Homeland Blog: Episode 7 – The Clearing

Alright, I’m a prat, but it was only during this week’s episode that I realised who Mandy Patinkin (Saul) is. “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.â€? The realisation that he played my favourite character in one of my favourite kids movies only strengthened my love for him. Homeland’s had two encouraging weeks but even in the dark days Patinkin shone.

His Jewish Chicago growl is one of the best voices on TV and his gentle, hurt demeanour makes him Homeland’s only truly likeable character. He’s not always been best served this series – too often relegated to the sidelines while less interesting stuff happens on the pitch – but the return of Aileen gives him back the two-handers in which he excels.

It’s nothing new to say hero and villain are the same: both consumed by the fight, defined by it and losing all identity beyond their motivation. Saul and Aileen may not be Apollo and Dionysus, Holmes and Moriarty or Batman and the Joker, but the similarities are used to show us the true Saul. Under that benevolent persona, there is a man who has lost everything, who can only relate to a woman on the brink of suicide.

There could have been a whole episode from this. Saul’s confrontation with the prison governor feels overly brief. The sadism and self-regard of the small-time bureaucrat has been the subject of painfully sharp satire of late – Torchwood: Miracle Day, The Casual Vacancy – and it would have been fun to see that contrasted with the mighty forces which Saul usually runs up against.

Brody’s burgeoning presidential hopes might’ve seemed a bit rushed to the British viewer if the furore around General David Petraeus hadn’t reminded us just how highly the Yanks regard their war heroes. As Ron Chernow, a biographer of George Washington, said: “In Britain they get knighthoods. [In America] We reward them with political positions in high office.” Hell, Marvel Comics just made Captain America president, so why not?

Whilst one must remember those who have died, Brody’s deconstruction of the ‘hero’ concept is a level-headed response to the increasingly partisan language surrounding conflict. “I’m looking eight years down the line at you,â€? Rex tells him: and with another five series commissioned, it seems the producers are too. We may’ve just got the clearest indicator yet of Homeland’s long term trajectory.