Sunday, December 23, 2012

Showtime Homeland “The Choice” #212 Picking Up the Pieces

by Catherine Giordano

Showtime’s Homeland doesn’t just surprise, it shocks. The second season finale, episode 12, entitled “The Choice” wraps things up nicely, sets us up for a happily ever after, and then everything explodes—literally—there’s an explosion.

I’ve entitled my review “Picking Up the Pieces.”  After the ordeal of hunting down the terrorist, Nazir, Brody, Carrie, Saul, Estes, Quinn, Jess, Mike, Dana—everyone is picking up the pieces and getting their lives together and then, Bam!, it all explodes in their faces.  

Brody and Carrie have retreated to their romantic love-nest cabin in the woods. They are talking about having a life together. Brody has split with his wife Jess, and even had a little chat with Mike (Jess’s former lover) asking Mike to “take care of her.”

Brody says he wants to be with Carrie. “I’m all in,” he tells her. Carrie has to make a choice, though. She wants to have a career with the CIA and she wants to have a life with Brody also. She can’t have both. She will have to make a choice.

Quinn was supposed to assassinate Brody, and he has him in his rifle sights a number of times. However, he doesn’t shoot. He tells Estes he doesn’t want to do it with Carrie present, he will do it when Brody is alone. Later, Quinn shows up in Estes’ home, surprising Estes when Estes finds him sitting quietly in a chair.  Quinn says he is not going to kill Brody because Carrie loves him so much that it would destroy her and because with Walden dead, Brody is no longer a threat to national security. The only reason to kill him now, Quinn tells Estes,, is to cover up your role in the madrassa bombing.  Quinn won’t do it, and if anything happens to Brody, he, Quinn, will be back with his rifle to settle things with Estes.

Estes backs down and decides not to have Brody killed. This means that he no longer has to discredit Saul, so he ends his investigation of Saul and his plans to ruin Saul’s career. He explains it to Saul by saying, “I’m giving an old guy a break.”  Saul is sent off to oversee the burial of Nazir at sea.

Saul wants Carrie to return to the CIA and become a station chief. (Saul can arrange this because his has some leverage with Estes because of the madrassa bombing and Estes’ aborted plot against him.)  Accepting this post will mean that Carrie must end her relationship with Brody. Carrie is conflicted. She tells Saul that she wants “a more balanced life.”  Saul becomes angry, accusing Carrie of throwing away her life.

The ever sullen Dana, Brody’s teenaged daughter, has put a few pieces together for herself.  When Brody returns to the family home to get his things, Dana surprises him.  She asks him about the day that Carrie showed up at the house raving that Brody was about to conduct a suicide bombing. She says that she now believes that he was going to do “those things.”  Brody says, “I didn’t do it and I wouldn’t do it now.”  He says he was screwed up, but he’s better now. 

Brody and Carrie both attend a memorial service for Walden being held at the CIA because before becoming Vice President, Walden was the director of the CIA. (I gather that this memorial was just for CIA personnel and was being held in addition to a state funeral.)

Brody and Carrie are seated in different parts of the room, but they keep catching one another’s eye. Finally, while Estes is speaking, they signal to each other with their eyes and a nod of their heads that they will leave the service and meet in the hall. They then rush off to an office in the building.  Carrie tells Brody that she has decided to leave the CIA and make her life with him.

Just then Brody looks out the window and notices that his car is parked next to the room where the memorial service is being held.  He says, “I didn’t park my car there.” Carrie turns to look, and KABOOM, major explosion. They are both knocked to the floor unconscious.

Carrie comes to first, and grabs a gun from a desk drawer. She points it at Brody.  Brody comes to and faces an angry Carrie who believes that he caused the explosion.  Brody begs Carrie to listen to him. He tells her that he had nothing to do with i.  He puts the pieces together for her. “This must have been Nazir’s plan all along,” he tells Carrie.  The Navy base bombing was the “head fake,” Rona and her team were sacrificed, even Nazir’s death became a part of the plan–it got us to let our guard down.  This is the “It-was-all-a-long-con” moment of the week.

 (One small question:  Does letting your guard down mean abandoning all security measures? Wouldn’t an unattended car parked all alone next to the building draw suspicion?)  

Carrie believes Brody. She has to believe him or her whole world falls to pieces. She and Brody sneak away and go to Carrie’s storage unit where she retrieves a getaway bag that she had secretly prepeaed because –“you never know.” There’s a fake passport for her and lots of cash. They leave together to find the forger who did her passport so they can get one for Brody. Their plan is to go to Canada.

When they reach the Canadian border, Carrie says that the best way to enter is through back roads in a forest. Brody realizes that Carrie has decided not to go with him. She confirms that he is right about this. She must return to DC to clear his name. Brody puts the backpack on his back, and with one last kiss, he marches off into the woods.

Brody’s suicide tape that was intended to be released back in season one when he was supposed to blow up the Vice President and a room full of other government officials with a suicide vest is being played on the TV. (Carrie found this tape when she searched the home of a terrorist in Beirut, but there could have been copies.)  A statement from the terrorist group is also playing on TV.
The death toll is horrendous—about 200 dead and only 27 survivors. Saul is the highest ranking survivor and is now in charge. He will have to debrief the president.

Saul is walking around in a dazed state at the scene—Estes is dead as are so many of his friends and colleagues. Saul has been searching for Carrie. Carrie’s body has not been found, but he has come to believe that he she is dead. The only good news for Saul is that his wife, Mira, has decided to return home from her job abroad—she had left Saul—because of this tragedy. So Saul may get to pick up the pieces of his marriage.

Saul has moved to a vast room where the dead are laid out in neat rows. He is walking up and down the rows mournfully muttering the Kiddish (the Jewish prayer for the dead). Carrie enters the room and calls his name, but he doesn’t hear her at first.   She calls again, he turns around and sees her, and relief floods over his face. 

Now, we, the audience must put together the pieces. Did Brody have a hand in the plan to blow up the CIA? I don’t think so. If he had known about the bomb, he would have been totally gone way earlier—right after the memorial started. And he wouldn’t have left Carrie alive to give out his name on his phony passport. But remember, in this episode we are shown that Brody still holds to his conversion to Islam. (He prays at lake by the cabin, but only when Carrie is not there.) But, the biggest question (after the question about whether or not Brody is innocent) is will Carrie be suspected as an accomplice?  Will Carrie be able to prove Brody’s innocence?  How will Carrie’s bi-polar disease influence the plot?  (Remember, at the beginning of the season, it was brought out that she was not being properly medicated.) 

