‘Homeland’: ‘State of Independence’ brings the war home

Sarah D. Bunting
Fall TV

"We're all fighting this war together."

Jess delivers that line during a speech — one she has to give at the veterans' fundraiser when Brody doesn't show. Forced to cover his butt, her own, and Mr. and Mrs. VP's, Jess takes the mic to talk about what she wishes she'd known before he got back: that they'd barely know each other anymore, that his nightmares would get so violent, that intimacy of any kind would prove so difficult. She'd love to see support for the families, she says, because "we're all fighting this war together."

It's true of nearly everyone in "State of Independence," although sometimes the characters are at odds, other times on the same side (or a bit of both). It's true of Carrie and her father; he finds her working on her mission report in the middle of the night, and gives her "one more hour" to finish it and go to sleep (the childhood dynamic in the scene is lovely, and a little sad). It's the two of them fighting the same disease, and both fighting her disease.

The war within

It's true of Carrie, trapped in the crossfire between her illness and her life's calling. Watching Carrie prepare for her debriefing, saying she knows she won't get reinstated thanks to her work, but not yet giving up on the idea, the viewer braces for her rude awakening. Estes tries to let her down gently, but has to say in so many words that Abu Nazir "is not [her] concern anymore." Carrie goes into a tailspin; she moves back to her apartment, saying she needs to figure out her life, but only gets as far as making the bed before returning to an old touchstone — the tight clothes and annihilating sex she used to rely on. But she never gets out the door. She can't go back, she can't move forward, so she downs all her meds with two pint glasses of white wine. The soundtrack fills with her even breaths, before she bolts out of bed to make herself throw up.

And it's true of Carrie and Saul, fighting on the same side. He comes to see her straight from the airport, having dodged an illegal search by Lebanese airport security by planting a decoy chip in the lining of his own bag. He still has the real chip with the Brody suicide note on it, and he wants to show it to her first. Carrie's eyes well up: "I was right." "You were right," Saul says, and she whispers it again, to convince herself. "I was right."

It's the truest of Brody, still at war on several fronts. One of them is literal; he's told by his contact to move "the Tailor" (the man who built the bomb vest) to a safe house, as the CIA is about to snatch him up. Naturally, Brody has to do it the same day as the veterans' fundraiser…and gets a flat tire…and the Tailor runs off at a gas station. Brody's in full Marine mode, tracking the Tailor through the trees, tackling him to the ground, improvising bandages when said tackle lands the Tailor on an iron rebar spike. And he's in full Marine mode when Jess calls to hound him for his lateness, overhears the Tailor in the background, and peppers Brody with questions, "forcing" Brody to snap the Tailor's neck to shut him up…and then to miss the entire fundraiser while burying the body and showering off at a car wash.

The war at home

The other front is his marriage. Small advances toward a lasting peace had been made earlier that day, when Jess and Brody started to make love — for real, not the rushing-through-it awkwardness of before. Then Dana walks in and discomfort ensues (especially for the audience, as the camera angle shows Little Brody…still saluting). When Brody's called away by his contact, he lies that it's a union meeting, and Jess does a slow burn as it gets later and later and he doesn't show up, culminating in her inviting Mike in for a nightcap after the fundraiser. Mike thinks that's a bad idea, until Jess tells him about Brody's lost weekend with Carrie, and when Brody arrives home, soaking wet, Mike is escorting Jess inside. After Mike tiptoes away, Brody gets both barrels from Jess. She can see he's hiding something, and either he tells her what's going on, or he gets a hotel room, because she doesn't think she can do this anymore. Earlier in the episode, Mrs. VP reassured Jess, calling the Brodys "a great American story that's just beginning." Maybe it's actually finally ending, but wars have a way of dragging on, longer than anyone imagines.

Brody's plots week to week still have a 24-ness to them, a cat-and-mouse "how will he get out of this one" suspense, but it's effective, not contrived, and just as it started to feel as though the question of the Brody marriage needed resolution, the writers moved it to a crisis point. Great, tense episode. And when Brody and Carrie reconnect next week, it's only going to get tenser.

Morena Baccarin tells "Access Hollywood" about the "intense" changes Jess Brody faces in "Homeland"'s second season: