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US TV Recap

'Homeland' recap: Abu Nazir takes a new hostage in 'Broken Hearts'

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Season 2, episode 10 | Aired Monday, Dec 3 2012 at 12:21 GMT on Channel 4

Homeland has trodden a painfully fine line between willing suspension of disbelief and just plain ludicrous this season. It's been finer in some episodes than others - Brody sending a warning text message to Abu Nazir from inside the Pentagon, or being sent on dogsbody errands by Nazir at the expense of his crucial political career.

But the character writing has by and large been strong enough - and the performances potent enough - that the occasional far-fetched beat hasn't been hard to overlook. This week's episode was the first that seemed to cross over from "Really?" into full-blown "Oh, come ON" territory.

Homeland S02E10: 'Broken Hearts'

© Showtime



First up, we had Brody taking a Skype call from Abu Nazir while inside his CIA safe house; a call that culminated with Brody shouting "NAZIR!" again and again and again in a big, echo-filled apartment a few doors down from his security detail. Sure, okay.

Then, Brody was able to get into Walden's office by faking a trip to the bathroom, stay in there for roughly 20 minutes without any one of the 15 security guys downstairs becoming suspicious, and have another long, not especially quiet phone conversation with Nazir about how much he hates Walden. Right. Fine.

Then a kidnapped Carrie is let go by Nazir, despite the fact that he has nothing but reasons to want her dead, because Brody swore on Isa's soul. We understand that Nazir's defined by his faith, but there's faith and then there's just being a really, really inept terrorist overlord.

And then Carrie, having miraculously escaped a bullet to the head, actually goes back into the rabbit hole armed only with a pipe, presumably in the hopes of finding Nazir and…what? Whacking him on the head with the pipe? Persuading him to turn himself in? Seducing him? The man has a gun and does not care whether he lives or dies.

This final moment was so patently absurd that we've only managed to come up with two possible explanations. One: Carrie's still suicidal following that attempt in 'State of Independence', and thus was unfazed by the prospect of certain death. Two: the traumatic double whammy of getting broadsided and abducted by Nazir has sent her into another manic episode, much like last season with the bomb, and she was in a semi-delusional state. We sort of like the latter idea, although we're not sure how much sense it makes from a psychological point of view.

It was interesting to see Carrie captured, since she's never been in jeopardy to that extent before (last season's bombing was never really designed to make us worry for her). But her one-on-one with Abu Nazir, when it finally came, didn't have anything like the impact it should have. Nazir has never interacted with anyone outside of his circle on screen before, and there was an opportunity for some really fresh, really surprising writing in this face-off between sworn enemies.

Instead, their entire "Who's the terrorist?" exchange felt vaguely hackneyed, revealing nothing much about either Carrie or Nazir. It's hard to believe that this episode was penned by Henry Bromell, whose last script was the subtly-written and incredibly revealing 'Q&A'. But there was a thematic tie-in to that episode, when Carrie asked if Nazir was trying to use the same techniques on her that he used to break Brody: "a lot of pain, a little love."

Homeland S02E10: 'Broken Hearts'

© Showtime



Brody, meanwhile, gets sent on yet another ambitious mission by Nazir: in order to keep Carrie alive, he has to get the serial code for Walden's pacemaker and pass it to Nazir. We've already covered the variously ludicrous elements of this plot, but the pacemaker hacking itself actually has some basis in reality, and the idea of a human kill switch is a chilling concept that feels relatively fresh.

Walden's death scene was easily the most effective in the episode; the hatred in Brody's eyes just burning as he watches Walden collapse, the gradual realisation that he's going to let him die, and the final hiss of "I'm killing you." Walden really did nothing to help himself with the "bunker buster" revelation just before, but however much we as an audience dislike Walden, it's yet another human life Brody has (indirectly) taken.

This episode also confirmed once and for all that Damian Lewis is much better with quiet internal torment than he is with loud, hysterical emotion. Perhaps because so much of his plotline stretched credibility to beyond breaking point, there were several moments that just rang false, and we were left mostly feeling that he should leave the bug-eyed mania to Claire Danes. This wasn't an episode that played to his strengths, although his maniacal grin as he watched Carrie get away was a weird highlight.

The Brody family otherwise didn't get much of a look-in this week, although we did see Finn attempting to relight Dana's fire, and her declining in her usual monotone. At least she got to utter a classic line of terrible, overwrought teenage dialogue, where she explains that they can't rekindle their romance because "we killed it. Just the same way that we killed that woman". Deep, man. Deep.

Homeland S02E10: 'Broken Hearts'

© Showtime



And back at the CIA, Estes's transformation from douchey into genuinely sinister came to a head. Thanks to a conversation over waffles with black ops vet Dar Adal, Saul figured out what Quinn and Estes were planning, and made it clear to Estes that he knew. Estes responded by having some mysterious men detain Saul in the final moments of this episode, saying only that he's "needed downstairs". And for all the silliness that had come before, the unsettling quality of this moment combined with Walden's death scene allowed 'Broken Hearts' to bow out on an intriguingly disturbing note.

Final thoughts:
- "Sometimes when you're breaking a man, an emotional transference takes place. With Nicholas, it was quite powerful." One commenter pointed out last week that Brody and Nazir's relationship is borderline homoerotic, and while we weren't quite seeing it then, this particular line of dialogue certainly did nothing to dissuade us.
- Jess and Mike had a really sweet moment just before Brody came in, with Jess admitting that she was still waiting to feel guilty. Really, why should she at this point? The Brody marriage has plainly been a sham for months, and she's got to be at least semi-certain that Brody's sleeping with Carrie again. It's about time these two just cut their losses and admitted they're done.
- "Hey dad, are we gonna finish this game of hearts?" Okay, Chris's uselessness has got to be an intentional thing at this point. Is he being set up for a huge reveal whereby he's actually the mastermind behind everything? We were half expecting Carrie to go through that darkened doorway in the mill and discover... Chris Brody. Playing cards. Laughing maniacally.
- You have to admire Dana's resolutely disinterested reactions to everything happening around her. "Turns out my dad's a super spy, and terrorists wanna kill him, or some s**t..." she murmurs, in a bored half-slurring monotone. Is she back with Xander? And by that we mean, is she back on the weed?
- So now we know why Estes wants Brody dead - it's to cover up the drone strike, about which they suspect Brody won't stay silent once he's set free. But with Walden dead, Estes is going to need some new priorities; presumably, he'll be trying to prove it was Brody that offed him.
- We knew something terrible was about to happen the minute Carrie turned on the Jazz of Doom. Try some Top 40, woman!

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