What new shockers do the show-runners have in store for us for next season?

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Showtime Dexter “Surprise …Mother” #712 “Over the Line”

The season finale of Showtime’s Dexter, “Surprise …Mother,” aired on December 15, 2012,. It was full of surprises. However the title “Surprise…Mother” (the way the show was listed on my cable guide) only made sense to me when I remembered that sometimes “mother” is only half a word.

I’ve entitled this review “Over the Line” because there is a whole lot of stepping over lines going on. The episode ends with a New Year’s Eve party at Batista’s new restaurant. The year has crossed over the line into a new year. Lots of fireworks. Literally and figuratively.

The episode begins with Dexter visiting Hannah in jail. Dexter tells Hannah that he is sorry about turning over the evidence that allowed Debra to arrest her for the murder of Sal Price. Dexter explains to Hannah that he had to do it to protect his sister, Debra, from her. Hannah tells Dexter that she did try to kill Debra, but says, “You were supposed to choose me.”

(Did she really put the anti-depressants into Debra’s water bottle so she would fall asleep at the wheel or does she have some nefarious reason for wanting Dexter to believe that she did it? I still suspect that Debra did it to herself to get Dexter to turn against Hannah. Remember, Debra said shwe would “do anything” to get Dexter away from Hannah and Hannah said, she never fails when she wants to kill someone.)

Hannah asks Dexter to remove Price’s pen from the evidence room. (It’s a bit reminiscent of Quinn removing the evidence to set Sirko free earlier in the season. It appears that Miami Metro is pretty lax about securing their evidence.) Dexter refuses saying “I can never trust you and now you can never trust me.”
Hannah tells Dexter that his secret is safe with her. “I would never do that to you. And besides no one would believe me.”  However, she also said, “I always thought it would be me,” when Dexter said that sooner or later one or the other of them would turn on the other. 

Dexter is very conflicted about Hannah. For his sister’s safety, and for his own, Hannah must be put away, but Dexter still loves her. “I’ll miss you so much,” he tells her. “You’re the only person in the whole world I don’t have to hide from.” Dexter loves her, but he loves himself more.

Before he leaves, he kisses Hannah. Hannah bites his lip, and glares at him as she pulls away from his embrace. Hannah is clearly not the forgiving type. I expect Dexter will soon learn this because Hannah has escaped from custody. During her arraignment Arlene slipped her a pill that caused Hannah to have seizures. Hannah was brought to o the hospital. She’s appears to be near death. Her expected imminent death evidently caused lax security and she escaped from the hospital.

(One small question:  Hannah cooks up this plan with Arlene during a telephone call.  Do prisoners get to have unmonitored telephone calls?)

Surprise … mother!  Hannah is now stalking Dexter.  It’s reminiscent of the time earlier in the season when Sirko was stalking Dexter. But, I think Dexter may be in for a lot more danger from Hannah than he ever was from Sirko. Hell hath no fury … and all that. At the end of the episode, we see Hannah leaving a plant at the door to Dexter’s apartment. This is the “You-have-been-warned,-mother-------“ moment of the week.  There are no lines Hannah will not cross.

LaGuerta is also stalking Dexter. She thinks that she has found the evidence to accuse Dexter of murdering Estrada. However, Dexter has planted this evidence. When he is arrested, the evidence looks like LaGuerta planted it to frame Dexter. Everyone thinks that LaCuerta has crossed the line because she is obsessed with her refusal to clear Doakes name because he was her lover.  Everyone believes that Doakes was “The Bay Harbor Butcher” and LaGuerta is trying to frame Dexter. Dexter is freed and things look very bad for LaGuerta.

However, LaGuerta has other evidence that she shares with Debra in an effort to get Debra to give up Dexter before she goes down with him. LaGuerta has found a surveillance tape from the gas station where Debra went to fill a gas can way back in episode one of this season. It will incriminate Debra in the burning of the church—an arson she and Dexter committed to make it look like Travis, the “Doomsday Killer,” had committed suicide and burned down the church. (Remember, way back in my review for episode one of the season, I asked why Debra took the risk of getting gas rather than just siphoning it from her or Dexter’s car—turns out it was a plot point designed to get Debra implicated in Dexter’s murders in episode 12.) Debra tells Dexter that LaGuerta has this evidence.

Despite knowing that LaGuerta is still pursuing him, and now his sister as well, Dexter is not about to give up on finding Estrada, one of the men who killed Dexter’s mother when he was three years old.  Dexter tacks down Florenzia, Estrada’s wife. Florenzia claims to know nothing about Estrada’s whereabouts, but she unwittingly leads Dexter to Estrada when she meets with her husband in a park.

Dexter captures Estrada and returns him to his killing room at the docks. He tells Estrada to call LaGuerta and tell her that Dexter has him locked up in the killing room.  LaGuerta rushes to the scene. (One small question?  Why does she go alone?  Maybe she is afraid that if she is wrong, it will make things worse for her. She is already close to losing her job.)

Estrada made the call because Dexter said he would not kill him if he did. Dexter lied.  As he is about to kill Estrada, Dexter has another epiphany.  He tells Estrada, “I used to think I was a special kind of killer.” Dexter now repeats the words that Doakes once used to describe him, “But “I’m just a creep mother ------.” Undeterred by this new understanding of himself, Dexter kills Estrada.

Just then LaGuerta enters, just as Dexter planned for her to do. She see’s Estrada’s body. Dexter quickly injects her with his knock-out drug. Dexter plans to use LaGuerta’s gun to shoot Estrada’s dead body. The gun shot will obliterate the knife would, making it look like Estrada was killed by LaGuerta. He then plans to use Estrada’s gun to kill LaGuerta. Just then Debra, having figured out Dexter’s plan, shows up, her gun drawn as she bursts into the room.

LaGuerta regains consciousness while Dexter and Debra face off. LaGuerta tells Debra to shoot Dexter. She tells Debra that she is better than this.

