Tweetable Takeaway: How will “Homeland” handle the spine of the show being in harm’s way for the first time?
Airtime: Sunday at 9PM on Showtime
By: Gregório Back, Contributor
From the very beginning of HOMELAND, Saul has always been the spine of the show. His calm and calculated demeanor has, in many ways, been our security blanket, providing some comfort when everything else seems to be crumbling into chaos (both in terms of plot details, as well as the show’s misguided storylines). But part of the reason why Saul has taken on this sort of role is because he has mostly been kept at arm’s length from any sort of danger. From the bombing of the CIA headquarters to the Brody craziness in Iran, Saul has never really been put in the so-called belly of the beast, always able to make his calculated decisions from relative safety.
In this episode though, entitled “About a Boy,” Saul was, for the first time in the show’s run, put in harm’s way. His pursuit of Farhad Gazi, and ultimate capture at the ISI’s hands, was undoubtedly the best part of this hour. From the moment Saul spotted his target going through airport security, all the way to the instant he had a syringe plunged into his bearded neck, this sequence was Homeland at its absolute best. The tension was high, and the visual storytelling was masterful, with a beautifully executed, gasp-inducing twist at the very end. With his later appearance, tied up in the trunk of a car with an unaware Fara just a few feet away, the only exception (it felt slightly forced to me), everything in the Saul storyline of this episode worked quite well, not only generating immediate thrills, but also setting up a sticky situation for Carrie and company going forward.
Speaking of Ms. Mathison, it’s both ironic and unfortunate that, for someone who is the main character of the show, every time she shows up on screen, I get a sinking feeling that I’m not going to like what’s going to happen next. Last week, I lauded the writers for giving us that small moment where Carrie looks at herself in the mirror, and essentially recognizes the deplorability of what she’s about to do. It was a brief glimpse into her humanity, and showed us that she’s not completely detached from her emotions. This week, the writers once again gave her a similar moment of reflection, with Carrie breaking down crying (a Carrie cry face sighting) in the middle of sex with Aayan. But, for some reason, this moment just simply did not resonate with me as much as the one from the week before. While I was glad to see the writers take the time to give us another glimpse into Carrie’s conscience, the context surrounding this moment cheapened Carrie’s emotional reaction, ultimately resulting in it not feeling quite authentic.
To start, Aayan made it explicitly clear to Carrie that he felt like he had gone against his religious beliefs by sleeping with her, and that he did not want to go down that path again. Even with Aayan making his feelings known, Carrie still needed to get some information out of him, so she then resorted to manipulating him emotionally, using her baby, and ultimately Brody’s death, as a way to get him to fully trust her. While, on some level, Carrie telling Aayan about her personal life was an authentic attempt to open up to him, at the end of the day, this was very much a calculated move on her part. She needed to get something from him, and she felt like the only way she could do it was to appeal to his empathetic nature. Lo and behold, it worked. Her apparent vulnerability in that moment triggered an emotional response in the good-natured Aayan, and once again, Carrie had him in the palm of her hand. At this point, I felt incredibly dirty watching the main character of the show lie her way into bed with someone who is ostensibly a child (I loved Quinn’s line where he calls out Carrie, it essentially gave voice to everything I was feeling about her and Aayan), and no matter how much regret she showed by breaking down mid-coitus, she was already way too deep into her manipulations for me to feel any sympathy for her. This is a critical difference between the human moment of last week, and the one from this week; the former occurred prior to Carrie really doing anything wrong, whereas the latter was well after Carrie had made the conscious decision to do a number of disreputable things.
To then compound the problem, the morning after their sexual tryst, Aayan spills the beans to Carrie, telling her that his uncle, while very sick, is still alive (the mystery of Aayan’s medicine is solved). Aayan telling her this deep, dark secret essentially vindicates everything she’s done up to this point, and while this is a return to the Carrie of season one, who always seemed to be right in spite of all the crazy things she did, something about this time around just doesn’t feel the same. I don’t feel like I’m on her side anymore, and the antagonistic relationship I’ve had with Carrie over the last two-plus seasons just doesn’t seem to want to go away.
In keeping with Aayan’s confession, for him to reveal a secret of that magnitude, after just two nights of sex with a woman he’s only known for a few days, just feels way too convenient. While Carrie may be a great manipulator, and Aayan may be extremely innocent, you can’t honestly tell me that he didn’t give up his prized secret just a little too easily. Now, if the writers are planning on pulling the rug out from underneath our feet, then maybe I can go along with it, but if they are being authentic, and Carrie really did coax Aayan into revealing his uncle’s status this quickly, then this just reeks of oversimplification and convenience.
Going forward, I’m excited to see what’s going to happen with Saul, even though, for much of the show now, I actually cringe whenever I see Carrie on screen. The romantic elements are still very much in play (both with Aayan and with Quinn), which I really don’t like, but I’m hoping that the writers will now transition a little more to sequences like Saul’s capture (which worked beautifully), and just do away with these contrived romances that I don’t think anybody really likes. And one more thing to note: if a character is going to die this season, I have a sneaking suspicion it’s going to be Fara. She is putting herself in much greater danger this season, and per her conversation with Quinn, she might not have the stomach for this line of work.
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.