The last time we saw Homeland’s Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), he was at the Canadian border, being framed for the murder of 200+ CIA agents and ready to run away with Carrie (Claire Danes). Out of loyalty to Saul (Mandy Patinkin) and her her former place of employment (and maybe even a sliver of a survival instinct), though, Carrie decided to stay in D.C., but promised her bad romance that she’d clear his name.
Since then, she’s no closer to fulfilling that promise. Instead, Carrie’s been stuck in a terrifying psych ward, where she figures the only way out is through groveling. Assuming that Saul and her doctor are in cahoots, she tries to thank them for doing her the “favor” of putting her back on lithium. The doctor thinks she’s still paranoid, though, which isn’t going to bolster her Brody-was-framed argumemt; she’s in fact so far from being able to leave she’s not even allowed visitors yet. Nor does she help her case by bashing her head against the bathroom mirror. “I’m going cr – I’m doing everything’s that’s asked of me,” she cries to a sympathetic nurse, who inexplicably risks her own job to allow Carrie to meet with a lawyer.
But Carrie sees this white-bread attorney, Paul Franklin, as a recruiter for one of America’s enemies – a sign of her paranoia, perhaps, but also a surprising indication of her extant loyalty to the CIA.
On the other side of the world, Brody’s blind faith in Carrie hasn’t served him particularly well, either. After a two-week absence, Lewis reappears on the show and proves again that he’s one of TV’s best actors, even when given relatively thin material. We see him first bloody and bullet-ridden, hyperventilating like a fish out of water. Taken to a velvet-tongued American who seems to know at least the rudiments of medicine, Brody somehow has the mental wherewithal (and honestly, the gall) to ask him, “Are you a doctor?” “Interesting question,” replies Graham (Erik Todd Dellums) in a deliciously creepy, decidedly nonreassuring way.
Because Brody is a distinctive-looking man who has for whatever reason done almost nothing to disguise his appearance, he’s trapped by his “wanted” status. He returns from the brink of death for the second time on the show, again dependent on the kindness of strangers – or their willingness to exploit him for their own gain. But his current warden, El Nino, isn’t out to win hearts and minds. (It’s worth noting that Abu Nazir was Brody’s captor-turned-hero, while El Nino is his hero-turned-captor.)
The obvious parallel this third episode, “Tower of David,” is trying to draw is between Carrie and Brody’s imprisonments, but Brody’s storyline suffers from our not knowing what El Nino’s end game is. When Graham wonders aloud why his boss(?) is keeping Brody alive instead of simply killing him and turning him over for the $10m reward, El Nino replies, “Maybe someone did you a favor once,” suggesting he’s repaying Carrie’s kindness.
But El Nino apparently also intends for Brody to stay in the Tower of David forever, which makes no sense. Brody is a restless prisoner – he’ll get over his newfound taste for heroin soon enough – and the Tower of David is teeming with cash-strapped residents. In a logical world, one of the residents will soon figure out who he is and rat out Brody for the reward money.
Unsurprisingly, then, El Nino isn’t too keen on Brody’s continual attempts to ruin his karmic payback (the good kind) to Carrie. When Brody flees to the mosque with the help of Esme, El Nino’s conveniently super-foxy daughter, the probable gangleader has to retrieve Brody by killing four innocent people in the process – the Columbian federales, as well as the imam and his wife. (I did like that the imam told Brody, “You’re not a Muslim. You are a terrorist.” – one of the few times Homeland has bothered to differentiate between most Muslims and the extreme minority who commit violent acts.) “There’s no next place,” El Nino tells Brody, when the latter insists on moving on. But if El Nino has a next move, I’m eager to hear it.
The MVP of “Tower of David” is certainly Graham, who is more suggestively scary than the bluntly violent, spider-tattooed El Nino. The local strongman’s power seems rooted in practicality, while Graham’s is more sinuous and enigmatic. I wouldn’t be surprised if Paco, the small boy who helped Graham pull out Brody’s bullet, was more than his medical assistant. Yet Graham has no compunctions about casting moral judgment on Brody, observing, “Everywhere you go, other people die, but you manage to survive. You’re like a cockroach.”
Poor Brody. He can’t even get sympathy from the devil.