Dexter who now understands that he is just a common murderer, not some justice fighter, knows he is about to cross the line with the murder of LaGuerta.  He will kill an “innocent.”  He tells Debra to shoot him.  “It’s OK. Do what you gotta do.”

There is a long tense moment. LaGuerta urging Debra to shoot Dexter. Dexter resigned to be shot by his sister. And Debra torn-up as she looks from one to another knowing she has to make a decision that will change her life forever no matter which choice she makes

Debra makes her decision. She crosses the line from accomplice to murderer. She shoots LaGuerta. Debra shocked, overwhelmed, and distraught, rushes to LaGuerta and hugs her lifeless body.

We next see Debra and Dexter at Batista’s party. They look grim. We don’t know what they have done to cover up the murder of LaGuerta. (I assume that they are going to cover up the murder.)

In a voice over, we hear Dexter’s thoughts, “We make rules for ourselves. They define who we are.” The rules have been broken. The lines have been crossed.“  This is the beginning of the end.

We, the audience, have been set up for the final season. In order to have resolution, we must change our perceptions of Dexter. He’s not a handsome, charming, good-hearted man who has a nasty little hobby. He is no longer America’s loveable serial killer who we root for.  We have all crossed a line too—we must now see Dexter as cold-blooded murderer.

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Showtime Homeland “The Mother … With a Turban” #211 It’s Over?

by Catherine Giordano

I’m entitling this review “It’s Over?” because in episode 11 of season 2 of Showtime’s “Homeland,” named “The Mother … With a Turban” a lot of things are over for our main characters.  Or are they?

Nazir is dead. Nazir’s is over for sure. Carrie, even though she has had no sleep for 36 hours returns to the mill to search for Nazir. (This is the “Whatever-she-is-on,-I-want some-of that” moment of the week. I could use that kind of energy.) Carrie is back at the mill because she is sure that Nazir is still hiding somewhere in the mill.

A small army of tactical team guys had searched the mill and now they have mostly all left. Carrie stops the last truck as it is leaving and gets two guys to go back into the mill with her. Carrie finds conduits leading to a hidden room. One tactical team guy moves an obstruction and he and Carrie enter the room. They see that the room that was evidently Nazir’s hideout, but Nazir is gone.

The tac guy calls for back-up, but evidently no one can hear him. Carrie says she will go for help. She sees the other tac team guy dead in passage.  Nazir attacks her, but she escapes and hides. Nazir searches for her, come up behind her, and knocks her to the ground. Just then “the cavalry” arrives. Nazir runs off, but he is quickly found by the tac team. They find him calming sitting on the floor in an open area. He is sitting in the lotus position. The tac team forms a semi-circle around him, guns drawn. Nazir stares at them unblinking. Then he quickly slips his hand into his shirt as if he was reaching for a gun. The tac team shoots him dead. Nazir is over.

Saul’s career at the CIA may be over also. Saul has been forced to take a lie detector test. He is being blamed for providing the weapon (reading glasses) that the terrorist accomplice, Aileen, used to kill herself. He is accused of illegal surveillance of a Congressman (Brody). He is accused of insubordination. Estes says if he doesn’t resign, he will face criminal charges. Is Saul’s career over?

Estes also mentions that Saul went on a crazy rant about an assassination attempt of a congressman (Brody again), but he is going to leave that out.

Of course, it is true that Estes wants to assassinate Brody. In fact, at the end of the episode, we see that Quinn is following Brody waiting for his opportunity to shoot him. Estes says they will explain Brody’s death as blowback for the death of Nazir. Quinn can’t take his shot though because Brody is in Carrie’s apartment being embraced by Carrie. Is it all over for Brody?  Will he be assassinated? It seems like Quinn may be a little bit ambivalent about carrying out this assignment.

Brody is at Carrie’s apartment because things are over for Jess and Brody also. When they are released from the safe house where the family has been living, Brody and Jess have a heart-to-heart in the car and agree to end their marriage. Jess goes into the house, but Brody drives away. The marriage is definitely over.

And finally, is Carrie’s career with the CIA over, for good this time?  Quinn is asking some questions. “How did you escape from Nazir,” he asked. Carried replied, evading the question, “I was lucky.” How long will that answer satisfy her questioners?

Nazir is dead so he can’t tell anyone about the deal he made with Brody—he would release Carrie only if Brody obtained the serial number of Walden’s pacemaker so a hacker could cause it to mal-function thereby giving Walden a heart attack. However, Rona is alive and in custody. She is refusing to talk, but technicians are about to inject her with “truth serum.” Did she know about the deal?

The love affair between Carrie and Brody is definitely not over. Their bond is stronger than over. Brody tells Carrie, speaking about his decision to help kill Walden in exchange for Carrie’s life, “It was you or Walden, Carrie. It wasn’t even close.”

One more episode and season 2 is over.

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Showtime Dexter “Do You See What I See” #711 Christmas Gifts

by  Catherine Giordano

Showtime’s “Dexter,” season 7 episode11, is entitled “Do You See What I See.” The title refers to the plot lines concerning how some of the characters are seeing the truth and some of the characters are misperceiving the truth. The episode is also about the characters giving each other Christmas gifts, some of which they would rather not receive. A lot of the characters will not be having a happy new year due to the events that unfolded during this episode.

Dexter learns that Eric Estrada, one of the men in prison for the murder of Dexter’s mother is up for parole. Dexter sees this as a great Christmas gift to him. He will finally be able to kill this man and avenge his mother’s murder. Estrada also sees his parole as a Christmas gift.

Once Estrada is released, Dexter approaches him pretending to be a drug dealer.  He tosses out the names of some of Estrada’s former associates to lead the man into believing that Dexter wants to partner with him on a lucrative drug deal. Estrada, doesn’t see the trap Dexter is setting for him agrees to meet Dexter on Christmas eve.

Dexter meets Estrada at a storage facility in a deserted waterfront area. He ushers Estrada into a storage room and after a brief tussle, Dexter injects him with the knock-out drug. Estrada comes to on the table wrapped in plastic. Dexter is holding a chain saw, the weapon used to kill his mother. He tells Estrada that he is going to use the chain saw to dismember him just as he and his men did to his mother.  Estrada realizes the truth and says, “You’re Dickie Moser.”  Dexter corrects him, “It’s Dexter,” he says.    

