Homeland: Game On Review

Wow, wow, wow. Carrie and Saul are in a reverse sting operation on the Iranian government? This is not game on; this is throwing all the pieces on the floor and pulling out an all new board. Well played!

Well played Homeland, well played. Just when I was about to say that this show was ready to meet that big drone in the sky, you come back with a vengeance this week in a twist that nobody saw coming. At least, not this sucker. The last four episodes were ALL A PLAN between Saul and Carrie to ingratiate themselves with an evil Iranian terrorist who has essentially gone rogue like a ball hogging soccer football player. How about that? We don’t know all the ends and outs, but this whole episode was a classic bait and switch, not unlike the fourth episode of last year. For those who do not recall, “New Car Smell” last season was all about setting up what seemed like a season-long spy game of Carrie, Peter Quinn, and Saul peaking over Brody’s shoulder, and thereby leading him back into the honey pot. Then boom, Carrie blows the operation by getting personal and calling Brody on his “bullshit” by naming him for the traitor that he is. Season 2 thus went into a completely different direction after that (which was very good in the short-term for “Q&A,” but ultimately mixed in the subsequent episodes). This week laid out its trap very cleverly, as Carrie did her job with AMAZING professionalism: She duped the audience. Early in, we witness the CIA turn the screws on Carrie as Dar Adal torpedoes her hopes of being released from the psych ward. Despite being the good little girl and praising her doctors for their “help” (though I am happy that she is back on her meds), one shadowy appearance from the man who in another life murdered Mozart, and it appears like Carrie will never be leaving. We all curse Saul again under our breath. Then, the mysterious group who tried to needle Carrie last week is back and have sprung her for 24 hours to have a “sit down” meeting. At this point, I am convinced that the twist will be they are a liberal activist group that wants to bring down the CIA for their covert (killing) affairs. But Homeland gets me again when it turns out that they are hush-hush lobbyists (and more) for the Iranian government. The whole episode is Carrie being backed into a corner of being turned into an asset and traitor for a hostile foreign power. The CIA has tricked her family into not helping her; they have repossessed her car, frozen her bank accounts and canceled her credit cards. She cannot even turn to an old friend without their eyes and ears peaking on them. Indeed, if Virgil had not said, “Say hi to your mother for me,” showing his true allegiance to his cray-cray BFF, I wonder what Dar Adal would have done when he picked up Ms. Mathison. After all, it seems unlikely that he is in on the operation that Saul is cracking with Carrie, and I still have shudders from what he meant by “take care of her.” This all is squeezing Carrie to the point where anything seems better than being locked up again. Enter evil incarnate: A lobbyist with a friendly smile in a nice suit. For a “retainer,” they’ll milk Carrie for information about the CIA and keep her out of an asylum or prison for when the U.S. inevitably comes calling her name. And after watching the proto-FBI break Eddie this month on Boardwalk Empire, it was far too reminiscent of a lovable character beginning to crack. Because what could be more of a Hell for Carrie than a psych ward? I am screaming at my screen, “Don’t do it Carrie! Don’t break,” as I saw her turn like a desperate fig tree. How could a handler be handled so easily?  And that’s when the rug is pulled. Carrie is in front of Saul, not to give up information about how she has been compromised by an insidious threat, but on how she has successfully infiltrated the enemy’s U.S. contact. And Saul goes complete Papa Bear on her. He offers to make some tea, accompanying his big old hug for the little girl he never had. Oh, how we missed this Saul and thought we’d never see him again! This twist is unabashed TV contrivance. There is no way this reverse sting operation would have ever been implemented in real life, because it requires the most dangerous of elements: Going public. As the evil lobbyist said, Carrie has been “controversialized.” She is now the story to the press and the U.S. Senate. I cannot see this ending without them having her blood. That is one Hell of a risk to take for her to infiltrate this organization, not to mention it is her more or less giving up her entire career. It exposes the CIA to a huge risk and raises the query of whether Saul is the only conspirator with Carrie? Because it seems putting her in he mental house was Dar Adal’s idea, as Carrie is very shaken by her institutionalized time. “You shouldn’t have left me there, Saul.” How much danger is Ms. Mathison actually in from The Company, and just how much of the last four weeks were scripted? Within the story, who knows, but as a TV show this was a wild left-field twist that could only work on premium cable. On the one hand, I am still kind of disappointed with this, because it is another confirmation that Homeland shall never return to the glory of Season 1, which felt so real that it could get away with an opening credits featuring 9/11, Bush and Obama while still feeling authentic. That is long gone, and now is definitely never coming back. Yet, after how BORING last week was, this wrinkle can mean so much more! Carrie has a proactive plot now, and the game is definitely changed. Plus, if Adal is really against her, it creates more waves while not necessarily ditching the fascinating threat of the media feeding frenzy swallowing her whole. Yet, simultaneously the show still has weak links. This episode it was Dana running away with her boyfriend who, as it turns out, may have murdered his brother. Ruh-roh. Though it did feature a nice scene of her truly saying goodbye to her father; an action that the show may wish to consider, because despite loving Damian Lewis’ performance, the three episodes this season that did not feature him were all VASTLY superior to the one that did. I fear that Brody’s storyline is over, but this week I’m relieved to learn that Carrie’s is not. Well played Homeland, you’ve drone struck us with shock and awe once again. Den of Geek Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


4 out of 5