Homeland, Season 1, Episode 8: “Achilles Heel”
Written by Chip Johannessen
Directed by Tucker Gates
Airs Sundays at 10pm ET on Showtime
Homeland has dabbled in thematically structured episodes already, but “Achilles Heel” took that to another level and by doing so brought to mind a lot of what made the best episodes of the failed AMC show, Rubicon, so great. You take a theme and you let it seep into all the ongoing storylines, and by doing so you add extra weight and character even when not much is actually happening story-wise. Except that in this case, a lot did happen outside of the central theme of love in marriage.
The episode worked in that theme on multiple fronts in what was actually something of a Carrie-light episode. Brody and Jessica have begun to clear the air and air starting to resemble a happily married couple. They get invited to a party with some major political players, and all through it they find themselves bonding more and more. It’s sort of like they are falling in love all over again.
On the opposite end of that we find Saul trying everything he can to get Mira to stay with him. It’s a lost cause, but he can’t help himself. Mira is intent on leaving, and while Saul really can’t stop his job from getting in the way of his marriage, he’s deluded himself into thinking that spark of their old romance is enough to keep them going. They, too, are invited to that swanky party where the plan to get Brody elected to congress is made quite clear. And kudos to the Homeland writers for including a plot development inspired by the Anthony Weiner scandal. Dick Johnson really is a great name.
The marriage theme continues right into the Tom Walker story. We find Walker has been scraping by on the streets of DC, alive and well. He’s been getting instructions from a foreign diplomat, but in the meantime has been keeping low. Except, that is, for watching his family. His son says that he saw him watching his school. And Saul discovers that Walker has been calling his house after everyone is gone just so he can listen to his wife and son on the answering machine. Even after all these years and after having been turned, he still loves his wife and his family. Carrie works on a plan to get Helen Walker to pick up the phone one day when Tom calls in order to get a trace. The plan works, with Helen talking to her husband in a very emotional scene, but then it all goes completely wrong. Tom speaks, Helen is overcome with devotion to her husband and she ends up warning Tom about the trace.
This leads to a great sequence in which the FBI chases Tom down into a building and then shoots two people who turn out to be innocent men at Morning Prayer in a mosque. To avoid a storm of controversy, the CIA and FBI teams decide to overshadow what they’ve done by releasing the name, pictures and details of Tom Walker to the media. As Saul tells Carrie, it will be a lot of work to sort through the thousands upon thousands of tips they are going to be receiving. Their jobs just got a whole lot harder.
And yet Carrie’s mind is pre-occupied. She screwed up with Brody, a fact that she has now revealed to Saul, who comforted her rather than sold her. Amongst all these married people she sees herself and she sees Saul and she comes to the realization that her job will consume her and that she will likely be alone forever. It’s a trope often used in spy stories, and other stories about intense jobs, but Homeland found a way to really have it hit home by exploring various facets of marriage. Like Rubicon, Homeland plays almost like a workplace drama in an intelligence setting, showing how the job affects the people who work there, the moral problems they face, and all while stringing together a fantastic conspiracy plot.
And just when we thought the conspiracy plot couldn’t get much better, the ending of the episode throws in a huge twist. The writers pulled off the best kind of trick this week. For the last few episodes, the show has been breaking down the suspicions toward Brody. Even after last week, when it was revealed that Walker was still alive, Brody still felt suspicious. But this week, by having him really start to re-adjust to his life and his marriage even those suspicions really started to vanish. Maybe instead of him having been turned he really is innocent, and maybe he’ll get elected and start working with Carrie somehow. These options seemed totally plausible. Then, just as those suspicions were being put aside, we are hit with the big reveal. Brody has broken into the home of that diplomat who was handing Walker instructions. He gets angry about being tricked into thinking Walker was dead and then tells the diplomat to inform Abu Nazir that he is out. He no longer wants to be a part of their plan. Which, of course, means he really was a part of their plan the whole time.
The biggest question now is: what role did Brody have? Do you think he really is out? Do you think we’ll see him get elected to Congress? Maybe next season? There are still four episodes left, and as this show has proven, anything can happen.
Leave your thoughts on this episode and predictions for the future in the comments below!