On one level, the title of Homeland’s season-three premiere, “Tin Man Is Down,” directly references the point at which C.I.A. black-ops agent Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend) narrowly executes his portion of a thrilling, six-target, three-continent operation, killing one of the men complicit in the 12/12 Langley bombing and helping to slightly redeem the C.I.A.’s tarnished reputation. But it also refers to the death of one’s emotions—the Tin Man’s absent heart, so to speak.
Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin), reluctant temporary director of the C.I.A., could very well be that Tin Man, weighted as he is with responsibility he never wanted, expected by the president to take revenge (“We’re spies, not killers,” he feebly protests), pressured by advisor Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham) to use counterintelligence to throw Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) under the bus, or at least to “jump up and down on her really hard,” after she tanks her Senate hearing, and unable to sleep in the same bedroom as his wife, Mira (Sarita Choudhury), lest he once again drive her away by getting too close. “I’m just waiting for the right answer to present itself,” he tells Mira, but if he’s not paralyzed with indecision, he’s at least rusted over by it.
If he’s the Tin Man, then Carrie is the Scarecrow: Her mind has betrayed her, and she’s the straw man being offered up to Andrew Lockhart (Tracy Letts) and his Senate Investigatory Committee, who, perhaps sensing she has something to do with Brody’s subsequent disappearance, doubt her assertion that she was knocked unconscious in the women’s restroom during the 12/12 bombing. Moreover, after committing perjury for the C.I.A. when she feigns ignorance of Brody’s immunity deal, she’s grasping at straws herself. When her father confronts her about her recent decision to come off lithium, she jabbers a litany of excuses in front of her yarn-tangled Big Map of Possible Brody Sightings: “It’s all good. I feel good. I’m medicating myself in other ways. Exercise, medication.” “Quinoa?” her father snorts. “It’s working,” she insists, or at least she has to believe it is, because the sort of person she is while medicated is the sort of person with 219 dead bodies on her conscience: “It was right in front of my eyes, and I never saw it coming.”
Completing this trifecta, then, is the Cowardly Lion: Since we last saw her, Dana Brody (Morgan Saylor) attempted to kill herself and was committed to a rehab center, which she’s now returning from. Unfortunately, it’s unclear at this point in the series why she or her mother (or brother, who actually has a few speaking lines now) are still relevant, especially with Brody conspicuously absent. Even if you assume that we need to see how the family is hounded by the press, harassed by a once-sympathetic public, and running low on money (the government doesn’t pay benefits to traitors), there’s absolutely no reason to show Dana flirting with one of the other brooding, damaged young things at the clinic. The worst plot point of season two—a hastily covered up hit-and-run—was the result of Dana’s last relationship; with its charged politics and moral quandaries, Homeland should be above pandering to the Twilight crowd.
Like Dana’s storyline, Quinn’s mission is also lazily dramatic and lacks subtlety. Despite describing the target’s home as a “fucking fortress,” he so casually hops the outer gate, kills three guards, and walks out that this might as well be an episode of Strike Back. Worse, it’s fairly clear, in a Chekhov’s gun sort of way, that the target’s innocent young son is going to end up getting killed, which takes nearly all the sting out of the actual event. What’s far more interesting is the way in which the episode’s opening shot, of a shadowy figure assembling a cheap-looking bomb in a dim basement, turns out not to be that of a sinister terrorist, but of Quinn himself—which only demonstrates how thin of a line there is between C.I.A. operatives and the terrorists they hunt, especially when they fight fire with fire. (Remember that Brody was originally turned after seeing the innocent victims of a misaimed American drone strike.)
“Tin Man Is Down” closes with Carrie growing more and more unstable—fucking a random Brody lookalike on her staircase, shouting classified secrets in a crowded restaurant—and, sadly, backing Saul into a corner. As he discovers testifying before Lockhart, nobody cares about his successful intercontinental mission: His targets weren’t high-value enough to satisfy a vengeful, bloodthirsty American public. They need a poster boy to hang (Brody), or a scandal that explains the C.I.A.’s incompetence (Carrie).
It’s for that reason that Lockhart pushes Saul about a leaked newspaper story claiming that an operative was sleeping with Brody. “The information is flawed,” Saul responds, attempting first to dismiss the story before admitting, “It wasn’t entirely an agency matter,” and then throwing Carrie under the bus: “The case officer in question has a history of erratic behavior.” But the real betrayal follows, when he denies that he knew about the affair itself. Ultimately (and this is where Homeland is at its best), information isn’t flawed, people are.
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