Michael Mahin ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff
“Beirut is Back,” the second episode of the second season of Homeland, is a characteristically excellent hour of prime time television with a game-changing conclusion which will leave fans of the series gasping for breath and waiting in abject torture for the show’s return next Sunday. Director Michael Cuesta and writer Chip Johannessen deftly maintain both the series’ thickening plot and the ever evolving character motivations, resulting in an action-packed and yet emotionally satisfying addition to an already thrilling new season.
“Beirut is Back” picks up where season premiere “The Smile” left off: Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), having narrowly missed being arrested by Lebanese policemen, meets with former asset Fatima Ali at a mosque in order to gain knowledge of an impending attack on the U.S. Fatima tells Carrie that her husband, a Hezbollah district commander, will be meeting with Abu Nazir. Carrie later takes this information to Saul (Mandy Patinkin) and Estes (David Harewood), who question the legitimacy of Carrie’s source.
Meanwhile, Nicholas Brody (Damien Lewis) encounters Vice President Walden who asks for Brody’s support in the urgent bombing of a nuclear site in Iran. Brody reluctantly agrees. Meanwhile, his wife Jessica (Morena Baccarin) is asked to co-host a fundraiser by Cynthia Walden, a position which brings together Dana and the Waldens’ son Finn.
Back in Beirut, Carrie overhears Saul on the phone, questioning her judgment and reliability. Carrie promptly has a nervous breakdown in which she expresses confusion over her seemingly false identification of Brody as a terrorist. She does, however, express her sincere belief that Fatima is telling the truth. Her conviction leads Saul to OK the attempted capture of Nazir. As word gets back to the U.S. about this attempted strike, Vice President Walden invites Brody to watch the attempted capture of Nazir with fellow government officials. Brody, under some duress, is able to give warning to Nazir via text, who survives the attack and is shuttled away from the scene.
Carrie and Saul then pick up Fatima from her apartment so as to transport her to the U.S., however, Carrie frustrated by the mission’s failure, disobeys protocol and enters Fatima’s apartment to collect any relevant documents of Fatima’s husband that might tip off the U.S. concerning any further meetings or attacks. On her way out of the apartment building, Carrie faces an angry mob that attacks her. Finally, Carrie escapes the angry mob and gets to the car holding Saul and Fatima and they all leave Beirut.
Back to Brody, who is seen entering a bar to meet up with some fellow war veterans. The fellow veterans express disappointment at his inability to illuminate the incident involving Walker. They wisely point out that Walker never missed a single shot, which makes his failure to assassinate the Vice President all the more unlikely.
The last scene concerns Saul as he discovers a microchip in a satchel recovered by Carrie in Fatima’s apartment. Saul is then seen watching the content of the microchip: Brody’s video confession before his attempted suicide bombing. Letting Saul know that Brody is, as Carrie has said all along, working as an agent of terrorism.
Homeland has always been a series relatively unafraid of changing its course or direction, even at the most unexpected moments. “Back in Beirut” highlighted this particular quality by revealing a game-changing element (which might have otherwise been withheld until near the end of the season) very early in the season. It’s an exciting, and confounding, moment that proves that the writers and directors of this series are among some of the craftiest and most intelligent working in television right now. I trust the creators of this show whole-heartedly and believe that whatever course Homeland takes this season will most likely be the right one.
Additionally, performances this week were suitably top-notch, with Danes delivering particularly strong work. Her silent breakdown in Beirut is a heart wrenching piece of acting which will likely earn her more Emmy attention for next year. Lewis further masters the delicate line that Brody walks between protagonist and villain, veteran and terrorist. His impromptu warning to Nazir makes for the kind of compelling suspenseful and morally complicated scene that has made Homeland such an engrossing and inventive series.
This week’s episode pulls audiences closer into the increasingly complicated, and thrilling, web that is Showtime’s Homeland. This is must-see TV at its finest.