The third season of Homeland premiered last night with a quiet but powerful episode entitled “Tin Man is Down.” Skipping ahead to 58 days after the CIA explosion decimated the intelligence agency’s headquarters, sale this episode featured a slow rebuilding of several relationships and the abrupt destruction of another.
Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) is now the acting director of the CIA, unhealthy which means that he’s built up stronger relationships in that office. Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham), for sale who felt like a minor character before, is now thrust into the foreground serving as Saul’s right-hand man at the agency. Of course, both men are looking for a victory after the intelligence community completely failed to realize the threat that existed after Abu Nazir’s death at the end of season two.
As a Senate investigation begins into the bombing, Berenson and Adal plan to take out six terrorists, who are indirectly tied to that act. Their code names— such as “Glenda.” “Toto” and “the Cowardly Lion”— suggest that the elimination of these characters will lead the agency to where it wants to be. Berenson knows that both the political class and the American people doubt the agency’s abilities so a victory would be them on higher ground. As he notes, “A win would be nice. Another f***-up would be fatal.”
Despite his hesitancy about the mission (and his argument that the CIA is supposed to use its targets, not eliminate them), he accepts the plan as is. After all of the agency’s woes, he seems resigned to do what is expedient and not what is in the agency’s best interests (at least as far as he’s concerned).
Another relationship being rebuilt here is the one that Nicholas Brody’s (Damian Lewis) depressed daughter Dana (Morgan Saylor) shares with her family. Dana recently attempted suicide so this new season finds her returning home to her caring brother (Jackson Pace) and her worried mother, Jessica (Morena Baccarin). Jessica is now attempting to build professional relationships herself as she searches for a new job. The government has cut off the family’s benefits so she’s relying on her own career and her mother (who has moved in to the Brody home) to keep her family together.
The relationship that seems to take a back seat here is the one between Berenson and Carrie Mathison, played by Claire Danes who— as usual— captures her character exquisitively onscreen. When forced to decide between his loyalty to the CIA and his affection for Mathison (a woman he became frantic about losing at the end of season 2), he chooses the CIA. The scene showing his testimony where he turns his back on her is the most powerful moment in the episode.
It captures how things have changed since season 2. Brody– the terrorist-turned-informant–
is nowhere to be found. He’s on the run somewhere and so, it seems, is Berenson. He’s running away from the consequences of the CIA’s bad intelligence.
“We are pragmatists. We adapt.” Adal says towards the end of the episode. Berenson has taken the hint and if surviving the political backlash of season 2 means abandoning his ideals and his best agent, that’s an “adaptation” he’s willing to accept.