Who’s the Good Soldier?
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Meredith Stiehm is absolutely brilliant. This has been a fantastic and consistent season of Homeland (yes, I like the Dana storyline) but a lot of the various threads have kind of gone on their own various tangents. Stiehm’s script does a fantastic job of tying these various threads together into a coherent, streamlined hour. It’s a difficult job as a writer to tie in various disparate threads and it’s even more difficult to tie them into the central narrative like this episode does so well. The inherent question Stiehm’s script seems to be interested in and addresses phenomenally well is what makes a good soldier? What are the qualities and introspective nuances create a man or woman worthy of that title? Or is it the lack of nuance and the ability to do as your told that earns the title? Brody has broken completely but no one around him besides Carrie truly seems to understand that. A wealthy veteran fundraiser named Rex praises him on not breaking and wants him to succeed Walden. Does that make Brody a good soldier? In that case, he’s a terrible one, isn’t he?
The episode begins with Roya intercepting Brody’s jog, noting they lost the man Danny had shot (Boohoo, Roya). She really doesn’t tell him much besides “Your role is now more important than ever.” Helpful. A frustrated Brody attends a political fundraiser hosted by Rex Henning who is a political contributor to Walden’s potential campaign. Jessica mentions Mike’s allegation and Brody continues to skirt the line between truth and lies by using his “CIA work” as a shield. Rex it turns out is a veteran himself and he notes that unlike himself in Vietnam, Brody is still intact. There’s a heartbreaking pause in the episode where Brody stares intently at Rex. He very much wants that to be true but it isn’t and he’s acutely aware of that reality. If only he knew, Brody wonders. Rex endorses the Walden/Brody ticket, secretly confiding that he’s only giving the endorsement because he one day wants to see Brody rise to the top of a ticket.Call it a hunch but I don’t see that quite happening.
The aspect of The Clearing that perhaps is amongst the most beautiful moments in the series’ history is the bringing back of Aileen Morgan from Season 1. She’s in solitary confinement at a maximum security prison. Saul gives her the photo of the man with Roya and asks her to identify him. In return she asks for a cell above ground with a window. He gets it done despite a rowdy warden that insults Saul’s beard. “My name is Inigo Montoya. You insulted my beard. Now prepare to die.” No, no, Saul doesn’t say that even though I really wanted him to. Aileen gives him a potential name and address in grateful return. Unfortunately it’s not a real tip and a furious, hurt Saul rushes back. He’s hit with a realization and he rushes towards Aileen’s cell. She had cut her own throat with a lens from Saul’s glasses that he had inadvertently left there. Saul breaks down, sobbing uncontrollably around Aileen’s corpse. “My emotions allowed her to play me,” he admits to Quinn quietly. But there had been an odd sort of kinship between the two that has broken. There’s a quiet realization that this story isn’t over.
In other fundraiser news, Dana and Finn come clean courtesy of Dana more than anyone else. “We killed someone,” she blurts with the expectation that someone would understand her point of view. The Waldens immediate jump into the cover-up mode while the Brodys are aghast. Finn just nonchalantly walks away, leaving behind a shocked Dana. Brody’s feelings of being ersatz continue to haunt him as he meets Carrie. They kiss but he pulls away and leaves, puzzled. Brody takes Dana to the police station, trying to do something, anything that would validate the trust Rex put in him of being a good soldier. It’s almost endearing to see him take his daughter to do the right thing. But Carrie stops him. The report would jeopardize his relationship with Walden and that would be something the CIA cannot allow him to do. Dana is disgusted by what she sees as her father caring more about the campaign than her. Brody rounds on Carrie, yelling “This is not okay! None of this is ****ing okay!” It isn’t, it isn’t okay at all. There is no clearing, no empty slate for anyone and that’s the compelling strand of this drama. On to next week.
Title: The Clearing
Written By: Meredith Stiehm
Directed By: John Dahl
Image Courtesy: IGN