Estrada begins to see that his release from prison was not such a great gift after all. He screams, “You’re working with her, aren’t you. The cop bitch, the captain of Miami metro. The one who pushed for my release. She set me up.

Dexter sees the truth. It was not the universe giving him the gift of Estrada. LaGuerta was setting him up. “You’re not the one she set up,” he tells Estrada. He doesn’t kill Estrada, instead he drags him to a pier at knife point where Estrada manages to break free, diving into the ocean to escape Dexter.

LaGuerta had Estrada followed hoping to catch Dexter in the kill. When she arrives at the storage room, all she finds is a room tented in plastic and a table with a running chain saw on it.

Matthews has always been convinced that Dexter was not the Bay Harbor Butcher. He can’t see the truth because of his close relationship with the Morgan family. However, this investigation is personal to LaGuerta because she was Doakes’ lover at the time of his death. She wants to clear his name. 

However, LaGuerta is now alone in her pursuit of Dexter because Tom Matthews has decided that Doakes was definitely the Bay Harbor Butcher. He has told her that he is done helping her.

Dexter helped Matthews come to this conclusion.  Mathews asked Dexter to come to his boat (where he lives). He told Dexter that he thought that he should give him a “heads-up” about LaGuerta’s investigation. In the process, he did a little gentle interrogating on his own. This was a great gift to Dexter because both he and Debra thought that LaGuerta had given up on her suspicions.

During his visit Dexter mentions that he once saw Doakes on his boat cutting up a victim, but he was too scared to tell anyone.  He says he was so scared that he had to move his own boat from the marina just so he would no longer be in proximity to Doakes. This goes a long way to eliminating Mathews doubts.

Matthews has always been convinced that Dexter was not the Bay Harbor Butcher. He can’t see the truth because of his close relationship with the Morgan family. However, LaGuerta is also seeing what she wants to see.  This investigation is personal to LaGuerta because she was Doakes’ lover at the time of his death. She wants to clear his name. 

Dexter’s conversation with Matthews also gives Dexter and Debra an opportunity to plant some evidence to help Mathews convince LaGuerta. Debra stakes out LaGuerta’s house, and waits until she leaves. When LaGuerta is gone, we see Debra get out of her car and walk towards LaGuerta’s house,

Later we can surmise what Debra did while she was at LaGuerta’s house—LaGuerta has boxes of Doakes’ stuff in her garage. (She probably got it because she was his lover when he died. Maybe he had no next of kin.) When Matthews and LaGuerta search through the boxes, they find a deep-sea fishing lure in a tackle box. They also find a key on a key chain with a name on it that leads them to a boathouse.  There they find rolls of plastic trash bags. (They don’t find a boat, but they assume that Doakes moved it when he saw the police closing in on him.) Matthews tells LaGuerta that he is now totally convinced that Doakes is the Bay Harbor Butcher. One small question: Why did they never go looking for a boat when Doakes was first discovered to be the Bay Harbor Butcher?  

Debra still wants to bring Hannah to justice. Batista has located Arlene Shawn, a possible witness to Hannah’s poisoning of a half-way house counselor.  Arlene is a former drug addict who has gotten clean, but may still be about to lose custody of her two young children who will be placed in foster care. Debra tells Arlene that she knows about her and Hannah and the rat poisoning. She threatens Arlene with criminal charges if she does not give testimony. She also offers Arlene the gift of immunity from prosecution if she does provide her testimony. She warns Arlene that she is in danger of losing custody of her children. Arlene says she has to think it over. Debra leaves after warning her to think fast.

Batista wanted to tell Dexter that Hannah was under investigation as a courtesy to Dexter, but Debra ordered him not to say anything.  Dexter gets a call that Debra was in an auto accident while she was heading towards Hialeah. She is in the hospital, but her injuries are not too serious. She will be released in a day. She apparently fell asleep at the wheel. Everyone believes that she accidently overdosed on her anti-anxiety medication because a high concentration of this medication is found in her blood. Debra insists that she had only taken one pill and she took it the night before her accident. Everyone thinks that she became confused and simply lost track of how many she took.

When Batista tells Dexter about the accident, Dexter asks why Debra was going to Hialeah. Batista then tells Dexter that she was going there for a second interview with Arlene.

When Dexter visits Debra at the hospital, Debra tells Dexter that Hannah came to visit her the night before her accident, but she never let Hannah in the house.  Hannah was there to try to mend fences with Debra. She asked Debra to accept her for Dexter’s sake. She and Dexter loved each other and Dexter was happier because of her. Debra told Hannah that she would never accept her, and she would continue to try to bring her to justice. 

After Debra’s accident, Dexter asks Hannah if she had anything to do with it.  Hannah is shocked that Dexter could think that she would try to kill his sister. Hannah tells him that she had met with Arlene. (Arlene had called Hannah her after Debra had threatened her.) Hannah tells Dexter she had no reason to kill Debra because Arlene is no threat to her. Arlene is so messed up that she would not be a credible witness.

However, Dexter remembers how she had said that she had when she poisoned Sal Price she had expected that he would die in a car accident, not at Dexter’s house. Debra’s car accident fits Hannah’s MO. His suspicions continue.

Dexter searches Debra’s medicine cabinet. He finds a blond hair—he thinks it might be Hannah’s. Dexter goes to the auto repair shop that has Debra’s car. He searches the car. He finds a water bottle. He gets the water tested at the lab, and it is found to have a high concentration of Debra’s anti anxiety medication.

Hannah believes that the issue has been put to rest and that Dexter no longer suspects her. Hannah and Dexter have Christmas eve dinner with Jamie (his nanny) and his toddler son Harrison. It is a lovely family scene, Hannah clearly loves Harrison. This is the future Dexter wants with Hannah. He dreams of growing old with her. Hannah gives Dexter a Christmas gift—a framed picture of the two of them together, smiling and happy.

Later, at Hannah’s house, Dexter confronts Hannah again with his suspicions that she had tried to kill Debra. Hannah swears to Dexter that she would never do anything to hurt his sister. Perhaps Dexter is remembering how he said that he would not kill Hannah’s father, but never kept that promise. Perhaps he is thinking that Hannah is no more truthful than he is. (The difference that Dexter may not be seeing is that he killed Hannah’s father to protect the woman he loved, but if Hannah killed Debra, she would be protecting only herself.  Also, Dexter knew that there was no love between Hannah and her father whereas Hannah knew that Dexter loved his sister very much.)

