"I'm aware, it's a lot of moving parts," admits Saul (Mandy Patinkin) in a meeting with his CIA team. He could easily be speaking for the whole third season, which has struggled to synch storyline between characters interesting (Carrie and Saul) and those less so (Brody and his family). And yet they all clicked in to place in Big Man in Tehran, a grandstanding episode that twisted and turned from the labyrinthine streets of the Iranian capital before dealing out its riveting finale. Yes, much of it didn't make sense, but as with Brody (Damian Lewis) himself, at least you can never tell what's going to happen next.
Brody finds himself under soft interrogation from Javadi (Shaun Toub), a figure who we feel at any moment will burst from the shadows and violently betray the CIA plan. But he sticks to the mission, and manages to arrange for the US marine a meeting with Danesh Akbari (Houshang Touzie), the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard. The tension was steadily built-up by director Daniel Minahan, cutting back to each of the main figures as each stage of the assassination attempt is laid out. In one thrilling scene Saul's exposition overlays tight close-ups of Brody taking the cyanide needle from the doctor, as the once far-fetched plan starts to become real.
Carrie (Claire Danes) is back in dyed hair/headscarf mode as she goes about plotting an extraction plan for Brody. Whilst it's good to see her out in the field, she's unfortunately not involved in the plot itself, but purely on Brody getting out, and as we can see from the rubbing of her swelling stomach, we're given a clear indication of why she wants that to happen.
For the attempt to assassinate Akbari is Saul's baby, one that he has carefully nurtured so far, but knows disaster could strike at any moment. As expected, things don't go to plan for him, as Akbari decides to meet Brody in public, before unleashing his surprise, Abu Nazir's widow Nassrin (Naz Deravian).
"We crawl out of the rubble and we gather up the bodies."
The conversation between the two is by far the strongest scene in the episode, one that ties Brody's torture to his current predicament, and in Nassrin showing that it's the family of those involved who suffer from the wreckage. As Brody notes, "We crawl out of the rubble and we gather up the bodies". His declarations to Nassrin, that he came to Iran because he's tired of running, are convincing because they're true.
And then we get the moment we've been expecting, as Brody is paraded to the crowd as a hero of Iran, paralleling his return home to US soil in the show's very first episode. His talk with Nassrin and subsequent destruction of the needle suggested he's switched sides again, and yet with Brody you're never sure. He's remained such an enigma throughout the show that we have no idea which direction he'll take next. As Senator Lockhart (Tracy Letts) observes, "The one thing we know about Brody is this is a guy who changes his mind".
Pillow for pacemaker
The President is furious with Brody's anti-American rants on Iranian TV, and so the call is made to dispatch of the 'liability'. We're heading for the same finale as that of season two where Carrie tries to protect Brody from the hands of the CIA, deliberately disobeying Saul's command to come home. Knowing the two's history, it stretches belief to think the acting CIA chief to put both of them in Tehran.
But before the Saul and Carrie can truly lock horns, Brody switches sides once more (if ever he did switch), and in a private moment with Akbari bludgeons him with an ashy tray before smothering him. Now death via Pillow isn't as silly as turning off a pacemaker, but it's all still rather absurd. After all the meticulous preparation in getting Brody to take out Javadi in the first place, that he could get such a private meeting, then kill Akbari without alerting his guards, strikes as preposterous.
And it now leaves Brody trapped in Tehran unless Carrie can pull off her extraction plan. He's achieved his redemption, but will he find out about Carrie's child?