To be honest, Homeland S04’s penultimate episode wasn’t exactly how I imagined it to be. Haissam Haqqani should be dead by now, thus closing the Kabul-Islamabad chapter so that the finale will be more at home on the unresolved character drama among the show’s triumvirates. But like Peter Quinn’s watery-eyed frustrations, I was left hanging. I was ready to be blown into bits once he detonates the pipe bomb (though Carrie Mathison’s presence made it implausible), only to be doused in disbelief after the gaping involvement of his former boss, Dar Adal. Not only did “Krieg Nicht Lieb” felt like a filler episode, the conspiracy behind Dar is a questionable catalyst on the events in Pakistan; the extent of which threatens a quicksand that could vanish what Homeland remarkably built in its stellar fourth season. It also mined a confounding hole that added to the piling issues the finale has to patch. Despite my reservations on the shocking twist, the better half of E11 is the emphatic toast to the tremendous growth of the show’s two spy leads. Homeland will always be hinged on the love for one’s country, but seeing Carrie and Quinn embark on their patriotic missions (together or apart) have been fulfilling because of the genuine relationship they cultivated. Wherever this may lead (Homeland inured me from unhappy endings), I am still on board with this two. But before I revel in this beautiful partnership, let me first address the elephant in the room who made his startling comeback (without doughnuts for everyone).
Showed alongside Saul Berenson in an unaired scene (Dar’s dialogue about ‘people first before the mission’ was a foreshadowing in Quinn’s botched operation), F. Murray Abraham was in the title credits which I thought was for the Previously clip (but Nazanin Boniadi wasn’t credited so…) but I was completely surprised to see him inside Haqqani’s car (insert Andrew Lockhart expletives here). Carrie and the soon-to-be replaced CIA director were totally uninformed of Dar’s connection to Haqqani. Dar’s late reveal raises an inferno of questions that crowds the season-long conflicts the finale has to resolve. I’d like to believe that he is untainted of any Taliban connections and his rendezvous with Haqqani is official (which Lockhart pertained to Carrie in their long distance call). But if the CIA doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, what is Dar’s participation with Haqqani all about? Is he brokering a treaty of sorts or is it just a setup for a final terrorist takedown? Dar’s addition in the Pakistan plot doesn’t tell yet when did he jump in, making his timetable very critical in the season-long story. The worst juncture would be Dar’s involvement right from the beginning (in Sandy Bachman’s murder) which would be a manipulative ploy that collapses what S04 had thrived in rebuilding itself from the rocky past seasons. If Dar plays that game, everyone is reduced to pawns for his grand puppetry, including Saul whose capture could have been also part of the plan. I may sound exaggerated in speculating Dar’s involvement but throughout his history in the show, Dar hasn’t been a transparent character I could count on. Despite backing up Saul in S03, Dar is cloaked in nefariousness, and heading the CIA’s shadow department makes him more opaque. Translated onscreen, F. Murray Abraham is beguiling in the one-sided persona and it will be thrilling to see him back with a meatier role for the finale. Gods and Gansa be good that Dar only began talking to terrorists after the U.S. embassy attack (it could have dissolved diplomatic relations but that doesn’t close the door for the black ops director to step in). But what is Dar Adal’s endgame? He doesn’t seem to poise himself as Lockhart’s successor (nor help Saul reclaim the directorship) but why did he take part of whatever the covert higher-ups are planning? And what did he get in exchange? This twist should better lead to somewhere reasonable. It makes me wonder how his protégé would react if Carrie breaks in the news. But judging on the E12 promo, Quinn’s all set for the mission Dar has in store for him.
