Well, Carrie's back drooling in the booby hatch so I guess now's as good a time as any to check in with ol' Nick Brody. What do you call a ginger with no hair? Just a guy. Just a guy with a soul. A guy who finds himself bleeding out in the back of a Venezuela pickup truck, having spent two months having what I'm sure is his usual amount of poor luck. Not that we ever understand for sure why he got shot in the first place -- it is enough, I think, that Nick Brody simply has that kind of life where maybe you get shot.
Caracas is the journey's endpoint, as we learn over the episode's first, Nick-centric half: After moving from safehouse to safehouse, Carrie's friend's people-smuggling network has deposited him here: In the titular Tower of David, a cyberpunk-as-fuck open-air abandoned highrise apartment building like something out of JG Ballard's porn collection. A ugly nasty afterworld for the most unwelcome denizens of Planet Earth, to live out their days in a bleak William Burroughs nausea: The perfect place for the 12/12 bomber, with a $10M bounty on his head.
There, he meets the most interesting person of any television show ever, the hypnotically demonic, child-molesting, by turns sassy-and-Satanic, Emmy-worthy doctor who saves his life and -- forward-thinkingly, it turns out -- offers him heroin pretty aggressively like a million times. Making friends with the daughter of his savior/captor (the guy who runs the Tower and who feels so strongly about protecting Carrie's cargo that he's willing to do it at gunpoint), Nick eventually wins escape from the Tower long enough to seek refuge at the town's mosque. The imam calls the cops, obviously, given that Nick is the most famous terrorist who has ever existed, but then the Tower guys show up and kill the cops and the imam, and escort Nick back to his new home: A hole. That he can never leave.
At the half-hour point we check back in with Carrie, and you know, our girl's not doing so great. She's back on her meds, but those take a while to accumulate, so she's still going pretty strong in terms of making herself look as crazy as possible to anyone and everyone it would benefit her to convince otherwise. Forming a manipulative bond with one of the social workers, she gets obsessed with the idea that Saul will come back and see how great she's doing (which she isn't) and then give her back her job (which he won't), but she also does radically crazy things, such as surprise headbutts into the mirror.
The complicated parallels between their two situations -- every time she mentions her meds, we cut to Dr. Devil's heroin, and vice versa -- hit their greatest point when, just as he's getting dragged back from freedom and shoved into a hole, Carrie finagles a meeting with a visitor she thinks is Saul, but it ends up just some guy who says he's a lawyer, but Carrie calls out -- probably correctly -- for trying to recruit her as an asset for some other country's intelligence service. That part was scary on many levels. The shame and fear and lack of autonomy that come with these Snake Pit storylines is really tough to take, but then you remember that she's also got the burden of her paranoia probably being real on top of it, and it's like, Jeez.
So she reads the guy the riot act, goes back to the depressing rec room, and decides that actually taking her meds and being a compliant patient rather than a total freak show might be a safer bet for getting out of there one day... And Nick decides that if he's going to live out his time trapped in a decrepit post-apocalyptic nightmare, he might as well get a hobby, and that hobby might as well be heroin.
So yeah, everybody's doing super great, thanks for asking. I guess we needed our perennial, critically lauded episode that only contains Nick and Carrie... But if you think about it that way, this bleak motherfucker is twice more brilliant than it even seemed at first.
Next Week: Well, now that Brody's back in the picture -- and in such an interesting and stressful way -- it'll be nice to hit the ground running with a better idea of what this season is actually doing. I could happily enjoy visiting the Tower throughout the rest of the season -- it is seriously one of the most interesting environments I've ever seen on a show, and such people in it! -- but something tells me Nick's going to end up back in DC and fucking everybody over sometime sooner than that.
Carrie Mathison and Nick Brody spent two seasons on parallel missions to save the world: They both wanted to kill the head of the beast, and they both accomplished it. Within minutes of each other, VP Bill Walden and Abu Nazir both went to hell. The story was over and the monsters were dead.
What happened next was the direct result of both: A gathering of the heads of our country's darkest sacred institutions were gathered together for two funerals. Saul saw Abu delivered to the extranational depths without ceremony, while the ranking officials of our shadow government stood to deliver platitudes and empty gratitude for a monster. In a petty continuation and grudge strike, the bombing at Langley took out the majority of our ministers and sent Carrie and Brody back into their separate emptiness.
It's a pretty classic story, the hero descending into the underworld at the conclusion of his mission, but for some reason it seems more confusing here than in most cases. Peter Quinn can tell you, Sergeant Brody could have told you, that being a soldier is about taking on damage and taint in order to save other people from having to play a part in war. Carrie does it -- warps her way from high to low and back again -- as a matter of course, as a function of her calling. What is happening now is the price these people pay, having elected themselves to the higher calling of killing our monsters for us, or war, which never changes.
I think we're at a point in our relationship to culture where relying on the delivery of content, reliably and to our whim, gives us a sense of ownership that storytellers never had to -- and still shouldn't -- service. That's not the purpose of stories. The role of ratings, a hollowed-out dinosaur that doesn't actually mean anything anymore, was always to mediate that conversation. But I think we're at a time where even the people who call themselves reviewers and critics and recappers can fall into that hole, by appealing to their readerships' sensibilities in a way that can feel very Emperor's New Clothes, if we're lazy enough to conflate our own confusion with disappointment. (As a friend once said, the central geek fallacy is believing that your consumption of and investment in a given product makes you "as important as a scientist.") But the story goes on, and in this case it seems obviously to be going exactly where it should be: Into the shitter. Because at no point in the telling of this story could it have gone anywhere else.