Homeland, ‘One Last Time’ review: Cold turkey

“He’s not what we expected. But he’s what we’ve got.” 

There’s always “one last time” in Homeland in the same way that there’s always that next place. This week, Brody wakes up and that’s where he is—that next place, a hospital bed, somewhere in Virginia.

There’s yet another next place for us viewers too. It turns out that after hatecomes—what, love? Well, maybe love is too strong a word. But ‘One Last Time’ was definitely one of the stronger hours of this third season, one of the first in a while that has me anticipating the future. I still think Brody should be dead, if not from the suicide vest then at least for his being the Langley Bomber.

But Brody isn’t dead. He’s not dead, and I’ve accepted it. It might have taken Alex Gansa pulling a few strings and pulling him from the strings of Doc Graham, but Brody is alive.

And he’s a marine, once more.

I’ve said last week that Homeland was at its best when it allowed its characters time to breathe, to stop running and to just live. It happened in ’A red wheelbarrow,’ and it happens again in ‘One Last Time.’ Brody is breathing, and Gansa has let him “just stand there.” But soon enough, he’s gone again. That’s the problem with this show—too often it feels like a race to nowhere.

Carrie Mathison (played by Claire Danes) gets to live a little, at least once she wakes up on that naval hospital bed. (A side note here: while I appreciate a little symmetry as much as the next man, I don’t think it’s necessary for the showrunners to spell it out, almost frame by frame, that Carrie and Brody are both waking up on hospital beds, or that Saul is the same conflicting figure that Abu Nazir once was to Brody. We can figure it out. Trust your viewers, Alex.)

Carrie gets to live. She gets to endure the condescending comments from the hospital doctor about whether or not she cares that her baby would survive. She gets to stew on where exactly Saul was in the operation against the real Langley Bomber, etc., etc. It’s strong material.

She also gets to ponder a choice, one that really isn’t, when Saul tells her that, “I’m hoping you’ll convince (Brody) it’s in everyone’s best interest.” He knows that she will help him with that “suicide mission, at best,” because it may clear Brody’s name—whatever that even means. (The one choice Carrie does have is whether or not to be smoking during her pregnancy. And she does. Did I mention that she’s dead to me?)

Saul and Dar Adal (played by F. Murray Abraham) think “it’s impossible” for Lockhart to know “about Caracas,” but it shouldn’t be. This operation, with Majid Javadi and now Brody, has been shoddy at best since its inception. It just proves that Caracas isn’t Las Vegas, where things go to die.

Senator Andrew Lockhart (played by Tracy Letts) lives too, as he tries a ridiculously cheap ploy to get Carrie to spill her guts when he visits her in the hospital. It really has been a rough couple of weeks for him. He first falls for the oldest trick in the book, the “Oh come here for a minute, I have something I need to show—Ah ha! You’re locked in this room and can’t get out!” routine, then compounded this mistake by turning to the Israelis when he knew damn well his day of triumph was just around the corner, and he’s now pulling on Carrie’s heart and pride strings—forgetting that she has neither.

Morgan Saylor, who plays Dana  Lazaro, may be the one who’s most thankful for Brody’s return. The young actress is talented, capable of walking the line between tortured and complacent, but for a while this season all she had to work with were selfies, bedsheets and appliances, and #LeoRomeo. The return of her father may just mean the return of this lovelorn teenager in our hearts—it sure did for at least one week.

Sgt. Nicolas Brody (played by Damian Lewis) is “a man who’s dug himself into a hole so deep, common sense would tell you there’s no way out.” But there always is a way out, because Saul doesn’t care much for common sense. He has a play, one that borders on the insane and implausible, but a play nonetheless.

That all said, there was no living for Saul Berenson (played by Mandy Patinkin). He first flexes his muscles, reminding Lockhart that he can’t grow facial hair like the Beard at the head of the CIA can. Now that he’s back in the good graces of the woman he loves at home, Mira, and the woman he loves at work, the CIA, Saul is at peace. He can even make a play, one that borders on the insane, implausible and delusional, but a play nonetheless that could bring Iran and the USofA peace. But first, he must make a play against Lockhart, and he does—the problem is that this comes after he’s already given ibogaine to his guinea pig in Virginia. I’m afraid that this Calvin Johnson detective may have been right and that there really is never a time when the CIA stepped in and made things better.

You may look at Dar Adal and Saul, see that Brody is back and running and say, “Gee, thanks for them!” But don’t. They cure Brody the junkie and turn him into Brody the marine, but before that they give him an illegal drug with “violent, mind-bending hallucinations.” They also give him a choice, but it’s not really one Brody wants. Brody would rather kill himself, whether it be by letting himself drown or by cutting himself with a makeshift wooden “knife.” It’s only when Carrie twists the knife in very deep, and shows him that his daughter is wasting her life away and has changed her last name, it’s only then that Brody “accepts.”

In ‘One Last Time,’ Brody wakes up broken, and Saul and the Bearded Bunch build him back up. He’s like The Wire‘s McNulty, really. (Cue your best “Jimmmmmay!” scream, ala Bunk Moreland.) Brody has been chewed up, then spit back out, then again and again and again. If he wakes up barely able to stand on his two feet, he’s running again by the end of the hour. And for maybe the first time this season, I’m eager to see where his feet will take him.