And now we talk about Quinn, whose storyline this season impresses with a turnaround of renewed purpose from the resigned and traumatized assassin he was in the start of S04. It turns out that he many times wanted to leave the CIA, as divulged by his German embassy lady friend (with benefits) who helped him logistically for the mission. Quinn’s love-hate relationship with his job is already history (Copenhagen 2008 was just a journal entry). Even before, I firmly believed that Quinn wouldn’t easily quit the Agency but now I pity him since he’s more straddled with his occupation that has become his mere identity. Maybe E12 could be Quinn’s last mission as his finite chance for vengeance, unless he changes his mind again. What’s intriguing is the audience discovers this piece of Quinn’s puzzle along with Carrie who encounters the hit man for the first time. She may not be as informed as Astrid on Quinn’s behavior but Carrie knew him too well that he won’t detonate the bomb as long as she lays herself in the line. The Carrie-Quinn phone conversation during the riot reminded me of the Carrie-Brody courtyard scene in “Big Man in Tehran”. But while the latter recharged the chemistry between the two actors, the former talked through the most organic relationship in the show. Over the course of two and a half seasons, Carrie and Quinn’s intimacy leaped the professional boundary and comfortably nested on the personal strings between them. The writers are not in a hurry (which is a good thing) as they continue to explore what these two can bring out to each other; in E11’s case, a reversal of roles (see “A Red Wheelbarrow” for reference). This time, Carrie tries to rattle sense back to Quinn as she pleads him not to press the detonator. Quinn grudgingly obliges, the second time he does since he agreed in returning to Islamabad (shout-out to Rupert Friend for his restrained performance). This episode surprised me on how much Carrie emphasized (at least seven times) in bringing back Quinn. Could this be the emergence of unrecognized feelings for her colleague or acceptance of a battle she/they lost? The pronouns lost me on what Carrie wants to say but surely there is no I in ‘team’ (if you get what I mean)?
A part of me is still unconvinced that Carrie does love Quinn (please don’t persecute me yet) but there need not to be an evidence aside from what E11 presented. First, she tried to reach him after learning her father passed away. Second, even the grim news didn’t immediately eject her from Pakistan because she has to leave with Quinn. If “Geronition” saw Carrie needing Quinn’s help in clearing Brody’s name, “Krieg Nicht Lieb” stressed how much she needed him in her life. Maybe Carrie doesn’t realize those feelings yet but it’s affirming that she reciprocates Quinn’s affection and declare it through their own language. I wasn’t able to write a lengthy recap on “Shalwar Kameez” but the one thing that turned me off is how it forcibly drilled on Quinn’s feelings for Carrie that he himself has yet to acknowledge. E11 worked for Carrie as how E03 worked for Quinn but the difference is that Carrie is making professions of not leaving and losing Quinn to other people, not the other way around. Maybe Carrie felt responsible because she reinstalled him and has to beg him out of Pakistan. Nevertheless, her investment in Quinn’s safety and welfare comes inherent of their characters’ journey, unlike how some critics complained of Quinn sudden developed feelings for Carrie. Romance aside, E11 also served as a parallel for Carrie and Quinn as they reengaged themselves to people outside the ops room. Quinn wore his old clothes in Astrid’s apartment while Carrie donned her maternal instinct for her daughter.
In one of the show’s most heartwarming moments, Carrie’s brief video call with Frannie hints on how a loving mother she can be. In what was a nightmare nine episodes ago, Carrie is not afraid of her own child anymore. Losing her father would be instrumental on making her realize the significance of becoming a parent, especially in her situation. I guess I’m more open on the prospects of adding motherhood in Carrie’s résumé. Perhaps the endgame is for Carrie to be successful single parent (which feels too good to be true for this type of show) but the writers don’t shy from the challenges it confronts Carrie (like post-partum depression), making the maternal arc more humane and realistic as possible. Pakistan also provided an eye opener for Carrie in the kids department through the boy wearing the bomb vest in E09 and the young Aayan, although the flashbacks in E11 was unnecessary, ruining Carrie’s deathly impulse as she falls into Haqqani’s procession. I also learned not to trust her with a gun so the entire scene of her targeting Haqqani felt futile. Tossed with a touchy Aasar Khan, I thought Dar’s reveal could have been played differently. But the image of Dar seated at the back of Haqqani’s car captured what he had been all along – a behind-the-scene, furtive player holding the reins of the curtains in the season-long opera.
The S04 finale is going to be the heaviest in terms of the numerous loose ends it has to close to appease viewers during the 10-month long hiatus. Aside from the dangling career futures of Carrie, Saul and Quinn, E12 has to address the burgeoning Carrie and Quinn relationship (it has to, goddamn it). Not to mention Carrie’s more specific concerns regarding her daughter, Frank’s funeral and the return of her mother. How about a closure on the Boyds and the ISI? E11’s late reveal on Dar also complicates the season’s war zone. “Krieg Nicht Lieb” doesn’t tailgate the accelerating action of “13 Hours in Islamabad” but detours to a higher stake, like a slingshot aimed at the higher target. I’m growing more anxious in knowing what is long time coming. Homeland’s finales have a certain notoriety in delivering an emotional roller coaster and I’m eager to know where “Long Time Coming” will rank among “Marine One”, “The Star” and “The Choice” (in descending order). I’m ready to become undone next Sunday. Are you?
Next Episode: “Long Time Coming”