Week 8: Season 3 Episodes 5-8: Violence and Homeland

The cornerstone of the middle four episodes of Season 3 of Homeland seemed to settle on a new villain, Javadi.  This makes sense given the first four episodes of this season focused on the carefully orchestrated ruse perpetuated by Carrie and Saul to draw out Javadi, who financed the bombing of the CIA headquarters.  We learn more about this psychopath in these four episodes in addition to learning that Javadi and Saul have an extensive past, dating back to at least 1978.

While Javadi represents another negative stereotype of Muslims, I will not devote any space in this blog to discuss Islamophobia since some of my classmates discussed this in recent blogs.  Rather the article by Amy Laura Hall (Torture and Television in the United States) was timely given the amount of carnage played out in these episodes.  Sure the murder of over 200 people in the CIA bombing was grotesque  and disturbing (especially the scene where all the bodies are laid out with Saul reciting the Kaddisch), these four episodes sure tipped the scales in depicting violence on this show.

The episode titled “Still Positive” begins with Carrie hooked up to a polygraph test after she was taken, blindfolded, to a small room containing interrogation equipment. We learn Javadi was behind this when her captors removed the blindfold they placed over her head, and found herself face to face with him.  When Javadi told her that she was lying, she disclosed that they’re (CIA) aware of his embezzling of government funds and can make him an enemy of the state in Iran. They agree to meet at a coffee house later so Saul can meet with him first.

What transpires next is gruesome.  Instead of arriving at the coffee house, Javadi instead drove to the house his sister-in-law is renting.  Although Carrie and Quinn race to prevent him from entering the house, he beats them there.  Javadi forces his way inside and brutally murders his sister-in-law and wife in front of his toddler son.  Quinn and Carrie arrive right after the double murders and Quinn aptly describes the crime scene as a “bloodbath”.

Another dramatic glorification of violence occurs in the episode titled “A Red Wheelbarrow” the man who physically placed the bomb that blew up Langley is killed by the shady  Paul Franklin who is an associate for Leland Bennett. We first see Carrie get shot in the shoulder by Quinn for attempting to prevent Franklin from shooting the Langley bomber.  Although this was not particularly disturbing, considering the other violent scenes already depicted in Homeland, seeing Franklin kill the bomber and pour acid over his body was.

As violent as these scenes are, I find they attempt to fill in some gaps in story lines and characterization, although death shouldn’t always need to be paraded.  The nature of the murderous acts Javadi committed upon his wife and sister-in-law reflect the evilness that lurks beneath his charming exterior. Is the motive behind these killings another example of painting a Muslim in a bad light?  Yes I believe so because we learned the reason for such a brutal slaying, especially of his wife with the wine bottle, was because in his eyes she betrayed him by seeking refuge in the United States, a la to an honor killing. In the one-and-one conversation with Saul after the murders (when Saul informed him how he will now work for the CIA as a double agent), Javadi chillingly stated that the proper way of killing his wife was to stone her, but “you didn’t give me enough time to do that”.

In the case of the murder of the Langley bomber, Homeland relied on evoking the emotions of the audience that a “bad guy” was killed, making this homicide justifiable.  According to Richard Beck of n+1, “Homeland‘s idea, is that it is actually OK to kill as many supposed terrorists as you like, so long as you use a solemn tone of voice, present your credentials up front, and keep the swagger out of your gait”.  Although I don’t know if Franklin actually presented his “credentials” other than knowing he works for the nefarious Bennett, I felt some justice was served when the Langley bomber was murdered.

Amy Laura Hall’s article examined the frequency of violence in television.  She stated how Episode 308TV critics expected such scenes of “grisly fictional violence on TV would abate after the sobering events of September 11”.  Instead such scenes “appeared on network entertainment TV at a rate nearly double that over the previous two years.”  After citing some figures to back up this claim, Hall cites another study made by a communication professor that “Violence, as odd as it sounds, can have a sort of cathartic effect on people. When they are exposed to violence there is something of a vicarious element . . . [of] participation that could have a soothing effect on them.”

Personally I do not experience a cathartic effect when a violent scene splashes across my screen.  In fact, its quite the opposite.  My heart rate accelerates and I cannot view the violence, only the aftermath of the violence.  However I can appreciate people who are able to tolerate graphic violence on screen and can reap the benefits of viewing such material.

This brings me to my last point.  How can someone feel soothed by a show such as Homeland, given its fast paced plot lines, intensity, and excessive foul language?  I don’t think the creators of Homeland had this in mind when they created the series.  What Homeland does do is to offer a glimpse (albeit an exaggerated one) into the world of espionage, terror, and Middle Eastern politics, which makes for an exciting show.

