Tweetable Takeaway: In the aftermath of the attack on the Embassy, how will Carrie and the rest of the CIA fight back against Haqqani and the ISI?
Airtime: Sunday at 9PM on Showtime
By: Gregório Back, Contributor
The nature of television often requires that a shocking episode be followed by one more quiet and subdued. Following the major twists of last week (two weeks actually, the show went on hiatus for Thanksgiving), a lot of what we saw this week on HOMELAND was naturally bound to focus on the aftermath. But that’s not to say that this episode, entitled “13 Hours in Islamabad,” didn’t also have its thrills, with much of its first half dedicated to Haqqani’s raid on the U.S. Embassy. To no one’s surprise, both Carrie and Saul survived the attack on their convoy (this was painfully predictable, and I wish that at some point in time, TV writers would have the cojones – aside from Game of Thrones, of course – to pull a Marion Crane, and off their main character), but many others were not so lucky.
After the previous episode’s cliffhanger ending, it was clear that somebody (a significant character) was probably going to die this week (it’s a little sad that we have become so accustomed to violence in our entertainment that the only way for the impact of death to truly be felt has to be a significant character dying, even though dozens more were also killed), and as soon as Haqqani rounded up Max and Fara amongst his hostages, they immediately jumped to the head of the line for potential casualties. In some ways it was fitting that Fara would be the one to go; her being a Muslim working for the CIA was always going to irk Haqqani, and the writers made sure to give her just enough this season to guarantee that her death would impact us as an audience. Thankfully, they didn’t behead her (that would’ve been way too topical, and likely left a sour taste in a lot of people’s mouths), but Fara’s death was still the number one shocker of this particular episode. Naturally, when Haqqani stuck that knife in her back, I let out an audible gasp; no matter how much you see something coming in advance, when it finally does happen, you still feel it in your gut. But as soon as I thought about it some more, I kind of felt a little cheated. As weird as it might sound to say this, Fara’s death was cheap. She was too easy a character to kill at this particular point; she was just significant enough for her death to elicit an emotional reaction, but also, in equal measure, insignificant enough to not impact the overall story in any major way. To truly be shocking, somebody like Saul, Carrie, or even Lockhart (I don’t include Quinn in here, because of the nature of what he does) had to die, but the writers played it safe, and went with a character they knew they could do without.
With that being said, I will still give the writers credit for properly setting up this moment over the course of the season. From her very first appearance, Fara has always been painted as a character not particularly well suited for the world of espionage, with her underlying conscience and concern for other people making her an especially easy target. Add that to the fact that Islamic extremists like Haqqani saw her as a traitor, and her death almost became inevitable. But, even so, the writers did a good job of making us care just enough for her death to have an impact. If, on the other hand, Max had been the one to go, the subsequent emotional reaction would have been significantly lacking. We simply haven’t spent enough time with him, as a character, to be impacted in any way by losing him.
Even with Fara’s death, perhaps the most powerful moment of the whole episode was the conversation between Martha Boyd and her treasonous husband, Dennis. After last week’s (I know, I know, 2 weeks ago) big twists, it was only natural that the intensity of this particular episode be a little subtler, but, in no way, was it any less effective, especially in this particular scene. With Dennis pleading with Martha to give him her belt, the topic of their conversation inherently carried plenty of weight, but what I found most interesting was the way he convinced her to do so. Initially, Dennis appealed to her emotions, telling Martha that him committing suicide would make life easier for the both of them (he also mentioned their child, and the impact a trial would have on them). With her not budging, Dennis then turned to the one thing he knew his wife values more than anything, her career. I’m not going to lie, the fact that this is what convinced her, made me a little uneasy. Martha was willing to facilitate her husband’s suicide just to come out on the other side with her career still intact. Even worse, she was clever enough to realize that she couldn’t give Dennis her own belt, that it had to be his own for her to be clear of any wrongdoing. Now this final little piece of the puzzle makes for some pretty sociopathic behavior. It would have been one thing if she allowed Dennis to commit suicide out of pity, or in the hopes of easing the pain and embarrassment on their child, but to have her career be the sole reason for her changing her mind speaks a lot to her emotional detachment. Ironically enough, being the coward that he is (who’s the biggest coward of the episode? Dennis, or Lockhart, who gave up the name of his assets at the first sign of danger), Dennis couldn’t even go through with it, making this self-centered couple almost too perfect for each other.
With two episodes left (I made a mistake in my previous review in believing that this was going to be the finale), there are still plenty of issues left on the table. It seems like the show is going to focus much of its attention on Quinn going rogue, with Carrie following behind, hoping to bring him in. Part of me is scared that by going in this direction, the show is going to return to its hokey melodrama, with Carrie and Quinn professing their love for one another at the last second before shit goes down, but I’m hopeful that the writers have largely given up on this angle. In the last few episodes since her drugging, Carrie has been entirely stable, mentally and emotionally, allowing her to see things clearly in the midst of the chaos going on around her. The fact that she is finally starting to confront the emotions of her job (her admitting that she should have been nicer to Fara was a major step forward for her emotional development), and is still thinking in a levelheaded manner, speaks volumes to how far she has come since the beginning of the season. This is a Carrie I can get behind, one that doesn’t do stupid things just fulfill her own narcissism, one that is able to think clearly when things are out of control, and one that can still be a badass without alienating every one around her. This season has been a step in the right direction for Homeland, and I just hope that the writers don’t do anything to mess that up.
Gregório is a writer, director currently living in Los Angeles. He has written and directed four short films, and is currently working on his first feature film.