Homeland, Ep. 3.10: “Good Night” is the most suspenseful episode of the season

Homeland.3.10

Homeland, Season 3: Episode 10 – “Good Night”
Written by Alexander Cary and Charlotte Stoudt
Directed by Keith Gordon
Airs Sunday nights at 9 on Showtime

Maybe, by default, calling “Good Night” the most suspenseful episode of the season carries less weight than it should. So, to state it more clearly, “Good Night” is a fantastic individual episode of both Homeland and television in general. At its best, this series vibrates at an extremely high level of tension, which has been both character-based and plot-based in the past. Much of what made these characters interesting has become a little muddled this year, but “Good Night” goes all the way with plot to create some genuinely riveting material. The episode centers around Saul’s play to get Brody across the Iraq-Iran border and doesn’t bother concerning itself with much melodrama. Structurally, it’s the most tightly-focused episode of Homeland I can remember (even more so than the critically lauded “Q&A” from last season) despite the two locales being thousands of miles apart from one another. There’s never a moment, though, where it feels like Brody is very far from Carrie. And where this episode could have played up that relationship in a cliche, soapy way, there’s a surprising amount of emotional draw there. “Good Night” shows that Carrie and Brody are more than just two people caught up in a weird love story – they’re two human beings who try to bring out the best in each other.

Carrie begins the episode by restlessly asking questions as if to expose someone – anyone – for not doing their job completely. This is was the first time Carrie as a character really pissed me off as opposed to just making me roll my eyes. In a context where patience is a necessity, Carrie is the worst possible kind of person to be included in this mission, because she is someone who both can’t quite handle when things are out of her control and gets upset because she can’t recognize that as a counter-intuitive quality for someone in her position. So, we get those annoying moments. We get her snarkiness with the senator (although, he’s kind of an asshole, so we’ll let that slide). And we get her whining over video chat, which Saul has to silence in the paternal way we’re used to seeing him do. Pushing that aside, there’s some outstanding moments with Carrie and between her and Brody, specifically. Each of them gets to pull off an almost involuntary smile, much like the kind that gave last season’s premiere its title. Carrie smiles as she overhears Brody taking control of the mission after it has gone way south. Brody smiles as he ignores Carrie’s plea and makes a heroic run for the border to try and keep the mission alive. That connection that is ingrained in these characters’ bones at this point is at its most clear when they are speaking to one another. Carrie wants Brody to abort so that he might live, and Brody won’t have it because, as stated, he knows how to bring out the best in her. “You’ll find a way to bring me back,” (paraphrase) he tells her. It’s not a romantic moment, it’s a moment of sibling-like support and encouragement. I can see where some people might write off the moment as cliche, but this was the heart of “Good Night” exemplified, and I mean that in the most positive of ways.

Take a moment to consider that this is Keith Gordon’s first stab at directing an episode of Homeland. The guy has credentials, certainly (he did the pilot for the ridiculously good Rectify earlier this year). This is whole other level of acute, though. Reminiscent of the dark (literally, not figuratively) set-piece that was Zero Dark Thirty‘s final act, Gordon does wonders with Brody’s journey across the rough terrain of Iraq. The IED that goes off creates a stunning and shocking visual, and while a lot of the gunfighting is obscured under cover of darkness, the tension seems to only benefit because of how disorienting the entire sequence is. The episode could have been improved upon if we had been given more time with the soldiers who accompany Brody – the one who Javadi kills at the end of the episode is so foreign to us as a character that there’s hardly a reaction there. However, like the episode as a whole, how things play out overpowers where the material is lacking.