She also says that she would never hurt Dexter by killing his sister.  She caps it off by telling him that she never makes a mistake--If she wanted Debra dead, she would be dead. I don’t think this is very assuring to Dexter.

Hannah realizes that Dexter still suspects her. She swears that she loves him, but that he is so afraid of love that he is using his sister’s accident as an excuse to ruin their relationship. She says that there must be trust in the relationship. She goes to the door and opens it, clearly inviting him to leave. She tells him that he needs to think about whether or not he trusts her.

See, Dexter is just an ordinary guy after all. He has commitment issues.  However, Hannah is a cut above the ordinary girl. She is willing to walk away from a relationship with a man who can’t commit.

On Christmas day, Dexter brings Debra a Christmas gift. It is Sal Price’s pen in an evidence bag. He tells Debra that he stole this pen from the evidence box, and that she will find aconite poison (Hannah’s poison of choice) on the tip of pen along with Hannah’s fingerprints. Hannah poisoned the pen because she knew Price had a habit of chewing on the end of his pen.  

We next see Dexter arriving at Hannah’s house where she is out working in the garden.  When Hannah sees Dexter, Hannah sees what she wants to see.  Dexter has come back to her. The scene is all sunshine and flowers. Hannah kisses Dexter under the mistletoe, but she realizes that Dexter is not kissing back with much feeling.

Dexter says, “I’m sorry.” Just then Hannah sees Debra walking down the path to her garden, and she realizes what Dexter is sorry about. Debra announces that Hannah is under arrest for the murder of Sal Price. Hannah is taken away in a police car and Dexter looks on mournfully and Debra looks on with angry satisfaction blazing from her eyes.

I am confident that Debra has set up Dexter and that he will soon realize this. Debra’s betrayal is going to ruin her relationship with Dexter. Further, Hannah knows too much about Dexter. LaGuerta has failed to find evidence against Dexter, but Hannah may be able and willing to provide it. (One small question: Did Debra fail to see this possibility or does she just not care?)

This is a roller coaster ride of an episode that spirals in on itself. No sooner is one threat ended, than another presents itself. LaGuerta tries to set Dexter up and fails; then Debra sets Dexter up and succeeds.  Hannah tries to befriend Debra, but this only reinforces Debra’s hatred of her. (Is Debra motivated only by her love of justice, or is Debra also motivated by jealousy? She feels that she is in love with Dexter, but Dexter has dismissed her feelings as not real, and proclaimed himself in love with Hannah.  Debra’s betrayal of Dexter is the “Hell-has-no fury-like-a-woman-scorned” moment of the week.)  Dexter’s love for his sister has trumped his love for Hannah—he feels that Debra will never be safe as long as Hannah is free—but I am sure that Dexter will soon come to regret his choice.

Maybe all the killers got killed off early this season because we don’t need villains. The main characters may soon be killing each other—in one way or another.

This week’s episode was a truly fascinating episode—a Christmas gift to the audience. Next week’s episode is the final episode of the season. I have a feeling that the show-runners are not going to gift-wrap-up this one for us. They are going to leave us with a cliff hanger as we  await the start of the final season next year. 

Dexter and Hannah just before everything goes wrong.
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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Showtime Homeland “Broken Hearts” #210 Catch and Release

by Catherine Giordano

Showtime’s “Homeland” season 2, episode 7, continues to deliver action at break neck speed. This episode is entitled “Broken Hearts.” The meaning of the title doesn’t become truly clear until near the end of the episode. Spoiler Alert: Brody causes VP Walden to die of a heart attack.  

Here’s how it comes about. Carrie is kidnapped by Nazir. Carrie’s car is struck at an intersection by a truck that strikes the driver side of her car. Carrie disappears from the scene of the “accident’ which, it turns out, was not an accident at all.   

When I watch this show (or any other for that matter) I make allowances for plots that strain credulity because I know that the show needs a lot of action. But this plot contrivance is so far-fetched that it crosses the line.  

Nazir is now operating alone, security cameras place him in the vicinity of the accident so it seems that he was the driver of the truck. One small question: How could he get himself in just the right position at just the right time to strike Carrie? OK, a whole lot of questions. How could Nazir know that she would be at that intersection at that moment? How could he know that he would not be killed or severely injured in the accident? How could he know that Carrie would not be killed or severely injured in the accident?  

Maybe Nazir found someone to drive the truck, but it is still quite a feat to be in just the right place at just the right time. Maybe Nazir was following Carrie and the accident was just a lucky break for him. Maybe Nazir was following Carrie and he had found someone else to drive the truck and he called the driver to give him Carries location.  Maybe that is how it happened.  I don’t know.  

Even the CIA might find it difficult to pull off this kind of stunt despite all their surveillance devices and operatives. Remember, the CIA couldn’t even track a helicopter when Nazir kidnapped Brody back in episode 8.  

Whatever, the stunt succeeds and neither Nazir nor Carrie appears any the worse for it. (Carrie has a little blood on her face, that’s all.) We next see Carrie alone inside in an abandoned cavernous building that we later learn is an old mill. One small question: Doesn’t it seem like there is an endless supply of abandoned cavernous buildings for Nazir to use for clandestine meetings.  

Putting all the questions aside, I’ll continue with the recap of the events leading up to VP Walden’s death. Carrie is handcuffed to some type of horizontal girder. Carrie is sitting on the floor with her cuffed hands above her head. She gets to her feet and slowly and is able to slide over to the end of the bar. There are some tools lying on the floor; one of them is a file or perhaps just a piece of metal that loks like a file.. She stretches her leg out as far as she can, but just as she manages to drag it towards her, nazir arrives and pulls her away and secures her more tightly. 

Losing the file was not a big deal. Carrie most likely wouldn’t have been able to use it—he hands are boundto the girder which is about waist high when she stands up.  She would have had to pick up the file with her feet, then raise her legs so she could grab it with her hands or teeth and then contort herself further to cut herself free from the plastic cuffs.  Nice try Carrie, but it was never going to happen. 

