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“It’s 58 days since the attack on Langley in which 219 Americans lost their lives… It is plain that the Central Intelligence Agency is crippled. How can the CIA protect this country if it can’t even protect itself?”
That’s the opening (exposition-heavy) question from Senator Lockhart (Tracy Letts). Disgraced CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) looks up. Her chin wobbles. She tries not to cry.
And we’re back.
Yes, Homeland has returned to our TV screens for a third season of beards, bombs and bewildering facial expressions. But while Carrie’s Cry Face appearing only eight minutes in may be a new series record, Tin Man Down is, in many ways, a change of pace for the show following that manic, explosive cliffhanger.
Season One of Homeland asked a simple question about hero-turned-possible-terrorist Brody: Is he or isn’t he? Season Two smartly recruited him as a double agent and posed a different question: Will he or won’t he? The opening of Season Three leaves us with another question entirely: Where the hell is he?
It’s a good move for Showtime’s thriller; after two seasons of full-on Carrie-Brody action, we could all do with a breather. That gap in the show gives us more time to get back up to speed with what’s going on: Carrie is being questioned about her involvement with America’s number one suspect; Saul is Acting Director of the CIA (his beard is presumably Deputy Acting Director); and Brody’s daughter Dana is learning not to pout at a suicide rehab centre.
Things slowly fall back into the usual routine; Carrie struggles to stay composed as she lies about being with Brody when the bomb went off, while Dana (Morgan Saylor) wastes no time in texting a boy she fancies. But it’s Mandy Patinkin’s world-weary agent who benefits the most from Brody’s absence. Managing a worldwide operation to kill six people across three continents in a window of 20 minutes, he’s a commanding presence in the intelligence headquarters. One showdown with Carrie confirms that’s he definitely the right man for the big job. As she freaks out, he huskily tries to calm her down: “Sit down, have some tiramisu.”
What’s striking, though, is just how out of character all this is for him: after two seasons of criticising from the sidelines, Saul’s now the captain of the American security team. And his moody silence suggests he isn’t liking it one bit.
And yet. And yet. Saul’s facial hair may look disgruntled, but the appointment of senior spook Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham) as his sidekick – coupled with a niggling opening shot of Quinn (Rupert Friend) putting together a bomb – continue to hint there may be more to Saul than we think. After all, there’s still that mole to think about.
For onlookers like Senator Lockhart, that matter may no longer be a concern: a surprise testimony to the committee near delivers a cruel blow that leaves the lead characters – and our expectations – reeling.
Things may be toned down but the tense music, the handheld cinematography and the on-form cast starts Season Three of Homeland at a deceptively tight pace. One thing is clear: it means business. What is that business exactly? No one’s telling. But when Brody returns (as the inclusion of his family guarantees), you can bet someone’s going to crack. And it will probably be Carrie.
That eight minute Cry Face record may yet be broken.
Homeland Season 3 is available watch on Netflix UK as part of a £7.49 monthly subscription.
Where can I watch Homeland Season 3 on pay-per-view VOD?
Quote(s) of the week
“Sit down, have some tiramisu”
“Just what is it that you’re smoking, Ms. Mathison?”