This Homeland review contains spoilers.
After last week’s frustrating hour of filler, Homeland is finally on the move again with “Parabiosis.” And it begins by… having Saul discard Carrie Mathison and thereby make her decisions last week appear even more fruitless.
However, lest this seem like nitpicking, I actually thoroughly enjoyed how this plotline developed. Well not the part where Saul immediately discredits everything Carrie says out of hand, because she is “one of them now.” In fact, I downright loathed that even if Carrie disappointed him personally and professionally that he’d for one second entertain the idea that she was trying to manipulate him in order to leak more classified CIA documents to the press—or that worse he just assumed she was crazy. After being the lone man to even consider Carrie’s integrity during the tragic season 1 finale, as well as for most of season 2, the idea that Saul would dismiss Carrie as crazy for thinking someone is trying to kill her is downright infuriating in terms of character development.
BUT, with that said, it leads to a great mini-arc for Saul throughout the hour. Dismissing Carrie’s ravings about Peter Quinn being injured, her life being in danger, and that he is being spied on by his own agency—I guess the writers mixed up his backstory with David Estes?—Saul then turns into the spook who got spooked. There is a great The Conversation styled effect on Saul as he slowly unravels at the thought that his own hotel room is bugged.
Much like the star of Francis Ford Coppola’s neo-noir, Saul starts imagining phantom spies he shouldn’t have to worry about like the cleaning lady. By extension, Mandy Patinkin is superb at dropping the papa bear routine for a character that’s bitter indignation emanates from a master class performer who is often underutilized.
Also impressive is that Saul immediately wises up enough to confront Allison Carr about his vehicular tail. This leads to a direct confrontation between Saul and Dar Adal that is blessedly not drawn out over several episodes.
On the one hand, I can believe that if Dar Adal thought evidence was strong enough to implicate Saul Berenson that he’d reluctantly pursue bringing down his old friend. Yet on the other, I have to say he seems a little too eager to believe in the worst about his old friend, who just a few seasons ago he was fighting for in the hopes of keeping him as CIA director. He even humiliated the incoming replacement and sitting U.S. senator at his own career’s peril on the behalf of Saul. Suddenly, he now has never trusted Saul, because of an apparent leak to Mossad 30 years ago in relation to terrorists in need of assassination?
I do ultimately think this continues the strained, manipulative, and incredulous writing that is littering season 5, but it is at least played out in a dramatically satisfying arc this evening. Saul went from skeptic to paranoid prey that got more or less black bagged by his own people at the end… though not before slipping classified documents to Otto During!
For all my criticism of recent twists on Homeland, I have to admit I definitely appear to be wrong (and pleasantly so) about Otto. I’ve waited six episodes for him to turn out to be not a good German due to the show’s more conservative politics and 24 roots, yet it would appear we’ve skipped that predictable possibility since he passed the intel to Carrie unharmed at the end of the episode. In fact, he seemed to help the series paint a downright negative portrait of CIA and American bullishness as they enter what is clearly a public space on sovereign German land, and they still cart of Saul off like he’s a Syrian refugee.
Carrie, meanwhile, sees her storyline focus on reducing her circle of friends to zero. While I will give a pass to the aforementioned cold shoulder from Saul (through gritted teeth), the bit where Jonas abandons her in an hour of need because she won’t go home with him is annoyingly idiotic. He knows she is not crazy because he has seen Peter Quinn dying from a gunshot wound right in front of him—a gunshot wound he received for trying to help Carrie fake her death. Nevertheless, he thinks Carrie is being totally unreasonable for fearing for her daughter’s safety by refusing to go home with him when the people who want her dead presumably just put Peter Quinn in the ground.
Thus again, the writing remains problematic on many fronts this season. However, Claire Danes plays Carrie’s plight well, and I genuinely believe she would get on a plane rather than wait for the bullet to come for her or a beloved child.
Peter Quinn fared better in a subplot where the Good Samaritan turned out to be a Good Muslim. Rupert Friend was especially strong tonight in the sequence where his pretenses switch from playing dumb to deadly serious as he attempts to aggressively bluff his way out of a hostile situation. His friendly Islamic doctor unfortunately has a dangerous cousin named Hajik, who just so happened to get out of prison at this exact moment. Not wrongly suspecting Quinn is a spy, Hajik preaches jihad in Syria and, where it’s safer to survive, jihad in Germany.
Peter Quinn’s ballsy and clever play is to paint Hajik as a coward when the wannabe jihadist turns a group of men onto a bloodlust against him. By questioning Hajik’s fidelity to the cause, no one will challenge Quinn except perhaps Hajik himself. And when that moment comes, Quinn appears less the assassin than a man operating in self-defense as he beats Jarreth J. Merz’s character to death with his own hands.
However… this in itself is its own form of problematic since it implies that yes, there are “good Muslims,” but they are isolated and alone, and surrounded by bloodthirsty radicals who are willing to cut up a crippled man on the side of the street on any given night. Sigh, that’s one step forward and seven back, Homeland.
Overall it was a compulsively watchable hour of television. That’s hardly matching the glory days of the first season or even the second season (or probably the best episodes of season 4 for that matter). But even if the writing feels somewhat malleable in order to facilitate the melodrama, it mostly worked this week, especially when the beads of sweat were dripping off Mandy Patinkin’s brow. I’ll count that as a win for now.