The third season of Homeland entered it's end game in Good Night, as the wheels started rolling, before almost falling off Saul's (Mandy Patinkin) grand plan to smuggle Brody (Damian Lewis) over the border in to Iran. A bridge episode to take us from Brody's acceptance of the mission to that final meeting with Javadi (Shaun Toub), this week's instalment was a nerve-racking affair that was high on tension if lacking in insight.
The sheer preposterousness of Saul's plan is unveiled in the difficulty the special ops agents find getting Brody over the border. From Kurdish police to land mines, hurdle after hurdle is placed in their path to potentially scupper the mission, and all Carrie (Claire Danes), Saul and Quinn (Rupert Friend) can do is passively stare at the monitors, chewing gum ferociously à la Alex Ferguson.
There was something of the football manager in Saul's pained expressions. He's meticulously planned the whole affair, but can only watch from the sidelines as his boys out in the field, with star player Nicholas Brody, try to carry out his work. But Brody is still suffering from that strange character schizophrenia that has blighted him in previous seasons. Here he goes from nervous wreck after the 'Good Night' instruction is given and the police officers are taken out, to calmly treating Azizi (Donnie Keshawarz) after he loses his leg when their car hits a mine.
Zero Dark Thirty
That sudden explosion, and the way it cuts back to the immediate confusion at Langley, was by far the episode's greatest moment. In this episode Homeland thankfully went back to its roots by having characters like Carrie watching and analysing rather than taking direct action (and getting sniped in the arm for it), with her surveillance of the mission through a monitor clearly evoking the end of this year's movie hit Zero Dark Thirty.
With quivering face and darting eyes she watches in silence at the screen, desperately searching for the heat signatures that would show a sign of life. Whilst we knew Brody wouldn't be killed, by placing the viewer in Carrie's shoes it lends a greater emotional resonance to the scene, and highlights how helpless they are to help Brody now that he's out in the field.
But most of the episode focuses purely on Brody, as he ventures with his faceless special ops companions, obscured by darkly lit shots that make it rather hard to follow the action. Pinned down by fire from the Kurdish police, Saul seems resigned to give up the mission, and even receives a surprise condolence from this week's more reserved Senator Lockhart (Tracy Letts). But it would be a pretty rubbish way to end the season if the mission was aborted, so Brody breaks command and flees across the border.
Carrie tries to convince him to not risk it on his own, but Brody won't listen. Knowing the mission provides him with a redemption he'll never receive from his family, he insists to Carrie he is going across the border. The clear elephant in the room for Carrie is that she is carrying Brody's child, and almost tearfully here she says that if he goes across they'll be no extraction plan and he's almost certain to die. I'd assumed from his acceptance to go on the mission and desire to speak to Dana last episode that Brody knew he wouldn't be coming back alive, so it's perplexing why they felt the need to include this melodramatic exchange still based around the unnecessary pregnancy storyline.
But Brody does make it in to Iran with Turani (Jared Ward) by his side. They encounter Javadi, before boom, his colleague is killed at point blank range and Brody learns what the audience already knew, that Javadi is a pretty cold-hearted guy. He's also a smart one as well, clearly murdering Turani due to the risk of the plan being unveiled after the extensive torture sessions he was going to endure. The final two episodes with Brody inside the so-called "black box" of Iran should prove a refreshing finale, but from the CIA side, we need to see Carrie involved in a way that doesn't revolve around her pregnancy.