It will be interesting to see what will transpire concerning the villains of this show, Javadi aside. What will become of Franklin and Bennett?  Senator Lockhart?  Now that he will take the reigns of the CIA shortly, how will the reputation of the CIA differ?  I am looking forward to it, but I’ll be diverting my eyes during any acts of violence.





8 thoughts on “Week 8: Season 3 Episodes 5-8: Violence and Homeland

  1. What an interesting analysis of the violence on Homeland. The violence in these episodes, especially when Javadi killed his ex-wife with the wine bottle, was over the top even compared to what has been shown before these episodes, as far as explicit on screen violence. I agree with you that Homeland is not really a reassuring show. As much as it depicts “heroes” who protect us from enemies, there is a lot violence and suffering, in spite of the heroes’ best efforts.


  2. Good thoughts on violence here. I would question whether Javadi’s brutal treatment of his ex-wife would fall under the umbrella of “glorification of violence,” however. In fact, I think you are closer to the truth in claiming that the act really showcases the deep evil in his character. He is able to do such a thing, and not even blink. When Carrie and Quinn arrive, he raises his hands and says that he is “ready” now. Unlike what we normally consider “glorification of violence,” like Clint Eastwood’s dismantling of the town at the end of a Western, this action, in my opinion, is meant not to glorify, but to make violence ugly. While the show actually shows some of the carnage, it isn’t because they want to build up this character in a positive way.


  3. What is interesting to me is that Javadi’s position as in informant for the CIA is what allows him to carry out and practically get away with a slap on the wrist for the gruesome murders. I touched on it a little in my blog, but I think there is a dynamic being presented of having to clean up after assets so they do not ruin operations, it feels like a slippery slope.


  4. You bring up an interesting perspective on violence. I was surprised as to how the CIA can cover up a murder even though the police gain a suspect. I thought it was interesting that Dar was more upset that Peter allowed himself to be photographed while Javadi receives no punishment of any kind other than Saul hitting him in the face for killing two women and leaving a child abandoned in a crib. I was surprised the show focused so much on these particular stabbings because in the past various deaths have been glossed over.


  5. First let me say– if you have no stomach for violence, you would definitely not enjoy watching Game of thrones! (so I guess it’s somewhat better that our class is focusing on Homeland. lol)
    I think that the scene with Javadi brutally murdering his ex-wife and daughter-in-law was difficult to watch, but I think it was meant to show how Javadi’s character is completely without feeling (and really is an evil psychopath.) I think as the audience, we are supposed to be shocked and disturbed by this scene. But it creates some interesting questions as to whether it’s right for Saul and others at the CIA to still attempt to utilize this man as an asset. Do the ends justify the means? I think Quinn’s character is having these same sort of doubts about the morality of what they are doing.
    I too have difficulty watching films or television that are particularly violent (and can’t imagine a situation where it would be soothing.) But I think what the article might be getting at, is the idea that if we see an evil character (such as Javadi for example,) later meet a violent end, we might feel some sort of vindication or catharsis. Perhaps the violence committed by Javadi is setting up such a scenario. I guess we’ll have to see how the end of the season turns out..


  6. Well done. One thing that needs to be added to your catalog of violence in these four, is the rather brutal way Carrie is conveyed to the meeting. Two scary men break into her apartment and strip her as if they are going to rape her–I think they perform some kind of body cavity check as well. This is a crazy scene–how could they think they would have a helpful conversation with her after subjecting her to that? But I think the narrative wants to link Carrie’s degradation to what Javadi does to his ex-wife. One note on that: yes he is a psychopath as others note above, but the show very clearly codes his actions as coming out of certain practices in extreme Islam, the statement that he wanted to stone her. So pro-West Homeland, clearly makes violation of women by the Islamic state a rallying point for our sympathies and the excitement this show generates. I’m not sure we are going to get the resolution that Lauren calls for, at least not soon.


  7. I enjoyed your analysis of this show. Yes I do agree that they use almost torture tactics even in cases of people who are not enemies of the state. Even if Quinn gave that as an excuse for those murders. The bathtub scene though with the Langley bomber reminded me of the scene in Breaking Bad and I couldn’t help but to remember him saying that you shouldn’t do that in a bathtub. But overall the violence in the two shows is apparent. By comparison they use the killings and torture as a means to end. Hopefully it will avoid many gruesome scenes such as that one again. People who deserve it I can handle. Innocents I cannot.


  8. I think I saw Majid’s murder of his wife just a little differently (although similarly). Although he seeks them out prior to knowing that his misdeeds have been found out by the CIA, he does no harm to them, he just watches. Majid does not necessarily seem to be predatory at this point. I think that the murder of his ex-wife was much more of a “Fuck you” to Saul, since, as Saul indicates later, that getting Majid’s wife out of the middle ease was his “revenge” against Majid’s early transgressions.


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