Spoilers ahead for Season 3, Episode 8, "A Red Wheelbarrow"
How to rescue a once-culture-ruling show that, by most accounts, is now irrelevant? Easy! Ape the last culture-ruling show, Breaking Bad, with a bathtub corpse dissolution and the drug-den reclamation of a major-character-turned-junkie.
Kidding, mostly. The show that Homeland actually aped in tonight’s episode, “A Red Wheelbarrow,” was its old self. Certainly Carrie defying orders, jeopardizing everything, and striding forward Lone Wolf McQuade style as Quinn and the viewer shouted WHAT ARE YOU DOING? evoked familiar feelings. But even beyond that scene—which ended with Quinn non-lethally shooting our hero, in another sign that Season 3’s more interested in punishing its characters than vindicating them—the series tonight helped remind why, exactly, anyone started watching this thing in the first place.
Specifically: betrayal. As with, yes, Breaking Bad, the show's actors and writers know how to wring tension from deception. The question of why people betray and what happens when they do powered all the action surrounding Season 1’s investigation of Nicholas Brody, from the portrayal of the Sgt.’s radicalization to the drama engendered by his dishonesty at home to Carrie’s off-books obsession with his loyalty. Later, we got onto other topics Homeland doesn’t handle so well—the passions that drive love and revenge, mental illness as a reflection of deep-seated somethings, kids as reckless drivers, etc.—and the twists that piled up felt like tedium.