What happens back with the CIA is less exciting (Quinn and Dar Adal didn’t need to be there even if they actually needed to be there). Yet there are a couple worthwhile moments centering around this season’s main protagonist – Saul. After all the questionable things that Saul has done to get this mission to see the light of day, you can’t help but feel the entirety of his disappointment when he thinks that it was all for nothing. A lesser character and writer would have had a scene in the hallway with flailing fists knocking over boxes and whatnot. Saul quietly and methodically paces to the elevator, presses the button and leans against the wall in a way that shows how much weight is bearing down on him. Similarly, he doesn’t jump for joy when Carrie comes in to tell him that Brody pulled it off. He lightens up just enough for us to understand that he’s over the moon behind those glasses. Maybe his lucky gum didn’t help the plan go off without a hitch, but both Brody and Javadi are in play. That’s one huge step closer to realizing the peace that he’s aiming for before he has to step down from his position.

Fara gets a brief appearance at the end when Carrie goes to ask her about using her uncle to provide a safehouse in Tehran. It’s a good reminder that Carrie is good at convincing people to do things they really don’t want to do, and it’s also a way of creating more material that puts Fara in the spotlight. That, if anything, is something worth looking forward to as we approach the final two episodes of this erratic and thrilling season.

- Sean Colletti

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By Sean Colletti

Sean Colletti graduated with a BA in English with Creative Writing at the University of Birmingham (UK). He recently finished his MA in Creative Writing Prose at the University of East Anglia. His favorite current TV shows are Mad Men, Louie and Parks and Recreation. His favorite films are Synecdoche, New York, Magnolia and The Lives of Others. He blogs at: www.thereisnothingon.com

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3 Responses to Homeland, Ep. 3.10: “Good Night” is the most suspenseful episode of the season

  1. tmack December 2, 2013 at 9:47 am

    At last. Finally. Yes! We get an episode that deserves praise, not snark. I’m almost mad about it, the fact that finally in the 10th episode, nearly the end of the season, we get an episode that’s Homeland-worthy. All the way through, I was riveted by the intense action on the field. I was even in awe that people would attempt such an operation; like Brody, I would have been scared sh…less, terrified. Agree–it reminded me of Zero Dark Thirty. In fact, it was almost better because the action was so closeup and because of that short moment about fear.

    Who among us trusts Javadi? I don’t. I think he’s messed with Saul’s stash of gum. There’s got to be some kind of payoff for this featured chew that both Saul and Carrie chomped on throughout the episode. When Saul left the surveillance room and leaned against the wall, I thought the poisoned gum was starting to have some effect. Perhaps it’s slow acting, like the beans Walter White used in Breaking Bad. In any case, we must remember that there is still a mole on the loose and unidentified. And putting Saul out of commission on an operation that’s off the books and unsanctioned by the president of the US would be an extension of the Langley bombing (and perhaps a way to dispose of Carrie’s bundle of joy).

    On a side note, I was fascinated and very disturbed by the ease with which the terrain of Iraq & Iran could be monitored from Virginia. Being an opponent of mass govt surveillance and excessive drone attacks, I hated seeing the use of this technology knowing that if Law & Govt can see Iraq from Virginia then they can certainly see me purchasing some weed or buying cigarettes on the south side of Chicago (not that I do either, just an example). Tools like this aren’t shelved under pressure of protest, and they are often abused and misused as we have already seen in this Snowden era.

    So, Sean, nothing to yell at me for this time around. I agree with you. The episode was sublime.

    Reply
    • Sean Colletti December 2, 2013 at 10:48 pm

      As a viewer who has been a bit disenchanted with the series this year, do you think a strong finish (which, ideally, would kill off Brody) would redeem some of the earlier, weaker material? Or would it just save the season from total mediocrity and give a respectable jumping-off point for next year?

      Reply
      • tmack December 3, 2013 at 8:10 pm

        I would love to see this series righted and finish strong. Despite all its faults this season, I still watch Homeland, hoping it will re-discover its true course. And I think my view is true of all the others who have hooted at these initial episodes. It’s hard to walk away from something that once was so good.

        Brody must die, especially since he did kill the vice president of the US; there’s no way to rehabilitate him. It’s up to the writers to fill that character void. If this episode is any indication of their abilities, then I believe that the show will regain its footing.

        Reply

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