Tweetable Takeaway: Can “Homeland” get back on track after a number of major twists help stir the pot?
Airtime: Sunday at 9 PM on Showtime
By: Gregório Back, Contributor
Back in my episode 1 (and 2) review, I mentioned that one of the things the HOMELAND writers had to do in rebuilding the show was to somehow find a way to reestablish Carrie’s humanity, allowing the audience to relate to her once again. This came on the heels of an episode in which she nearly killed her own daughter, so to say that Carrie was at rock bottom in this regard is a bit of an understatement. But this humanity issue is not just a recent blip on the radar, it’s been building up over the past three seasons. At first, when Carrie did something irrational, we went along with her because we knew she was right. We, as an audience, identified with her frustration, and saw her stepping out of line as the only to way fix the problem at hand. Over time though, with the Brody romance becoming a more prevalent part of the show, her irrationality came to be more like abject stupidity, where she would defy all logic in order to help Brody (and essentially commit treason.) This ultimately created a situation in which the audience had an entirely antagonistic relationship with the show’s main character, which is needless to say a major issue, and one that was only made worse by the baby drowning attempt at the beginning of season four.
In this episode, entitled “Iron in the Fire,” there was a moment that sought to take a step forward in resolving this issue, and was ultimately pretty successful in doing so. Right before she seduces Aayan, Carrie catches her reflection in the mirror, and pauses to consider the immorality, and general wrongness of what she’s about to do. This brief, but important instance of reflection highlights the human element in this world of lies and manipulation, giving the audience something to latch onto as we rebuild our post-Brody relationship with Carrie. While she does still go ahead with her plan to seduce the young, innocent (this episode shows that he knows more than he’s letting on) Aayan, this glimpse of doubt shows that amidst all the chaos going on around her, Carrie still has real human emotions. At the beginning of this season, the writers made a point to note Carrie’s growing emotional disconnect, not just through the baby-drowning incident, but also by her lack of reaction to Sandy Bachman’s murder. Perhaps her getting called out by Quinn earlier in the episode broke her out of this cold, indifferent mindset, and finally allowed her to be human again. If the writers continue down this path, we, as an audience, could potentially start to connect with Carrie the way we did early on in the show’s run, leaving behind this antagonistic relationship that’s been festering for several seasons now.
As for the rest of the episode, there was much more of the good side of Homeland in this hour. Plot wise, things kicked in to a higher gear, with two separate reveals that seemed to indicate a lot of craziness still to come. The first, and perhaps most important twist, is that Hassan Haqqani, Aayan’s uncle, and the target of the drone strike that started this whole mess, is still alive. As Carrie herself says, this reveal could be a game-changer, both in terms of the implications this has going forward, as well as in the potential revelation that the CIA was set up to fail by Pakistani intelligence from the get go. The second major twist shows that Dennis Boyd, the husband of the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, was stealing classified documents from his wife’s desk and feeding it to the enemy, raising a number of questions as to his motivation for doing so, and the ramifications his actions will have going forward. Combining these reveals with multiple, classic Homeland sequences, namely Quinn breaking into Farhad Gazi’s apartment, and Fara covertly tracking Aayan through the streets of Islamabad, and you can now officially declare the pot stirred.
Despite all of this good though, the romantic story lines that have always undercut the potential of the show still seem to be hanging around. Even though I’m praying that this doesn’t end up being the case, it seems like the writers might be setting up a love triangle between Carrie, Quinn, and Aayan, which, I think we can all agree, would not be a good idea. If done entirely in the context of the spy games being played, I could maybe buy in to this particular storyline (a big, big maybe), but considering the recent history of the show, it’s clear that the writers apparently have a fetish for forcing these romances into the happenings of a show that doesn’t need them. The previous episode hinted at something going on between Carrie and Quinn, and this episode not only continued these inferences, it added a more concrete (and hard to watch) romance, this time with Carrie and Aayan (even though Carrie seems to be playing Aayan, something tells me real emotions might factor in at some point). I’m not against romantic storylines; far from it, I love to watch some relationship drama unfold on screen, but I just can’t stand it when these romantic elements are forced into a story, ultimately resulting in these characters doing some pretty stupid stuff. And for a show that completely undermined itself in its last two seasons doing exactly that, going down this path again suggests something of a lack of self-awareness.
Going forward, the show has done a pretty good job of creating intrigue, but much of its future success will depend on how it manages to answer the many questions its raised so far. The reveals of “Iron in the Fire” worked quite well, but they won’t mean much if the show can’t properly navigate the waters it’s now put itself in. While the romantic storylines still feel like an ominous dark cloud on the horizon, there was plenty in this episode, both character-wise and story-wise, to suggest that perhaps the writers may just be able to right the ship after two off-course seasons.
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.