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 TV 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.