Nazir calls Brody on a camera phone and shows him that he has Carrie. Brody sees him point his gun at Carrie’s head as he threatens to kill her. Nazir wants Brody to get into the Walden’s home office  at the Naval Observatory which serves as the official residence for all vice presidents.  Nazir instructs him to find a small plastic case that contains the serial number for Walden’s pacemaker. This information will allow him to remotely trigger a heart attack. One small question: How does Nazir know where Walden keeps this box?  He says he read it in the New York Times. Another small question: Is it even possible to control a pacemaker using a wireless connection just by entering some code into a computer? But never mind, it is necessary for the plot. 

Brody at first refuses. He tells Nazir, “You’ll kill her anyway.”  Nazir answers, “If you don’t do it, I’ll kill her right now.” Brody agrees. 

He gets himself to the naval Observatory. Walden is having a meeting with some foreign dignitaries in the sun room. Brody says he will wait, then pretends to hear “nature’s call.” This leaves him free to wander about the house, find Walden’s office, locate the box, and call Nazir.  

However, Brody will not give the number to him until he releases Carrie. There’s a bit of a stalemate: Nazir is concerned that once he lets Carrie go, Brody won’t give him the number. And Brody is concerned that once he gives Nazir the number, he will kill Carrie.  

Finally Brody says, “I swear on the soul of Issa.” (Issa was Nazir’s young son who Brody came to love as he tutored him. The boy died in a drone attack ordered by Walden. Nazir knows that Brody wants to avenge Issa’s death.) Nazir decides to take a chance that Brody will honor his oath. Carrie is freed and Nazir holds his camera to the window so Brody can see Carrie on the road running away. Brody gives Nazir the serial number.  

He ends the call just in time because Walden comes into his office and sees Brody there. Walden asks what Brody wants. Brody says that he has come to tell him that he wishes to withdraw his name from consideration as a running mate for Walden’s presidential run. He says he is doing it for family reasons. Walden is angry that Frody would place family ahead of the chance to be vice president. He is trying to get Brody to change his mind, when he clutches his chest and stumbles a bit.   

This emboldens Brody to go full Monty with the naked truth. He tells Walden that he despises him and everything he stands for and that he is not worthy of the presidency. Walden becomes furious just as chest pains again cause him to clutch his chest and fall into a chair. He begs Brody to call for help. Brody says, “Don’t you see that I am trying to kill you?” Walden struggles to his feet to reach the phone, but Brody pushes the phone out of reach.  He grabs Walden and appears to be holding him up.  It sort or looks like he is trying to strangle him. (I’m assuming Brody didn’t actually strangle Walden and that this was just a gesture done to manifest his hatred and anger.)  Finally, when Walden is dead, Brody goes into the hall and shouts. “Get a doctor. The vice president is having a heart attack.”    

During Carrie’s captivity Carrie and Nazir have a discussion about terrorism. Each calls the other a terrorist. They argue about whether the East or the West will win this battle. Nazir insists that the East will be the victors because Westerners know nothing about “believing in something bigger than you.”  He knows that he himself may not survive, but the fight will be carried on by generations and generations of Muslims.  He sneers that Americans are too soft for this fight. They are not willing to sacrifice and die for their cause. I’ve heard these arguments before, but this scene brings the arguments to us in a vivid way. Both sides are caught up in a struggle, and there is no release. 

There is a bit more “catching and releasing” and “heart breaking” going on. 

Jess speaks to Mike. “About last night”, Jess says referring to their midnight tryst, “It was fun.” Jess, you little slut!  I thought this was an affair of the heart and you did it for love. I think that’s what Mike felt too. And you were just having fun!  You are going to break Mike’s heart. 

Finn, the vice president’s son, comes to see Dana. He tells her that she is the only one he can talk to about the hit-and-run. He tells her that he wakes up each morning and “for a few brief seconds, I’m free.” The he remembers that he is responsible for the death of another human being. He asks Dana if they can “start over”, and return to the feelings they had for each other before the hit-and-run. Dana says, “Whatever we felt, we broke it.” Dana and Finn are both heart-broken with guilt. Dana appears to be sinking into a clinical depression. I wonder how Finn will react to the death of his father? 

Before she was kidnapped, Carrie had a little heart-to-heart with Body. She told him that now that the terrorist plot has been foiled, he must tell Walden that he doesn’t want the VP spot on his ticket. He must also resign from Congress. During Brody’s little tete-a-tete with Walden, he fulfilled the first part of that demand.   

During this conversation with Brody, Carrie is all business. If I were Brody I’d be thinking that now that their business is concluded, their affair is also concluded. Will one or both them be broken-hearted?  

We can see that Brody still cares. Saul picks up Carrie’s phone at the scene of the accident, and uses it to call Brody, and we see his excitement when he sees Carrie’s name on his caller ID. Saul tells him that Carrie is missing, and we see his concern. (Shortly thereafter he gets the call from Nazir and finds out why Carrie is missing. He is clearly terrified that Nazir will kill Carrie.) Brody and Carrie were caught up in their passions; now that it is over will they both be released from their emotional bonds? Brody has saved Carrie’s life and Carrie knows what he did in order to save her life—how will that change their relationship? 

At the beginning of the episode, Saul had a meeting with Dar Adal. He is trying to get some information about why a black ops guy, Peter Quinn, was put in charge of their operation.  Adal says “Estes doesn’t trust you.” At the end of the episode, Saul is taken into custody as he tries to enter the CIA.  He tells them that this is a mistake. They should call Deputy Director Estes. They reply, “He’s fully aware.” 

Saul and Brody both know too much about the drone strike on a Madrassa that killed Issa and close to a hundred other little boys. There are people who want to make sure they don’t talk. They are both caught in a black ops web. Does Walden’s death change anything?  Will they be released? 

Carrie remains unbroken in body and spirit. After she survives an automobile accident, after she is handcuffed to a pipe for hours and had a gun held to her head, after she runs from the old mill, when she reaches the two-lane highway near the mill, she stands in front of an on-coming truck to force the driver to stop. This girl has amazing stamina. She grabs the truck-driver’s cell-phone and has enough energy to outrun the driver who is chasing her for stealing his phone, and she does this while dialing Saul’s number and telling him where she is. This strains credulity. 

