Homeland review: season three, episode three - Urgent medical attention required

A dark and unpleasant way to spend a Sunday evening

Brody was back in this week's Homeland. A hulking, sweaty, bloody mess, Damian Lewis stumbled across the screen with a gusto that suggests he'd quite like the Emmy he lost to Jeff Daniels this year back in his grasp, thank you.

But despite the fact its anti-hero arrived on-screen with a gunshot wound to his torso, the third episode of this new series was unable to sustain the tension for the full hour.

Just like Brody, Homeland needs urgent medical attention.

The alleged terrorist, fleeing justice following the attack on the CIA, has ended up in Venezuela's delightful Caracas, convalescing in a tower block slum ruled by a gang lord with some connection to Claire Danes' Carrie Mathison.

It is wholly grim. Children administer heroin doses, and – almost comically – armed heavies prevent Brody's escape as a cheerful resident flavours some meat on a barbecue. It's actually a real tower – built by investor David Brillembourg – that went unfinished due to the Venezuelan banking crisis of the 90s.

The episode – titled "Tower of David" – is the show's latest attempt to cast big business as the villain, and frankly, it's not working. Come back Abu Nazir! All is forgiven.

I spent the episode hoping for some The Raid/Dredd style rescue, 50 storeys o' fightin' to lend some pace to what was quite a dark, unpleasant hour.

There have been two things that have really annoyed me in these first three episodes. First, what has happened to the characters we were so familiar with? We all know Brody is weak, having betrayed his family to have an affair with Carrie, and – of course – having turned against his country, but is he really so facile as to reach for the needle in a moment of despair?

Second, I'm not convinced by the show's attempt to reverse people's perceptions of how it treats Islam. Homeland took a bit of a battering for how it portrayed Muslims and the Middle East, but now they're going about the rehabilitation process with sledgehammer subtlety. In the last episode, we saw a woman in a headscarf who was – gasp! – good at her job. This time we had an imam who shopped Brody to the police, because the American is not a 'muslim', he's a 'terrorist'.

Homeland passes the hour quite reasonably, but it's not something I can see people wanting to return to. Last week its ratings hit a new low, and I envisage them tumbling again and again unless there is a major mid-season shift to pacey, thrilling television.

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