality of the acting, one thing Homeland has that many twist-of-the-week shows don’t is a seriousness and clarity of themes. One of those, illustrated beautifully in “Achilles Heel,” is the idea that betrayal begets betrayal, on a geopolitical level and on a personal one. As Brody said, in an interview we can take to heart no matter which side he’s really playing, part of the purpose of abuse by captors is to shake one’s faith in family, country and colleagues.

In Walker’s case, everything he’s experienced—his abuse, his not being rescued, his wife’s remarriage—is conducive to the idea that he has been abandoned, and this makes him ripe for manipulation by those who want to make him into a weapon. The terrible thing, then, about the botched operation to nab him in this episode is not just that it failed but how it failed—with his knowledge that his wife, after all that, went along with a plan to trick him into giving up his location. Which of course makes him that much more dangerous, and more of a target.

This idea, that heartbreak and recrimination form a perpetuating cycle, among peoples and individuals, one reason it was so sweet to see Brody and Jess, after all they’ve been through, finding a way to step back a truly enjoy each other, through an evening out and a rerun of Ice Age on TV. The twists and plot issues are something to watch for going ahead, but for now Homeland remains easily the strongest new show of the fall.

Or is it!