Review of Homeland ‘Beirut is Back’
SPOILERS: Do not read this if you have not seen episode 2, series 2 of ‘Homeland’
After the first episode of series two, there were complaints in some quarters that not a lot had actually happened and that the writers were dragging things out a bit.
While this is not a view I really agree with, it is also certainly not a criticism that can be levelled at the second episode Beirut is Back, which starts with one fairly big revelation but ends with an even bigger one, a textbook cliffhanger that leaves us all second-guessing next week’s episode.
The episode, in one way, picks up where the first left off, with an act of Muslim prayer. However the similarity ends there because the action has moved to Beirut, thousands of miles away from the suburban surroundings of Brody’s garden.
Carrie, still sporting the headscarf she may or may not have paid for during the first episode’s chase, is soon seen making contact with her former informant Fatima. After brushing off any concerns about her axing from the CIA, Carrie soon has her spilling some very interesting beans.
As luck would have it, Fatima’s husband is meeting with the infamous and fiendishly cunning Abu Nazir the very next day, and for the small price of $5m and a flight to Detroit she is willing to give up the location. However almost before Carrie has time to do her shocked, bulgy eye routine, we are whisked back to a hugely contrasting scene in America, where Brody is having a miserable time at a drinks party with the easily unlikeable Vice-President Walden (Jamey Sheridan).
In my opinion, one of the best things about Homeland is the way in which it often manipulates the viewer away from the all-too-prevalent and over-simplified ‘USA good, terrorists bad’ thinking which is seen in other programs, and instead it at least attempts to show America’s flaws.
Perhaps the principal way it does this is through the Vice-President’s character, whose fondness for shady ‘off-book meetings’ and saying things like, “Do you really give a shit about the Arab street?” make him an extremely unsympathetic character, particularly when you throw in the ludicrous opulence of his house.
There are several points in this episode where you do slightly feel that Brody doesn’t quite possess the subtlety or coolness under pressure required to be an undercover terrorist, most notably when talking about ‘taking out everyone in the room’ or appearing incredibly shifty when questioned about Tom Walker’s death by his ‘brother marines’.
The main action of the episode is obviously the ‘capture or kill’ mission launched against Abu Nazir, which after some deliberation goes ahead. Personally, it seemed unlikely that the only really established enemy in the program was going to be killed in the second episode, so I was not really kept hugely in suspense or all that surprised when he got away. While his rescuing by Brody via text message felt a little too convenient.
Although the realism of some parts can be called into question, such as the action scenes or the portrayal of the inner workings of the CIA, it is possible to slightly suspend your belief because the program makes up for it with scenes that focus on the more human side of the drama. From small things like Dana striking up a tentative friendship with Finn Walden to larger ones like Carrie’s portrayal of a woman struggling with mental illness, questioning her own judgement – particularly the harrowing scene that ends with her on the roof of the Beirut safehouse – Homeland is adept at showing an aspects of life that are often overlooked in more conventional dramas.
That is not to say that the program is adverse to more conformist tactics, and so it proves with the tantalising cliffhanger that the episode ends with. Not only do we discover what happened to the memory card that has Brody’s suicide video on it, and surprisingly early in the series, but the fact that it is found by Saul adds another intriguing twist.
Just as things seemed to be settling into a conventional pattern, the viewer is left with loads of questions. Old doubts about Saul being the mole in the CIA suddenly resurface, particularly as this seems to be the only possible escape for Brody in all of this. Then again, perhaps it’s a double bluff and that’s exactly what we are meant to think. Looks like we’ll have to wait till next week to find out.
Follow me on twitter: @thesportsfoxTagged in: beirut, Brody, Carrie, claire danes, Damian Lewis, homeland, islam, terrorism
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