Saul tells her stay where you are. Don’t go back to the mill. What does Carrie do?  You know what Carrie does. She goes back to the mill. She finds a piece of metal pipe to use as a weapon and goes running through the mill looking for Nazir.The episode ends with her opening a door and walking through it.  

Again, I know Carrie has to be all plucky and spunky in order to advance the plot, but she does a lot of crazy dangerous things. It starts to strain credulity that she is still alive. 

I hope the writers ease up on my strained credulity a bit in the last two episodes. This show has caught my heart and I would be broken–hearted if I couldn’t remain a fan of this wonderful show.  

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A picture of Homeland's Vice President Walden (played by Jeremy Sheridan) in happier days.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Showtime Dexter “The Dark …Whatever” #710 Choice and Consequence

by Catherine Giordano

It’s Showtime’s "Dexter", season 7 episode 10, and the body count is rising. Dexter adds another kill to his tally, Quinn adds one, and “The Phantom Arsonist” brings his tally up to eight or more before being dispatched by Dexter. The Phantom Arsonist is a pretty prolific killer—at the start of the episode we learned that he racked up seven kills in just two weeks, including a twofer--a mother and child. During this episode the Phantom strikes again, on a public bus this time, but I’m not sure how many that adds to his tally.
Dexter, in his usual methodical and extra-legal way, tracks down the killer. He suspects Bosso, the lead investigator from the fire department who has all the qualities usually found in a serial killer. Bosso reels them off in a briefing—male, methodical, fastidious, self-aggrandizing, ego-centric, manipulative, near or in law enforcement.  Dexter thinks as he sits in the briefing, “You could be describing yourself.” He could also be describing Dexter, couldn’t he?   

Dexter doesn’t make the connection just then, but he is about to have a huge leap in self-awareness. He’s going to realize that he is not compelled to kill by his “Dark Passenger,” but that he chooses to kill. He has a conversation with his dad--which is really a conversation with himself since his Dad is dead and appears only as manifestation of Dexter’s imagination. His Dad says, “You were traumatized, not possessed.  Where did you get the idea of a dark passenger?”  Dexter realizes, “If there is no dark passenger, then I’m responsible for everything.”   

The self-awakening begins when he is having breakfast with Hannah. He’s discussing his compulsion to kill. He says, “I have a Dark Passenger living inside me. I have no choice. Hannah dismisses this idea of a “dark rider,” as she calls it. She says, “You have a choice.” 

The writers chose “The Dark …Whatever” as the title for this episode based on this confusion between the “Dark Passenger” and the “Dark Rider,” and because it doesn’t matter what you call this dark urge to kill. I entitled my review “Choice and Consequence” because Dexter is coming to the conclusion that he has a choice to kill or not kill. He is more than a puppet controlled by the “Dark Passenger.”  This self awakening is bound to have huge consequences for Dexter. 

Just then Hannah’s dad, Clint McKay (played by Jim Beaver), shows up. He calls her by a childhood, pet name, “Banana.”  He says, “I don’t expect you to forgive me, but I always loved you.” He brings her the doll house that he gave her when she was a child. Hannah is not in a forgiving mood, and she sends him away.  

After he leaves, Hannah tells Dexter that her father meant well, but this was the worst present he could have given her because it brings back bad memories. When she was about eight years old, he told her mother that he was taking her to a county fair. Instead he left her in a motel room alone for three days while he went off to play poker. When he finally returned, he returned with the doll house. 

Later Hannah’s feelings about her Dad soften. Abused children grow up, but they never get over wanting their parents to love them. So it is understandable that Hannah’s longing for a father overcomes her good sense. Hannah invites her father to have dinner with her and Dexter.  

At dinner, Clint tells them that he has reformed and is going to start a crawfish farm. He only needs $20,000 more to get started. He wants Hannah to “invest” in his proposed new business. Hannah’s good sense returns and she says, “It’s not going to happen.” Dear old dad becomes furious. “What kind of daughter won’t help her own father?”  (Hannah might have replied, “What kind of father tries to drown his own daughter.” When Hannah was very young, he tossed her off a pier to sink or swim. A bystander rescued her.) Nonetheless, Hannah still believes that her father is trying to change. 

The next day Hannah returns from the flower market to find her father’s truck crashed into her nursery. “Oops,” Clint says, “I might have been a little drunk.” Clint accuses Hannah of killing her mother. “She dies of a broken heart after your spree with Wayne Randall. I should have let you drown.” Hannah is sobbing. Dexter wonders “How do I help Hannah put herself together.” 

Dexter stands up to Clint and tells him to never bother Hannah again. Hannah comments, “I haven’t seen that face since you took me to see the snow.” (That would be the time that he took Hannah on their first “date” intending to kill her, but averted his knife at the last second.)  

Unfortunately, a scary as Dexter can be, Clint was not scared off. He comes to Dexter’s apartment and threatens blackmail. It seems that he was giving Sal Price the information about Hannah for Sal’s book, but he withheld one piece of information because he was holding out for a higher price. When Hannah was in a halfway house, her room-mate Arlene Shram, saw her poison a counselor with rat poison. (What other murders has Hannah committed that we don’t know about—her husband, her mentor, Sal Price, and now, her half-way house counselor. Perhaps we should call her the “Pretty Poison Killer.” She’s quite the busy little murderer, isn’t she?)  

Dexter finds a way to help Hannah after all—he helps her in exactly the way you would expect.  Although Hannah said killing her father was not an option because he is, after all, her father. She wants to give her father the money. Dexter argues that Clint will only come back again and again asking for money. Dexter kills him anyway. 

But in Dexter’s defense, he was doing it to protect Hannah.  And it turns out that Clint didn’t even want the money for a crawfish farm. It was to pay off gambling debts. So Clint ends up wrapped in plastic on Dexter’s boat. Clint pleads for his life.   

“You don’t have to do this.” 

“You’re right. I don’t have to. I want to.” 

“You’ve got the devil inside you, boy.” 

“No, I think it is just me.”

When Dexter sees Hannah, he tells her that her father will not be bothering her any more.  He says, "I had a little talk with him. "I think  hannah really does know that Dexter most likely killed him, but maybe there is just a little bit of doubt and she's choosing to go with the doubt. It is just like when Hannah was believing that her father had reformed. You want to believe the best about people you want to love. 

