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Homeland' episode 2: Why is Saul Berenson breaking bad?

Actor Damien Lewis, left, and wife Helen McCrory arrive at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. Credit: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

We lost "Breaking Bad" last week, as the series concluded in the Albuquerque desert. On the other side of the country, Saul Berenson was in D.C. taking on some strangely Walter White-esque characteristics - oddly more Scarface than Mr. Chips. The unfeeling, win-at-all-costs attitude, with some seemingly out-of-nowhere xenophobia as well, made for an odd combination for our favorite CIA leader.

The second "Homeland" episode introduced Bad Saul for two, possibly simultaneous reasons: to show how incredibly stressed he is from the deadly terror attack at the CIA just months earlier, or to later reveal it to be a deep cover plot to hide something from antagonistic forces within the revamped organization. As Saul tells Peter Quinn, when the CIA operative expresses worry about the mental state of Carrie Mathison, their former colleague, "It'll all be worth it." Well, what will, and how?

This comes after Saul has Carrie committed after she attempts to leak "the big lie" to the same paper who broke the story of Brody's relationship with a still-unnamed CIA agent. Saul says she lost it, but Quinn defends Carrie. "She didn't lose it, we did that to her," he says.

The other side of Bad Saul this week was his dealings with a new character, Fara. A somewhat on-the-nose introduction for Fara comes in the first few minutes of the episode, as we see this Middle Eastern-looking woman in a headdress make a slow walk into the CIA building. What's strange is, as we find out she is, in fact, a CIA employee (albeit, on day eight), Saul and Quinn are uneasy.

For Saul, more than uneasy.

In an uncomfortable scene, Saul launches into an unprompted Islamophobic rant against Fara, inappropriately conclusion-jumping about the innocuous fact that she happens to wear a headdress. The show has not been exempt from similar criticism in the past, but seeing it from Saul was unexpected.

On the professional front, Fara and Saul are chasing the money behind Javadi, their Iranian suspected terrorist who they believe was behind the CIA attack. They call some American bank execs to the CIA to discuss potential ties to the terrorist organization, or as Fara puts it, "You move money for embargoed governments or phony

charities."

They don't respond well and refuse to talk - that is, until Quinn goes and finds the bank executive, and turns Jack Bauer, issuing a throaty threat that forces their hand and they hand over records. Fara and Saul conclude it points to inside the Iranian government.

[We're likely to see a lot of Fara this season, an intriguing new character played by Nazanin Boniadi. If you don't know the name, you likely know an intriguing part of her own personal life, which was detailed in a Tom Cruise expose in Vanity Fair last year. The report says Boniadi was the hand-picked, Scientology-approved girlfriend for Cruise, before the Katie Holmes days. She loved Cruise, but after she inadvertently insulted Scientology's leader David Miscavige, "Cruise barely acknowledged Boniadi, though she had moved into his house and they shared a bedroom. When she asked why Cruise would not break up with her himself, she was told he was not to be disturbed."]

The ruthlessness of Saul this year is contrasted with the increasingly panicked Mathison, who continues to believe ,"I'm not the one who got it wrong, I'm the only one who got it right."

Conspiracy theories abound in her head, as she begins to think Quinn is on a mission from Saul and not just visiting her in a treatment center, and finally her own sister and father, who she rightfully suspects Saul of talking to as well. When Saul finally visits Carrie, after she's been given a heavy dose of Thorazine to render her practically incoherent, it's clear she will not easily be forgiving her former father-figure for what he's done.

The main character this episode, based on screen time, was Dana Brody - which is not a positive development for viewers. We catch Dana and her mother in therapy, then, later in the episode, running away to see her boyfriend at the treatment center. Following some late-night laundry room sex, they wake up and get caught, but not before Dana utters the line, "I just want it to be us, and appliances."

Dana and her mother are dealing with the fallout of her suicide attempt, but really, they're dealing with the fallout from Agent Nick Brody and what he's accused of. As Dana says when she finally connects with her mother, "Dad was crazy...he was a psycho who did nothing but lie from the minute he set foot in this house."

And in what feels like an attempt to connect with her still missing father (although Brody is expected to return next week), she brings his prayer mat out in the garage, and kneels down.

If you like Dana Brody plot, you got a ton of exposition this week. But if you're like most of those I've talked to, the story is not at the center of the show, and never has been. Which is really the problem with where we sit in a post-Brody D.C. world so far. If Agent Brody was the center of the 'Homeland' universe for the first two seasons, what went on in the Brody home was secondary. With Brody gone all we have is the home life - and we're left wanting more.

One last thing…
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