Carrie, Carrie, Carrie. For last week’s Homeland, I let slide the jarring speed with which Carrie Mathison jumped into Aayan’s arms in her Hail Mary plan of turning him into an unintentional informant for the CIA. This week though, the arbitrary nature of that storyline is met with the glaring light of day, and the result is a lot of regret…at least for the viewers.
The thing about the first season of Homeland is that in addition to being a white-knuckled rollercoaster that left you gasping for air, it also felt plausible enough to suspend disbelief. The narrative of how a POW was turned into a weapon of war in the U.S. may have been melodramatic, but the verisimilitude brought it very close to home: Claire Danes’ Emmy winning performance, as well as Damien Lewis’ as Nicholas Brody, was imbued with a striking authenticity that overcame the fact that she was able to hide her extensive history with bipolar disorder from Langley, or that he would be able to actually sneak a suicide vest into Foggy Bottom.
However, as entertaining as season four has so far been—which is a great step up from season three—I have trouble investing in the high stakes drama like I could during those earliest seasons. And now it’s most intriguing subplot, the Aayan variable, has been clouded by the same plot twist used in season one that was meant to cause viewers to first question Carrie’s original professionalism.
When Carrie seduced Brody in season one, it was because it was the best way to insinuate herself into his life and keep him monitored after Saul told her to tear down her operation. However, her cover story as a London-based news editor trying to enlist Aayan into a web that includes a host of other resources, including Langley’s funding, makes her snap judgment decision to seduce the kid all the more confounding in season four. A way out of Pakistan is the prize Aayan seeks, and Homeland, nor Carrie, have convinced me this week that the seduction was necessary.
When Peter Quinn, the perpetual unsung hero, was called upon to once more question Carrie’s erratic behavior of “fucking a child,” she insists that she “only has two days.” That’s not good enough for Quinn, and since he is presented consistently this year as the most levelheaded and trustworthy person on the series, it is by extension not good enough for us. As a result, we are forced (like clockwork) to question Carrie’s motivations to the point where I am finding it increasingly difficult to believe that she is actually the station chief in Islamabad. Rather, she comes off as the lead of one of those soapy ABC thrillers all about sex and shock value. But as shocking and sexy as Homeland once was, it had a certain illusionary reality. This week it evaporates with every scene featuring a redundant Carrie cliché, such as her confessing to Aayan (and herself) that he makes her feel happy.
Worse still, I have a strong inclination to guess where this is going. While she fell hard for Brody, the series could very well attempt to “subvert” expectations with Carrie leaving Aayan out to dry in a situation that ends in his death or imprisonment. The question is do I care? For example, I care very little that the secretary’s husband is stupid enough to commit egregious levels of treason because his wife called him a loser. “You think I suck? I’ll show you by leaking CIA secrets to the intelligence community that ignored Osama bin Laden!” At least, he has already put Carrie’s frenemy on the case (albeit, the more salicious twist would be he abuses this knowledge for job advancement in some nutty way).
However, the week’s biggest development is Saul has fallen into a rather obvious trap at the Islamabad airport and is now in the hands of an intelligence community that seems to think kidnapping former CIA directors is cunning protocol. But again, I am left wondering should I care? In the first season, when Saul was so much as insulted by Carrie or his ever-indecisive wife, I was left aghast on Mr. Berenson’s behalf. But this season, the grizzled spook, who is played with perfect poise by Mandy Patinkin, might be killed off, and I’m not sure if it even matters. For this writer, that’s a red flag for the whole mission charter of the series.
Still, Fara Sherazi is really developing into an intriguing and astute player this season. At least someone is.