I have to give Homeland this: Aayan’s fate was practically stamped on his forehead in his first episode, and certainly by the time he found himself in Carrie Mathison’s bed. But the coldness with which his demise was embraced tonight, like a long lost family member, was an authentically dark moment and exactly what narratively needed to happen. Of course, Carrie and the CIA come out looking pretty bad, but welcome to Homeland post-season two.
“From A to B and Back Again” served as a 50-minute con job of tracking Aayan to his fateful meeting with Saul Berenson. There were other subplots—one particularly bad one involving the ambassador’s husband—but it was all about causing Aayan to go running to their target. This was actually executed in a wickedly cruel sequence where Carrie stages a Pakistani intelligence attack on her safe house, tricking the young man and the audience simultaneously. It appears she sacrifices herself and is hauled off, but it is simply a well-orchestrated ruse by her covert operation that appears to be officially on the books these days with John Redmond enlisted to her cause. Personally, I hope that their shaky but respectful professional relationship stands. It was nice to see someone who has every reason to hate Carrie realizing that personal drama is secondary to the mission—I’m sure he’ll be backstabbing her in the next week or two. But for the moment, it’s refreshing.
In contrast, there is how Carrie is interacting with Peter Quinn and Fara Sherazi. I find in most arguments this season, including the one near the end (which we will be getting to soon), Quinn is in the right. However, his inability to separate his disdain for Carrie’s lack of professionalism with his own (such as resisting doing his job because he’s jealous that she’s sleeping with Aayan) feels like…well something Carrie would do.
Fara’s backtalk felt a bit more organic and on-point, even though her conscience over collateral damage of drone strikes while operating as an active CIA spook seems a bit like getting cold feet two weeks after the honeymoon. If anyone should be anxious for the safety of the bait asset, it should be Carrie. But other than a quiet (and brief) horror at how she’s leading this kid out to dry after he told her (and all of the Islamabad station) that he loved her, she seems especially cold. This feels partially like a course correction after depicting her as being rather reckless, erratic, and ultimately incompetent in season three. But it is also very Carrie Mathison, and again, seemed like the right direction to go with the character.
The one storyline though that is becoming the new weekly albatross around Homeland’s neck, however, is Dennis Boyd, aka the ambassador’s husband, and aka Dana 2.0. Treason can happen, and seeing an asset be made to turn on the U.S. in a foreign land is an intriguing narrative thread. However, it has been pulled quite thin here, especially since his final motivation to go the full David Greenglass was his wife thought he wasn’t manly enough. He’ll show her by not only reluctantly cooperating with Pakistani intelligence by spying on Carrie Mathison, but by also volunteering information that he had not reason to reveal! He’s at this point only serving to endanger American assets and lives further: namely giving away that the CIA has a safe house the local authorities are unaware of and that Aayan has been turned (unwittingly) into a CIA snitch.
Being blackmailed into becoming a traitor is one thing, but he treats the position like it’s an outlet for passive aggression during couple’s therapy. Ultimately, we as the viewers know that his actions likely are what caused Aayan to die, and puts Carrie in inevitable harm’s way since he revealed that she is bipolar—which should be common knowledge after Saul threw her under the bus (as part of a ruse) during a senate hearing in season three. However, the fact that Dennis is so smugly satisfied in his treason when all he is getting out of it is a supposed promise that they won’t burn him to his wife and government makes him look dangerously stupid. Offensively so. Again, at Dana levels.
Which brings us back to that ending. In another twist that is not all that surprising (especially with the supposed excitement of Peter Quinn learning that Saul never made it home to the States only moments before the penny is supposed to drop on the new terrorist big bad’s head), Saul turns out to be in the car with Aayan’s uncle, who with a kiss on the forehead puts a bullet in his nephew’s skull. It happens so quickly that I’m not sure Aayan even had time to register fully that Carrie was with the CIA.
It is a deeply cruel and unfair moment. Despite Aayan basically being everyone’s patsy and fall guy for the past six episodes, there was something very sympathetic about this kid. And as much as Carrie liked to say he was an adult who made his own decisions of smuggling drugs to a terrorist—one who had no hesitation in plugging him later—he also wouldn’t have been in that position if Carrie hadn’t dropped a bomb on his mother, sister, uncle, and himself at the start of the season. Used and abused both by the CIA and insurgent forces along the Afghan border, Aayan ends up like all rats do in fiction, even if he was an ignorant one.
Saul being used as the tool of avoiding a drone strike also feels somewhat labored and predictable, but it is still effective. Carrie was willing to drop the bomb on him to avenge Aayan on a split second of anger. They may call her the Drone Queen, but the Red Queen might be more appropriate. I’m not sure why they couldn’t keep track of which truck Saul was in, but at least the ball is moving in a new direction: one where it will be about saving Saul and flushing out a mole. I’m also hopeful they can also flush out anymore flaws in season four, but I’m sure Aayan also was optimistic about his London prospects too.