The following article contains spoilers for “The Clearing,” the November 12th episode of “Homeland.”
With General Petraeus resigning from his post as director of the Central Intelligence Agency a few days ago after the discovery of his reported extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell, the principle writer of his biography, the melodramatic turn “Homeland” took this Sunday in “The Clearing” seems a little less overheated than it might have a week or two ago. Sure, star-and-stripes-crossed lovers Brody (Damian Lewis) and Carrie (Claire Danes) ended up in a clinch in the middle of a clearing outside of a Republican fundraising event, but other members of the CIA were probably out there conducting their own dangerous liasons just a few trees over. And despite the messy impossibility of their romance — “I do feel used and played and lied to… but I also feel good. Two minutes with you and I feel good,” Brody confesses mid-kiss, which is not exactly sweet talk — these two crazy kids still seem worth rooting for as their world gets all the more dangerous.
A large part of this is due to the white-hot chemistry Danes and Lewis maintain no matter how tense their situation. Carrie’s insisted to Peter (Rupert Friend), who’s making a rapid recovery after getting shot last week, that she has no feelings for Brody. Her response here to Brody’s question about whether their make-out session is just another aspect of her handling of him feels more honest — she has no idea. John Dahl, who directed this episode (it was written by Meredith Stiehm), has portrayed plenty of lovers with trust issues in the past in film fare like “The Last Seduction,” “Red Rock West” and “Kill Me Again,” and there’s an edge of those films’ mindfuckery to Carrie and Brody’s interaction in their two scenes together here, in the clearing and later at the police station. Whether Carrie’s playing Brody, vice versa or something more complication, the power’s swung toward Carrie, so much so that Brody feels lost and short of any direction in his role of a double agent, caught between two handlers who won’t tell him anything.
Carrie and Brody are somewhere between doing what’s best for them and getting caught up in emotions, but the latter tendency catches Saul (Mandy Patinkin) unexpectedly when he goes to get information on the mystery man Roya (Zuleikha Robinson) met up with in “A Gettysburg Address.” Aileen (Marin Ireland), still in maximum security lock-up after what happened in season one, pretends to know who the man is, but refuses to tell until she can get a room with a window, apologizing to Saul for her lack of trust but insisting she see the agreement in writing. It’s all a long con, anyway — she just wanted to get some time in the sunlight before offering herself, with no hope for life outside of prison and her will to live slipping away. The storyline is ultimately just a dead end (unless Aileen’s music grad student friend turns out to be surprisingly and accidentally useful), but it showed that even Saul could be susceptible to the tug of humanity, and that the winner in this show usually ends up being the person who’s willing to exploit that vulnerability in others.
In the episode’s third major storyline, the teenage hit-and-run gets resolved by Dana (Morgan Saylor), of all these three pairs, doing the right thing despite the emotional appeals of her new (and probably now former) boyfriend Finn (Timothée Chalamet). Her conscience eating at her, Dana tries to convince Finn that they need to confess despite his fears of his father and insistence that it’s not the same for people like them, and when she can’t, she informs him that she’s going to tell whether or not he comes with. After quibbling and consumption, on his part, of some “liquid courage,” they fess up to their mothers, and Dana and Jessica (Morena Baccarin) are quickly schooled in what really does happen to those occupying their new echelon — Cynthia (Talia Balsam), Finn’s mother and the VP’s wife, insists she’ll make this all go away.
It’s interesting that Brody, despite being the man who was not so long ago going to go through with a plan to blow himself and others up, is the most concerned with morality of his group — though his motivations to align himself with al-Qaeda were also, in a confused, brainwashed way, about righting a wrong. His rage at Carrie’s preventing him from doing the right thing and allowing Dana to talk to the police about the woman she and Finn accidentally killed nevertheless seems misplaced, except as a sign that he’s nearing a breaking point. He just wants to do right by his kid, and there’s a nobility to both his willingness to toss his nonstarter political career on the line and his attempt to tell fundraiser host Rex (Jonh Finn) that he’s neither a good man nor a potential presidential candidate. Poor Brody, who had to wait until dark to swim without getting his scars ogled by gawking partyguests — he has no control over anything at the moment.