New intelligence unraveled as Carrie and co. went further down the rabbit hole in IRON IN THE FIRE, an episode fully geared on the thrills of espionage not only wheeled on the CIA operations, but also torqued on its Pakistani counterpart. Finally emerging as part of the chess game than a plot device, the ISI sheds stealth-mode from tailing surveillance to a more tangible presence that further escalates the conspiracy that befell on the season four premiere. It’s the savory spy stuff that substantiates the progressive episode spawning more questions which reveals the bigger motive behind Sandy Bachman’s murder. The fear of the unknown is crippling but HOMELAND’s ability to play the con game of the unpredictable makes the show so compelling and a-rousing (coughs to Aayan). Ready the blankets and take a seat beside your new-found asset; let the recap begin!
Working on foreign territory, it made sense that HOMELAND booked new characters who’ll wear the shoes of the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the country’s largest intelligence service agency. The show’s depiction of its overseas settings is often criticized but admirably, HOMELAND has been grounded by the stark reality and remained neutral on tackling the political aspects of its omnipotent theme. I wonder how the portrayal of the ISI could add to the complex set-up but the idea of two agencies battling each other is intriguing, all the more that the face we see on the ground is a woman. Nimrat Kaur’s casting as ISI agent Tasneem Qureshi has been interesting and I can’t wait how involved her character will be in the season-long conflict. The thought of her going head-to-head with Carrie is even more exciting. Already proving herself in the misogynistic world of intelligence, S04 sees Carrie engaging on a new dynamic, ironically with the same gender. She’s got Fara to mentor, Martha to be her proxy-mentor/ally, and now Tasneem as a potential enemy (although Carrie doesn’t know her yet). Would it be that the new girl will push Carrie to the limit? We’ll see on the next episodes.
Speaking of Tasneem, she apprehended a certain professor who was revealed to be Sandy’s inside man on the drone strike’s coordinates… who turned out to be the Martha Boyd’s husband, Dennis. The Boyds scuffle on committing to their careers and marriage (Martha’s disheveled look and unaware treason of her husband got me anxious about her). Sandy forged a two-way street of intel exchange through Dennis and a Pakistani source whom he was supposed to meet before he died. But the question is, why did Dennis connive with Sandy to get those classified intel? What’s in it for him? Was he not aware that the ISI, as Tasneem said, is benefiting from? There are so many questions that lead to a dead-end. But has anyone noticed the parallel on Saul and Martha’s significant others? Mira was unknowingly sleeping with Andrew Lockhart’s hired agent in last season, but for Dennis, it’s a deep rabbit hole he’s drained himself into.
Most Valuable Player
Another big reveal last night (aside from the source of Sandy’s intel) is that Haissam Haqqani, the target of Carrie’s botched drone strike, is alive, thanks to Fara’s determined pursuit of Aayan. It’s an immense compensation for her gone-wrong meeting with him in “Shalwar Kameez”. The transition from meek to daring Fara was a welcome boost to Nazanin Boniadi’s character, now that she’s more expected to be seen on the ground while Carrie’s juggling being station chief and a handler (more to that later). She’s still learning the spy craft that teams her up with Max and they somehow make a more composed pair than the tension-filled Carrie and Quinn. Before Fara left the car, Max cautioned her to not do anything stupid, but don’t expect that dialogue to work out for the other two. I do like how their scenes (Fara and Max following Aayan while Carrie and Quinn argue a stake-out over another ISI agent) interplay thrillingly. The show is meatier if it treats viewers with well-executed covert operations and fastening them together in the end. It’s a tense and gripping entertainment that HOMELAND best delivers.
Remember Carrie and Quinn’s snarky conversation during their surveillance in “New Car Smell”? They’re back behind the camera watching Farhad Ghazi’s footage but this time their talk becomes personal, which further attest on how much their working-personal relationship deepened for the past two seasons. Carrie once again asked Quinn why he didn’t go with her in Kabul and Quinn answers that covert operation was over for him after killing a child in Caracas. For a moment, Carrie’s voice breaks when she shouted ‘No’ upon Quinn’s sullen statement that he’s a bad guy. But instead she wants him focused on the job that he ultimately accepted despite his reservations. I was waiting for the concrete proof on how Quinn would be Carrie’s moral conscience (an actual dialogue, not just cursing) and this scene clicked to it. Many times in the episode did Quinn got into Carrie’s skin and her retaliation was enough to confirm it. I’m not exactly sure on how Carrie is ‘bad news’ to Quinn since she needed him for the mission. Is it considered bad if Quinn continues to prod her enmity in order to humanize her? But the notion of being the bad guy got me curious. Carrie and Quinn have their different methods in performing their job for the greater good. Her needing to hear “I’m a bad guy” seemed like Quinn’s strategy of having Carrie think about her job and what she has let it done to her. It’s not a question of who’s meaner and more culpable. It’s a thought-provoking move; especially when a viewer continues to digest the great lengths Carrie do for her job, which leads us to the final moment of the episode…
Carrie examines herself at the mirror, and pauses before she proceeds with her play on Aayan. To be honest, I wasn’t shocked on the culmination of Carrie’s seduction although at first I was peeved by the thought of it. What changed my mind? Maybe on how the first 45 minutes of the episode built to it and how well Claire Danes and Suraj Sharma calculatedly eased up on Aayan’s consensual permission to Carrie’s initiation. Carrie had used sex before to accomplish her operations but the necessity of doing it with Aayan comes to question. When did she realize that she has to seduce him, to make him emotionally (and physically, forgive the pun) attached to her? And her more professional job description as a station chief also raises an eyebrow to her latest act. I’m not an expert on Carrie’s psyche but based on the past three seasons, Carrie is more comfortable when she’s hands-on to her assets. (Related, but digressing) I think her being station chief comes with her brilliance and not her leadership skills (she’s more of an individual performer). But the more important thing is, Carrie knows what she is doing. She’s planned it all along and readied herself when the moment is ripe. She’s not as reckless like she was with a certain terrorist in “The Good Soldier”. Sex is part of her play but the tricky thing would be not letting herself be emotionally attached because that could just snap a band, if something awry goes off.
Oh, Saul also got two important dates in IRON IN THE FIRE, first is with an old friend (called Bunny) from the Pakistan army and second was from a younger official in the ISI. Turns out that Sandy is the sole target of the mob and why the ISI orchestrated the murder is still unknown. Saul is so desperate to be back in the game (I thought he’ll be leaving Pakistan soon?) But seeing Mandy Patinkin course his way through international politics with the Pakistani officials makes me reminiscent of the S01 Saul. I miss the bear.
The opening credits first hears the line “It’s Alice in f***ing wonderland” from Martha. Wait ‘till she knows what her husband’s done aside from plagiarizing. IRON IN THE FIRE got me convinced that the new season will see Carrie in her most dangerous fairy-tale yet. I’m all in the rabbit hole. Are you?
NEXT EPISODE: “About a Boy”