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US TV Recap

Homeland 'Q&A' recap: 'Are you sure you're not a monster?'

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Season 2, episode 5 | Aired Sunday, Nov 4 2012 at 21:00 GMT on Channel 4

If there's one thing this writer loves, it's a bottle episode. Generally employed by series producers as a budget-saving measure, episodes that take place largely in one location often end up striking gold in character terms.

Breaking Bad's 'Fly', Mad Men's 'The Suitcase', Doctor Who's 'Midnight', Buffy the Vampire Slayer's 'Older and Far Away' - we could go on and on, naming classic episodes that centred on characters thrown into a room and forced to spend time together. Festering secrets emerge, long-buried tensions surface, and in almost every case actors are given a chance to shine thanks to the theatrical limits a bottle episode imposes.

Homeland 2x05 'Q&A'


'Q & A' wasn't a bottle episode in the strictest sense, featuring plenty of locations outside of the CIA interrogation room where its core storyline played out. But it's that room viewers will remember when they look back on this episode, and the shattering character moments that took place inside. Carrie (with a little help from bad cop Quinn) laid Brody bare, and it was as beautiful and painful an hour of drama as we've ever seen.

Quinn is right when he says that Carrie is too emotional, although at that point he's already planning to use that fact to the CIA's advantage. Her instability, her rashness and willingness to break rules is both her best and worst quality as an agent, and this episode demonstrated that better than any other.

Carrie was able to get through to Brody where nobody else could have, because she knows him like nobody else does - but the only reason she knows him that well is because she essentially has no regard for the rules of her profession. Her unprofessionalism makes her a great agent, but it's a delicate line to walk. It only takes one wrong move for 'genius maverick' to become 'dicey liability', and now that she and Brody are having a faux-affair, there's going to be ample opportunity for her to slip up again.

And given how heartbreaking and nuanced and tender the Carrie/Brody relationship became this week, we wouldn't blame her. What's most brilliant about that 17-minute interrogation sequence is that for much of it, you're genuinely not sure whether to believe a thing either of them is saying. Even once Brody finally starts telling the truth, you're expecting him to hold something back at every turn, but it's Carrie's side that really keeps you guessing.

Homeland 2x05 'Q&A


When she's recalling her war trauma, it feels transparently like a ploy to get Brody to open up, a sympathetic face that she'll switch off the minute she gets what she wants from him. But as the scene goes on - and both actors' lines become increasingly choked with tears - it's clear just how genuine their connection is. "We were playing each other," Brody protests at one point about their time at the cabin, and Carrie responds: "I wasn't. Not all of the time, anyway." Even when these two are manipulating each other, they're being more honest than they are with anybody else.

Danes and Lewis both gave absolutely shattering performances in this episode. It's clear just how moved Carrie is when she's articulating what Abu Nazir did to Brody; being systematically pulled apart piece by piece and put back together wrong, given a boy to love and lose, and so on. Almost as powerful was the moment as Saul walks in, when Carrie snatches her hand back from stroking Brody's head and swiftly wipes away a tear. So devastating.

But after several episodes where Danes has been the clear standout, this was Lewis's first real turn in the second season spotlight. When Carrie asked him "When was the last time you told the truth?", it highlighted just how little time Brody has spent doing anything but masquerading as something - the proud soldier, the loving husband and father, the devoted congressman.

This week, he was finally stripped bare and Lewis knocked every sequence out of the park; from Brody's agitation with Quinn to his gradual breaking with Carrie and finally his physical collapse - from relief, from emotion, from fear, from sheer exhaustion. On the evidence of this episode alone, Lewis could well be onto a Cranston-esque Emmy winning streak.

Homeland S02E05: 'Q&A'

© Showtime



Elsewhere, some other stuff happened, we suppose. In that tense moment when Dana drove off with Finn, their romance suddenly looked set to go in a very dark and very interesting direction that would also tie it back into Brody's plotline. Abu Nazir plotting to kill Walden's son (perhaps, say, by blowing up his car with Dana inside too) would have been fitting given all the references to Issa this episode. But instead of Finn and Dana getting blown up, we got this hit and run plotline which has nothing to do with anything else, and makes Dana look like a moron. When your date starts running red lights and breaking speed limits in residential area, try screaming, not laughing.

Other thoughts:
- It's tough to remember there's anybody in this show besides Lewis and Danes, but Rupert Friend is really outstanding as Quinn: sharp, mercurial, genuinely scary. Carrie couldn't have asked for a better bad cop.
- Saul's line "She's forgotten more about Brody and Nazir than we'll ever know" was a lovely piece of writing, but it also highlighted the slightly odd handling of the Issa reveal. Unless we're missing something, Brody came totally clean about him this week, which makes Carrie's last-minute memory of his name before her ECT a completely irrelevant cliffhanger. Frankly, so much has happened since the finale that it almost doesn't matter, but it's an odd way to resolve what was set up as a major plot point for this season.
- Brody's son Chris got actual dialogue this week! Dialogue that wasn't about karate or Facebook and went on for more than a single sentence! He may yet break free of the dreaded Bobby Draper Syndrome.
- The flu excuse Estes came up with really seemed pretty flimsy - surely he could have predicted that Jessica would go over to the hotel and check for herself whether Brody was really ill.
- Once Upon A Time in America? As a first date movie? The kid's certainly got stamina.
- Now the only question becomes whether Brody's reprogramming will stick. We're reminded that it took Abu Nazir years to take him apart and rebuild him, while Carrie and Quinn seemingly did it in a day - one breaking him down physically, the other emotionally - but in theory all they're doing is reverting him to the good man he really is, rather than turning a good man into a monster as Nazir was. We shall see...
- As far as we could tell, the only detail Brody kept from the CIA is the fact that he killed the tailor in Gettysburg, who's still alive as far as they know. Anything else he lied about?

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