{TB Talks TV} Homeland Review: “There’s Something Else Going On”

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Tweetable Takeaway: Following a shocking twist, what is going to happen to Carrie and Saul in the aftermath of the most recent attack?
Airtime: Sunday at 9PM on Showtime

By: Gregório Back, Contributor

I got to be honest, I didn’t see this ending coming. At first, I was a little disappointed by the way the prisoner exchange went, especially once Carrie got involved. On a pure story level, her talking Saul off the ledge made sense (especially since she’s started to see the craziness of the world she works in), but as soon as Carrie started walking towards Saul and the boy with the suicide vest, all the drama was taken out of the scene for me; not because the stakes weren’t high, or the situation wasn’t tense, but rather because of the way that television works. Carrie is the main character of , the one we’ve been following since season 1, episode 1, and recently Showtime announced that they had renewed the show for a fifth season. So with that in mind, I figured that there was no way they would blow up Carrie. If this had been a show like Game of Thrones, where we’ve grown to learn that no one is safe, then maybe I could’ve seen Haqqani’s henchman trigger that suicide vest and make the two main characters we’ve followed on the show for four seasons go up in smithereens. But as the writers showed at the end of season 1, they have a really hard time killing off their main characters, so I figured Carrie would convince Saul to stand up and head back home to his wife.

But then that all changed. Now let me be clear, I think Carrie is still alive (I’m not sure about Saul, even though I love him, he’s a little more expendable), but, and this is a big “but,” I did not see that ambush coming. At all. And even more so, I was completely caught off guard by Haqqani’s infiltration of the embassy through Carrie’s tunnel. As the title of the episode suggested, there really was something else going on, and to give full credit to the writers, they were able to masterfully play off of expectations and blindside all of us. Everybody, and by everybody I mean us, as an audience, and pretty much every character that works for the U.S. on the show, felt that if something were to go wrong, it would have happened at the prisoner exchange. And once that went relatively smoothly (more on Carrie and Saul’s conversation later), we all let our guard down, figuring the time for things going haywire had likely passed. But once that convoy went up in flames, and Boyd told his wife, Martha, about Haqqani’s plan, my jaw dropped. This wasn’t a last second twist with no real foundation set prior to it happening, this was a well foreshadowed, yet intensely shocking moment of television (for me, the other big twist of the season, Aayan’s murder, lacked that foundation). Again, the way that television works does take a little bit away from the surprise, since we can pretty much be certain that Carrie, at least, is still alive, but this is not the fault of the writers; they did something in this episode that’s hard to do, they legitimately shocked me.

The rest of the episode naturally lacked the same verve and intensity of the last ten minutes or so, but there was still plenty of meat on this bone. One thing, in particular, that I found interesting was the relationship shared between Saul and the boy with the suicide vest. When Saul first spots him, he does so as Haqqani is talking into the camera about his master plan, and, in that moment, you could feel a sense of pity come over the bearded one; he struggles with seeing such a young child be corrupted by this ideology of hate and violence. This shared moment serves as an important marker on Saul’s perspective on life; at this point in time, he looks at the boy and sees all that’s wrong with the world, feeling a sense of validation for all the work he’s put in trying to stop men like Haqqani from spreading their message. Later that night, as the young boy’s sleep is made restless by a nightmare, Saul, in his gentle, soothing manner, manages to calm him down, once again exhibiting his characteristic paternal instincts (Saul’s relationship with Carrie is very much a father/daughter one). In a similar display of humanity, when Saul wakes up, the boy is right there to offer him a cup of tea, showing his guest a seemingly unexpected level of hospitality. These two separate exchanges highlight something very unique about the “War on Terror:” for all the hatred, all the violence, and all the perceived differences shared between both sides, at the end of the day, we are all still human beings, capable of showing compassion and care for one another. This is something that often gets lost in the chaos, whether on the show or in real life, but it was important for the writers to emphasize this particular point, considering what would happen later on. Following these peaceful exchanges, things then start to take a turn for the worse when Saul then sees the boy strap on the suicide vest, angrily assuming that the young man was forced into doing so. The response from Haqqani’s henchman, telling Saul that the boy wants to put the vest on as revenge for an attack on his family, acts as a turning point for the former CIA Director. It’s at this point that Saul comes to realize the destructiveness of his actions; all the death that he’s been a part of now has a face, and to make matters worse, that face will now also be lost in this vicious cycle of violence.

The development of this relationship all builds up to that fateful conversation between Carrie and Saul, after he refuses to be a part of the exchange, preferring to die rather than continue on as part of this world that he’s helped to create. When Carrie cites the boy’s life as the reason why Saul should get up and continue on, his immediate reaction is to deflect, seeing the boy as just another pawn in this never ending chess game. But when she presses on, highlighting the senselessness of letting the boy be blown up, Carrie manages to reach Saul on a human level. As brief as their relationship was, Saul saw the boy as a human being first, and in doing so, he could not bring himself to allow another life to be lost on his watch. This was an interesting tactic for Carrie, who is only now starting to see the world around her more clearly (this in-control Carrie is a welcome departure from all the nuttiness of the past). After her ordeal with Saul in the previous episode, Carrie finally came to realize that so much of the death and destruction around her has served no purpose, and it’s time to try and make it stop. By having Carrie then use the boy as the face of the “War on Terror” for Saul, the writers had to build up their relationship in a very short period of time, and they managed to do it quite successfully, making Saul’s final decision to stand up absolutely authentic and deserved.

Going forward, we’re going to have to wait a couple weeks to find out if Carrie and Saul are still alive, but I’m excited to see how things are going to wrap up in the finale. This season has often been frustrating and disappointing, but the writers have managed to rebound quite nicely in these last two episodes, giving us two hours of intense, compelling television. Regardless of how the season wraps up, Homeland still has a number of serious flaws (some may still be fatal), but enough good has happened that maybe, just maybe, the show can return to the glory days of season 1.

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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.
Twitter: @gregorioback
Website: www.gregoriobackfilm.com

Keep up with all of Gregório’s Homeland reviews here.
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