Homeland S02E07 Recap: "The Clearing"

One of the main recurring themes in Homeland has always been balance of power. Power that the terrorists have over their targets, power the CIA has over the people they're interrogating and searching for, and power between people in the CIA. Sometimes, the show discusses this aspect a little more overtly, like when it deals with Walden's bid for the presidency and consequently, Brody's chances at becoming his VP.

In "The Clearing", the power shifts at nearly every turn, from character to character as we get a sense of where the should is headed in the second half of this second season, and what characters may hold the cards going into those events. After the events of last week's "A Gettysburg Address", it was unclear just who held all the power. The CIA had lost their hand to Nazir's people, but the terrorists were desperate enough to reveal themselves to recover what was in the tailor's shop (their ace in literally the hole in the wall), which means that they were willing to get desperate. The CIA still has Brody, but he's starting to feel uncomfortable and he's fighting back despite his situation. Even within the Agency, agents are dead, Quinn's hospitalized, and now Saul is forced to go for a very thin lead in Elaine, the girl he went on a road trip with last season.

The episode centers around a trip Brody and his family take to one of Walden's donors' estates, where they spend time schmoozing, fundraising and frolicking by the pool. Brody balances his schmoozing with his CIA operating, under the watchful eye of Davis Estes, but soon, more pressing matters surface as Dana finally reveals to her and Finn's mom that they ran over a woman. The Walden's decide to bury it, but that isn't good enough for Jess, and eventually Brody, as they would rather deal with it head on and make it public. This doesn't sit well with anyone, not the Waldens, not the CIA, as both the presidency and their operation could be jeopardized.

When the episode begins, it seems like the only person in any sort of good mood is Carrie. And other than the fact that six of her friends are dead, why shouldn't she be? With Quinn sidelined, Saul tied up at the prison and Estes busy with political stuff, she's pretty much in charge of the operation, not weeks after she was sitting in her sister's house grading immigrant English papers. She flexes her CIA muscles early, too. She puts Detective Mike in his place (in his only appearance in the episode), telling him once again to drop the investigation on Brody, but revealing that there are terrorist implications at hand. She even talks down Brody, who's beginning to grow worried about pretty much everything.

But the moment she plants her lips onto Brody's the balance of power shifts back to him. It's unclear, even to her, whether she kisses him because she wants to reassure him, or whether it's crazy old Carrie making out with terrorists again. Brody is uncertain, and he's uncomfortable that a kiss from Carrie makes him feel better. So either he's on to Carrie playing him, or he knows that all he has to do is plant a wet one on her to keep that power.

Brody then manages to lose it again to Walden, thanks to his daughter's revelation that she and Finn ran over a woman and killed her a week back. Because politics, Walden tells him that the situation will be dealt with, and that he'd better fall in line because they're running to be the two most powerful men in the world, and they can't have that hampered by some stupid Mexican lady dying. That's not good enough for Brody, she he decides to take Dana to the police, but he doesn't realize that by doing that, he'd be alienating Walden and ruining their plan with the terrorists, something she points out to him right in front of the entrance to the police department, and something that Dana doesn't like before she runs off.

To me that's really interesting, to see this massive swing in Brody and how he acts and reacts to people over the course of the last couple of weeks. In "Q&A", Carrie and Quinn break him down, much like Nazir broke him down over eight years. Suddenly he's an informant, reluctantly willing to do anything his handlers tell him to. But the pressures of balancing two lives have quickly gotten to him, and it doesn't help that his daughter was essentially an accomplice to a murder, and that he might not be quite ready for high stakes politics. And it's really interesting how killing Americans, even Walden is totally fine for him one week, but covering up a hit and run isn't the next. Terrorist Brody and politician Brody easily regress to make room for dad Brody. Meanwhile, he's still trying to convince a bunch of people that he would be a suitable Vice President, and they're buying it, completely oblivious to everything else that's going on.

