What she knows, what the audience knows, and what we don’t know is coming.
Everything happened as expected in E09 – Dennis Boyd’s admission of his treasonous ties, Saul Berenson’s successful prisoner exchange, and Haissam Haqqani’s infiltration of the U.S. embassy – but the means of achieving these outcomes trickled from the strained flowchart of wrong choices. Like Martha Boyd’s remorseful ‘how did we end up here?’, E09 is the implosion of the first eight episodes’ jagged liaison between cause and effect; a culmination of the seeds (the initial conflict of drone strikes versus collateral damages) planted in the season premiere that has grown into a foreboding tree, shadowing everyone under its reach. What I knew beforehand was just a heads-up, like Carrie Mathison’s intuition that there’s something else going on. But seeing how it all ended up to E09’s explosive cliffhanger is a riveting result only Homeland can deliver.
Bearing S04’s most straightforward title, “There’s Something Else Going On” is Homeland’s most glaring critique of the fight against terror by invoking the show’s core dynamic for the potent personification. They may either be the two versions of America or a matured daughter talking down her elderly parent; Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin superbly sold the vehement volley of turning the former CIA’s uncooperative stand of playing the pawn by The Drone Queen. But Carrie has relinquished herself of the title; it was her more empowered and conscious self that persuaded Saul the futility of his adamancy to the 14-year war they are raging; that a death of an innocent, no matter whose side he is, is an unacceptable price to pay for the cessation of the adults’ war game; and that a promise of keeping him alive is the right thing to do despite the precarious trade off. The show could have other means of portraying its geopolitical rhetoric but Homeland hits two birds with one stone, the other one being resonant of Carrie and Saul’s sullen relationship in S03. Considering that they only have at least ten scenes together in S04, Carrie and Saul were effective messengers of reproving flawed perspectives on foreign policy that cascades to delicate gap between them. E09 was an emotionally charged reunion following last week’s broken vow of “escape or die”, but this time, Carrie assured Saul of “no more dying”. The writers convincingly kept Saul as a centerpiece in S04 by being a catalyst to Carrie’s impassioned eureka and cementing that during the tension-filled prisoner exchange sequence. He and Carrie will definitely survive the convoy attack but at what point will he still be useful in the next episodes? Will he and Carrie finally get to talk (and resolve) their unspoken hostility? Will he become more of Carrie’s personal cornerstone once the show gives its respectable send-off to Carrie’s father (James Rebhorn)? It’s too early and uncertain to talk about the future of the characters but I’m hoping for an amiable resolution after the turbulent emotional ride Carrie and Saul shared this season.
Another character with a gloomy prospect is Martha who finally siphoned from her despicable husband his handler (ISI agent Tasneem Qureshi) and the content of the note she furtively passed to him in “Halfway to a Donut”. Skipping the scene of her learning about Dennis’ misdeeds, E09 jumped to Martha’s cooperation in bringing out Dennis and simply doing her job as the U.S. ambassador (a classy TV gesture of ‘show, don’t tell’). We don’t know the magnitude of how Martha’s career would crumble because of her husband’s treason but for now, I’m excited (and wary) to see her take charge in an embassy attack; along with the classic wordsmith, CIA Director Andrew Lockhart, on E10’s forbidding title, “13 Hours in Islamabad”. Another arising uncertainty is how fiction will bend the ill-fated reality of the 2012 Benghazi attack. The number 13 is no better omen in eliciting dread (triskaidekaphobia and the claustrophobic feel of the embassy lockdown) in an action-packed episode. Since when did Tasneem and her cohorts staged this terrorist’s tableau? Was it planned after Sandy Bachman’s death? Or after knowing that the CIA is sniffing their trail through Farhad Ghazi which eventually led to Saul’s abduction (and took advantage of the prisoner exchange’s timing)? Haqqani is four steps ahead of its prey scrambling on its dwindled American forces. So far, S04 has been adroit in delivering action sequences particularly in E01 and E08 but the jeopardized characters trapped in the embassy, not to mention the sizzling aftershock outside, make E10 a heavier dose of the usual tension Homeland prescribes weekly. The ordeal begins when the show resumes on December 7.
Prompted by the reboot, a change of scenery is proven to be auspicious for Homeland that has been upping the espionage entertainment by refreshingly integrating the trades of its inhabited industry. S04’s notable showcase of covert creativity is the deployment of drones during the most dramatic scenes in E06 and E08 with a minimalist touch of blue circles and green triangles in classifying the ‘us’ and ‘them’. Thematically, the drone visual is also reflective of Carrie’s amount of power during drastic situations, scaling from powered to strike to powerlessness. As for E09, the prisoner exchange scene was one of the most suspenseful Homeland has ever produced, intensified by the boy wearing a suicide vest and Saul’s courier wagging the detonator at the tarmac (which could be an outskirt in South Africa freshly painted with driving lines). Confined in D.C. for the first three seasons, Homeland is most flexible logistically in S04; the resourcefulness in transforming South Africa to three different locations (Kabul, Islamabad, and D.C.) makes the production team an unsung hero in settling the authenticity of its narrative. The season’s antagonists (Haqqani, Dennis, and Tasneem) are also more effective and beguiling in their respective squares on the CIA and the ISI’s chess match. If only the show doesn’t balk on the development of its original supporting cast… but I would reserve my judgment after the season finale.
“There’s Something Else Going On” is a taut installment that crashes and burns the blindsided CIA since the stateside detonation in “The Choice”. Witnessing the events that led to Haqqani and his retinue slithering at the U.S. embassy’s secret tunnel is the rejuvenated and exhilarating payoff Homeland accomplished in its comeback season. There’s nothing much else to say because of the episode’s straightforwardness (I wasn’t reeling from the unexpected RPG blow. I was more relieved that the embassy attack is finally happening.) and the uncertainty of the final three. Until then, check out my list of the non-spy related acts Carrie has done in S04.