'In Memoriam' is a much stronger outing. While not without its idiotic moments (Carrie had possibly the most inept armed escort in all of CIA history) there's a handful of knockout scenes here that are right up there with the strongest parts of 'New Car Smell' and 'Q&A'.
The title came largely from Abu Nazir, who briefly turned into a horror movie villain stalking Carrie in the tunnels before finally meeting his somewhat anticlimactic end. Reducing him to a spectre of evil did feel a little off, in contrast to his articulacy in the past, and after the kidnapping last week we're not sure we really needed to see Carrie as the victim yet again. But the sense of anticlimax seemed completely intentional, because as Nazir's body is carried out on a stretcher, Carrie doesn't look triumphant or relieved so much as lost - oddly, parallelling the climactic moment when Brody is arrested in 'New Car Smell' and she looks shattered. After devoting years and years of her life to hunting down this man, she's now adrift.
But "in memoriam" also refers to the crumbling of Brody and Jess's marriage, which has frankly been a walking corpse all season. That was such a beautifully-played scene, much longer and stiller than the show generally allows for, and Brody's impassive reaction to Jess's tears mirrored the earlier moment when he broke down over Nazir's death, and Jess didn't move to console him at all.
There's such a chasm between them at this point that any physical connection just feels false, and Jess reflecting on how "okay" they used to be was a really poignant way to convey that. And her not wanting to hear what Brody was about to tell her (about Carrie's accusations being true) felt authentic - the only bright spot in their split is that she doesn't have to deal with his demons any more.
Because we don't get to say this often enough: Morena Baccarin is really, really very good. Damian Lewis was back on form too, after last week's bug-eyed, manic antics seemed to take him slightly out of his comfort zone. His tearful reaction to the news of Nazir's death was a reminder of just how fragile and damaged he really is, underneath all the posturing.
The scene would have been strong in any context, but it was given an extra layer of tension by our knowledge that the hit is now out on Brody, and he could be taken out by sniper fire at any given moment. We could barely breathe during the entire car scene with Jess, particularly once she got out of the car and left him alone, and the scene at Carrie's door was similarly nail-biting.
And poor Saul's attempts to reason with Estes about the plan to assassinate Brody gets him nothing but trouble, in the form of a jumped-up polygraph test designed to give Estes just enough rope to hang Saul with. It was interesting for the show to finally call back to the first season episode in which Saul repeatedly failed the polygraph, although there didn't really seem to be any implication this time around that he was actually shady. At this point, any revelation like Saul being the mole would feel like such a betrayal of the character that it's hard to imagine it being anything other than a shark-vaulting moment, so we're glad that (so far) there doesn't seem to be any hint of that.
If Brody and Jess's poignant car break-up was the highlight of the episode, then Carrie's interrogation of Roya wasn't far behind. Zuleikha Robinson hasn't had a huge amount of different shades to play so far, as Roya's done little but impassively give orders, but her 180-degree turn midway through this scene was breathtaking and genuinely scary. And though we're sympathetic to Carrie and her feelings for Brody, there was more than a shred of truth in what Roya said about her.
While we've already mentioned Nazir's weird horror movie transformation, that sequence in the tunnels really was effectively creepy; the moment when Carrie finds her escort's bloodied body wouldn't have been out of place in Ridley Scott's Alien. If the season were to end with a slimy, infant Nazir bursting out of Brody's stomach, just when everybody thought they were safe... we'd sort of be okay with that.
After a mind-blowing first five episodes, Homeland's second season has declined into a decidedly mixed bag, and despite all our relatively positive feelings about this episode, it's hard to shake the feeling that next week's finale will be a make-or-break moment for the show. David Harewood's already told us that somebody is biting the dust, so let us know all your predictions in the comments below...
- Just when we thought she could not get any more annoying, Dana literally cried over spilt milk. And then had yet another pointless hissy fit. We just don't understand how the writers have managed to transform such a well-drawn character into an amalgamation of all the worst TV teenager clichés, in the space of maybe five episodes. Somebody, please, ship this brat off to boot camp or boarding school or something. And give her some elocution lessons while you're at it - the slurring has got out of control, to the point where we're worried she may have an underlying neurological problem.
- When will these people learn? Carrie is always right. Even when she seems to be babbling crap, she is right. Why even go through the whole process of not believing her for half the episode, then realising she's right when it's almost too late to do anything about it?
- Well, okay, except when she isn't right. Poor Galvez. There's been a fair amount of viewer speculation about him being the mole, or being shady in some way, and in theory this episode didn't entirely shut down the possibility of that. But for now, he's just a dude with his stitches ripped open. Ouch.
- Chris Brody may not have been revealed as the evil mastermind behind everything, as we were hoping last week, but he was still on a roll this week. He must have spoken a good 15 words! And he told Dana to shut up! He'll go far, this one.
- "We don't make deals with terrorists." Right, you just pretend to make deals with terrorists and then off them once they're no longer useful. That's much more moral, Estes, you supreme douche.
- Were we the only ones worried that Nazir had a bomb vest on underneath his jacket, and would just blow himself and everybody else in the tunnel to smithereens once he was cornered?
- This episode's original title was to be 'The Motherf**ker with a Turban'. That title is amazing, if a little random, and we are heartbroken.