Review of Homeland ‘The Clearing’
SPOILERS: Do not read this if you have not seen episode 7, series 2 of ‘Homeland’
After the violent drama of last week’s episode, which injected a much-needed sense of purpose into the series with major plot developments, this weekend’s instalment of Homeland seemed purely designed to crank up the tension a couple more notches.
However, this ultimately was no bad thing. While the central storyline did not move any further along – the episode ended with the CIA essentially no closer to tracking down the gun-happy terrorists and their filing cabinet full of explosives – elsewhere some of the plot’s smaller tributaries began to join up and gather dangerous momentum.
In what seems like a deliberate reaction to last week’s action-centric episode, this week the scenes were much more character-driven. An enormous amount of the episode comprised of prolonged conversations between a revolving selection of differently paired characters, from the very beginning when Roya and Brody meet to the very end when Saul and Peter discuss the failings of their recent mission. Almost all of the major characters have an important one-on-one conversation with someone in this episode, with each tête-à-tête slowly bringing all the threads of the storyline closer together.
One of the best things about the first series was the way in which it portrayed the strain Brody was under, as he simultaneously tried to undertake a secret terrorist mission while adjusting to normal life after years of captivity and brutal torture. So far in this series, any attempts to recreate that same sort of pressure have felt a little forced, the prime example being Brody’s ludicrous and disastrous trip to the woods with the Gettysburg tailor.
However, in this week’s episode that sense of total isolation for Brody is successfully brought back with the realisation that he is essentially being exploited by all sides. The CIA only want him because he is close to Abu Nazir, who in turn is now only really using him for his connection to Vice-President Walden, who is just using Brody because he ironically makes him appear tough on terrorism and for his celebrity status as a war hero.
Perhaps the only side not attempting to use Brody for their own gains is his family, but he is increasingly unable to keep them happy and protect them as a direct result of having to juggle his other highly stressful commitments. It is refreshing to see that Brody’s switch to working for the CIA has not been used by the writers as an opportunity to dramatically make his life easier, but instead it has made things infinitely more complicated for him.
While the scenes at the prison involving Saul and Aileen are perhaps a little heavy-handed in their attempts to portray the harshness of the American penal system, in particular the inclusion of the rather clichéd ‘sadistic prison warden’, the fluctuation in emotion in the scenes is done very well. From the highly depressing first scene between the two, to their positively cheerful makeshift picnic, and then back to tragedy with Aileen’s suicide, the bleakness is also amplified by the sense that absolutely nothing was achieved by the whole thing.
So much was crammed into this episode, from Brody confessing to his wife about killing Tom Walker to the extremely brief resumption of his relationship with Carrie, ending abruptly when he realised just how much he was being played by her. There are even moments of comedy, admittedly quite dark ones, that include a flippant 9/11 reference and an allusion to Carrie’s fondness for jumping into bed with people at the first opportunity.
There is also a certain painfully awkward comedy to be found in the hugely insensitive questioning Brody gets about his time as a prisoner while he is poolside at the ludicrous and bizarre mansion for the fundraiser, which resembles a cross between an outbuilding at Disneyland and a Welsh golf resort.
Even the hit and run storyline involving Dana and Finn proved to develop in a more interesting way than it had previously appeared. As it is now not only driving a wedge between the Brodys and the Waldens, and highlighting their total happiness to abuse the power of their high office, but also between Dana and Brody. Finn Walden was also made to look a little better, it became clear that for him it is as much a painful and cynical understanding of the way in which the situation would play out, as it was cowardice that had prevented him from confessing earlier.
With just over a quarter of the series to go, it is clear the tension is only going to become greater and greater as the story reaches its conclusion. As long as it manages to keep all the different strands of the storyline together as effectively as in this episode, then it looks set to be a thrilling final five weeks.
You can follow the writer on Twitter: @thesportsfoxTagged in: Brody, Carrie, CIA, claire danes, Damian Lewis, homeland, Rupert Friend
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