[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from the season premiere of Homeland. Read at your own risk.]
"A win would be nice. Another f--- up could be fatal."
Those are Saul Berenson's words to his CIA colleague Dar Adal around the midpoint of Homeland's Season 3 premiere — and they are almost an understatement.
Picking up nearly two months after a car bomb nearly wiped out the entire CIA, Saul (Mandy Patinkin), Carrie (Claire Danes) and the rest of what's left of the agency are being scrutinized by a Senate Intelligence Committee led by Sen. Lockhart (Tracy Letts). As if the hearings weren't enough pressure, Saul also wrestles with whether or not to green-light a complicated mission that many at the CIA feel is the appropriate retaliation for the terrorist attack at Langley.
The complicated mission, which requires six targets being taken out in various locations in just a 20-minute window, is indeed the win the CIA needs. But as Saul tells his newly returned wife Mira (Sarita Choudhury), Saul views himself as a spy, not an assassin. Even so, Saul gives the order, which his team executes near-flawlessly.
"Saul is a man who has become very comfortable on the sidelines, in the margins, criticizing the decisions being made at the highest levels," executive producer Alex Gansa says. "Now he finds himself sitting in the chair making the decisions himself. .... That puts him in a different position, especially with regard to the people around him and the people he loves."
Indeed, despite the "win" in the field, Saul is forced to make an even tougher decision related to the Senate investigation after Carrie's own disastrous behind-closed-doors hearing. Reacting to some leaked classified documents about the CIA's working partnership with suspected Langley bomber Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), Carrie suggests to Sen. Lockhart that Brody has been framed. Mysteriously, a newspaper report appears days later that suggests Brody was sleeping with a nameless CIA agent we know to be Carrie.
When Saul appears before the committee, he is unable to earn any support by reporting on the success of his recent retaliatory attack. Instead, Lockhart turns the conversation to the newspaper report. Fearing a fatal blow from the committee that could dissolve the CIA, Saul does what he previously vowed not to do: He throws Carrie under the bus.
"He's the acting director of the CIA and, quite possibly, if you're to believe Sen. Lockhart, the last director of the CIA," Gansa says of Saul's thought process. "It's not enough to just protect [Carrie] anymore. He's tasked with protecting the agency itself, and that puts him in a position where he has to make some very difficult choices. He does the unthinkable. He sells the most important person down the river in order to save the intelligence agency."
Rest assured that, even though Carrie wasn't named directly, she and Saul will have words. Fortunately, Carrie will have an unexpected ally in Quinn (Rupert Friend), who also isn't fond of how the CIA is being run during this crisis.
"He's trying to find a moral way through an amoral landscape," Gansa says of Quinn. "[He knows] this is untenable, and watching what Saul is doing to Carrie now only exaggerates that. Quinn knows some things that Carrie doesn't know yet and he's worried about her. She's a loose cannon rolling around on deck."
And with Brody on the run for the foreseeable future, Quinn may become more than just an ally. "We flirted both seasons with ending Brody's life," Gansa says. "As we flirted with it more seriously, we realized that someone else was going to have to fill that emotional vacuum. Quinn was created with that idea in mind."
What did you think of the premiere? Did you miss Brody? Were you shocked by Saul's betrayal of Carrie?
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