Dexter tells Hannah that the “Dark Rider” doesn’t exist. "You understand me better than I understand myself.” hannah says "I love you.” Dexter responds, "I think ... I love you too." These words are painful for Dexter to say. Even his wife, Rita, did not elicit these feelings from him although he obviously cared about her and he probably spoke the words to her. These feelings, these words, are new to Dexter.
Love is changing Dexter. He may not be able to continue to be the killing machine he once was. In a previous episode, Dexter had questioned his father’s decision to channel Dexter’s urges with the code. Dexter wondered if instead he should have received treatment to eliminate the urges. He has begun to question if he has to be the way he is. Will his love for Hannah be his treatment or will it be his downfall? 

Back now to the other killings in this episode, starting with the horriffic murders done by The Phantom Arsonist. .

Dexter suspects Bosso, the fire department investigator, but Bosso has an alibi so Dexter concludes that sometimes, people like Bosso are just weird, and not all weird people are serial killers.  

Dexter is able to track down the real killer, Joseph Jensen, because he left a finger print on the bus. The police can’t find a match in the adult files, but they suspect that Juvie files may contain a match. The Juvie records are sealed so Dexter goes extra-legal and steals the records. Dexter finds the fingerprint match, gets a match,  and finds that Jensen has a record of arson going back to the age of 12.  He has been in a psychiatric hospital, but was released a month ago. 

Pretty soon Jensen is on Dexter’s table, bound in plastic. When the knock-out drug Dexter uses to sedate his intended victims wears off, Dexter demands, “Who’s Bobby?” (The name "Bobby" or the words, "It's Bobby"  were found at the scene of each crime.)
Jensen says that Bobby was his boyhood friend. Bobby set the fires and blamed him, and so now he sets fires to kill random strangers.

Dexter says, “You can’t blame it on something that happened when you were a kid.”  This is the “Eureka” moment of the week. Dexter realizes that this applies to him as well. 

Dexter doesn’t go through with the kill. He returns Joseph to his house where the police find him passed out on the basement floor. (Kerosene fumes?) They received an anonymous tip about a smell of kerosene coming from the house. Debra knows that the tip came from Dexter. She thinks he did it so she would lay off Hannah. Debra says that Dexter has controlled her whole life, and she will no longer be controlled by Dexter.  She will go after Hannah if she can. 

And then gets her chance to pursue Hannah. It turns out that good old dad made good on his blackmail threat. Before he died, he called in anonymous tip about Arlene Shram. Debra is hot on the trail.   

One small question: Jensen is going to have quite a story to tell about being accosted in his basement, getting knocked out, and waking up wrapped in plastic aboard a boat with a madman about to kill him. It is possible that Jensen never saw Dexter’s face. (Dexter attacked him while dressed in a fireman’s burn suit, his face covered by the suit’s hood.)  It’s also possible, having just been released from a mental hospital, everyone will think he is crazy if he tells that story. 

Quinn is a bit of a killer also. We already know, that upon occasion, Quinn has been a “dirty cop.” For instance, he took bribes, stole evidence, and more. In this episode he kills George, the boss of the sex club where his girl friend Nadia works as a dancer (and probably more). Quinn goes to George’s office because George is going to ship Nadia to a sex club in Dubai. He demands that George release Nadia to him. Just as George taunted Quinn by having sex with Nadia, he now taunts him by slapping Nadia around. When Quinn pulls his gun, he laughs at Quinn, saying, “What are you going to do, Mr. Policeman? Shoot me in my own club?” That is exactly what Quinn is going to do. 

Quinn puts George’s gun into his dead hand, places Nadia’s hand over George’s hand, and tells Nadia to shoot him in the arm. The he tells Nadia to take the money from the safe and leave the country. He tells Batista, who was in another part of the building, that he came to the sex club to argue for Nadia’s release, George got angry and shot him, winging him, and he shot back in self-defense.  

Quinn’s loan to Batista helping him to buy a restaurant is about to pay off. Batista knows this story is false. Too much time elapsed between the two shots. Nadia was still in the room when he arrived, and he heard Quinn telling her to leave. Quinn revises his story.  He was on the floor after George shot him. George then started beating Nadia. As he got back on his feet, George pointed the gun at him again, so he shot back. Batista tacitly agrees to go along with Quinn’s versions of events. My guess is that Batista will choose friendship over honesty and will support Quinn’s story. The investigation will be quietly closed.  

LaGuerta chose not to drop her investigation of Dexter, and chose to bring Tom Matthews into the investigation. Tom is choosing to not believe that Dexter is the “Bay Harbor Butcher.” It is friendship again. He was close with Dexter’s father and has known Dexter since he was a boy. 

LaGuerta convinces Mathews to go with her to interview the owner of the land where the cabin stood, the cabin that was burned down killing Doakes, who was being held prisoner inside. (His girl friend, Lila, played arsonist on her own initiative to help Dexter.  Dexter later killed her for this.) 

The owner of the property is living in a trailer on the spot where the cabin once stood.  He says that he had rented the cabin, not to Doakes, but to Santo Jimenez. Tom immediately recognizes the name of one of the men who killed, Laura Moser, Dexter’s birth mother. Laura had been an informant to Detective Morgan, the man who adopted Dexter after she was murdered. He also knew that the “Ice Truck Killer” was Dexter’s brother Brian. The puzzle pieces are fitting together very neatly. Even Mathews is becoming a believer. 

This is going to be a big problem for Dexter, now that two people, both LaGuerta and Tom, are closing in America’s favorite serial killer. Dexter has always been lucky and clever, but I don’t see how he is going to escape this time.  

Hannah is about to get a whole heap of trouble too. It turns out that good old dad made good on his blackmail threat. Before he died he called in anonymous tip about Arlene Shram. Debra is hot on the trail.  

One last point, there’s a high body count in every single episode—Miami sure must be a dangerous place. This season it seems that the serial killers are coming and going too fast. The Phantom lasted all of two episodes, and before that Ray Spitzer was gone in no more than three episodes. I liked it when there was one maniac killer for the whole season. Perhaps, because this is the penultimate season—the series ends next season—the story arcs had to change a bit in order to set up things for the finale.
A picture of the doomed Clint McKay who didn't even last to the end of the episode after meeting Dexter Morgan.
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