And you sympathize with him too, totally forgetting everything he's done to get himself to this point. That's the amazing thing about Damien Lewis' acting. While Claire Danes gets you with her manic acting style and tantrums, Lewis gets you with these subtle shifts in attitude that make you forget who he was the week before, and it's a thing of beauty. One particularly jarring scene is by the pool, when some unknowing nitwit keeps pressing Brody for details about his time in captivity. While he did turn, and a lot has happened since, we forget that this is a guy who spent eight years under captivity, who was tortured and scarred for life, no matter what may have happened afterwards. It's a great way to remind viewers that no matter what bad things Brody has done, he's still a human being, a human being that's gone through a lot.

Since I mentioned Danes, she was pretty fantastic this week as well. We've been talking about power, and she definitely manifested hers throughout the episode. Agent Carrie is back in full force, and with it is her confidence in putting people in their place, running operations, and dealing with Brody. Other than the kiss, as it's quite clear that her one weakness is this one damned soldier-turned-terrorist.

But maybe the most compelling part of the episode is everything that happens in the prison with Saul. As mentioned, Saul goes to see his friend Elaine from season 1, hoping that she'll know who this mystery Abu Nazir operative is. She claims to know him, but holds out for a room with a window, because she's sick of sitting in a small room 23 hours a day. Saul sympathizes with her, and gets her the room. Elaine then provides a name, and consequently, a location. Quinn heads out to find him, but it turns out to be someone entirely different, a ruse by Elaine to get one last good day before killing herself. Once again, Saul gave her the power, and he sympathized with her, and the whole operation paid the price. But it's a reminder that even terrorists are people, misguided people at that. Just like the operatives, as this whole exercise was a reminder that Saul's been through some stuff himself.

So where are we when the credits start to roll with "The Clearing"? Things are messy on screen. The CIA is nowhere closer to solving Nazir's threat, they're alienating their only lead in Brody, who has to deal with his own problems thanks to his daughter's misdeeds, putting everything in a state of disarray. Meanwhile, Carrie is one kiss away from sleeping with the damned terrorist again, and the terrorists have a crate full of explosives.

It's messy on screen, but it's a thing of beauty to watch. The writers manage to pull together all these threads, all while throwing in a few callbacks to season one and to the events that took place before the show. Sure, they don't really move forward in the episode, but characters progress tremendously, and we're much clearer on where everyone stands, in terms of power, sympathy, and everything else. As complex as it is , "The Clearing" just works on every level, and gets 9.5 unwitting Arab musicians out of 10.

Notes & Quotes:

  • I've loved the use of the dead/alive boards this season, and this week's was especially well done, with Saul moving Eileen's picture from the scarcely populated alive board to the busy dead board. After spending an episode with her, she's just another picture on the board, a pawn. Who else is going to end up a pawn on the death board by the time the season is up?
  • I know people don't particularly like the Dana storyline, but they weaved it into the main plot nicely this week I thought. It became more than just a 24-style b-plot and something centric to the show, as it showed us how more than anything, Dana is important to Brody. In fact, people have been complaining about it a lot, and I'm not sure why. Hit and runs happen all the time and if anyone's going to try and cover it up, it's a presidential candidate.
  • Danny is still alive, that's a good thing! Meanwhile, Quinn is popping pills like he's Max Payne. Probably not a good thing.
  • I don't particularly have anything against Mike, but watching Carrie emasculate him and tell him to "stand the fuck down" was a thing of beauty.
  • When the woman asked Brody if he ever wanted to just kill himself, it looked like he quite did at that very moment.
  • Did you catch last night's SNL, and what did you think of the Homeland spoof?
Comments 2
Patrick Storto's picture

I do like the Dana storyline, but it just makes me want more and more for Dana to become a casualty in all of this.

I like how they closed up the Eileen storyline, even though they didn't have to. I like that they don't really keep loose ends in the story.

George Prax's picture

About the most shocking thing they could probably do this season is kill Dana, and they might need it based on how this season is going, so you might be right.

And ya, the Eileen thing, tying up loose ends and callbacks to things that already happened is IMO what sets them apart from 24.