For the penultimate episode of Homeland’s fourth season, it strangely felt like a long breath. Is it perhaps a sigh of relief that “13 Hours in Islamabad” has finally fully righted the ship that season three so viscerally capsized, or is it more a last gulp before a plunge into the season finale’s probable madness next week? It’s unclear at the moment, so this hour must be graded as genuinely “to be continued.” But I will give “Krieg Nicht Lieb” this—that ending will leave water coolers in the beltway buzzing.
Is Dar Adal a bad guy? This a naïve question, and not just because he’s played by Salieri. Consider his status as a top tier black ops CIA boogeyman (and this week we’ve learned that the black ops were darker than even Homeland would dream!) as evidence for his lack of scruples. Still, I must say that he appears worse than previously imaginable. I know that we’ve waved goodbye to reality a long time ago on this series, but in no world would a CIA official justify a covert operation’s success on the deaths of dozens of CIA employees and American diplomats at a U.S. embassy. Either way, Carrie should have still taken the shot (or better yet, let Peter Quinn do his duty). But more on that in a moment.
The episode itself, as previously mentioned, felt likely a slowly marinated affair. Generally speaking, that’s a key ingredient for great premium cable television, however it appeared oddly despondent for the last episode before the finale. Carrie’s hunt for Peter Quinn allows him to continue going down the path of Kiefer Sutherland, including by injuring fellow American operatives and then enlisting his own Mary Lynn Rajskub, this time a German His Girl Friday with a knack for making explosives. Together they depict finding Bin Laden 2.0 appear ridiculously easy.
But the more intriguing scene before the end of the episode was when Homeland finally addressed the elephant in the room since James Rebhorn’s sad passing. In the midst of trying to find a CIA agent who has gone into full-on 00 mode, Carrie gets a call from her sister. Via Skype, Carrie is told that her father died in his sleep. It is a wonderfully underplayed moment by Claire Danes. Often Carrie’s reactions are drawn with a frenzied intensity befitting her mental disorder, but in this scene, she internalizes all the grief, sudden horror, and even tangibly faint guilt. Her sister might have said that Carrie shouldn’t blame herself, yet Carrie sure didn’t see a lot of her father during his last few years, did she? The strange allusion of remorse even manifests itself into the damndest thing: Carrie wanting to see the daughter she fled halfway around the world to protect from her not-so mothering gaze.
Homeland seems to have its heart set to returning to D.C./the Charlotte sets next season, and I think all the clues have been curiously well placed. First, there is the matter of Carrie finally quenching her seeming taste for killing. She (falsely) promised Saul on a tarmac a few weeks ago that there would be “no more death.” And she has since seemed ready to leave it all behind, even begging and pleading with Quinn to do the same. Her new ethos even reared up again this week in the one good laugh of the night when Carrie confronts Quinn once more, and he patiently “follows” her recap of events until she reveals that she has “lost her nerve” and doesn’t want revenge. But she doesn’t. The Drone Queen wants to go home, even to a little girl she tried to drown the last time she saw her.
I seriously have major issues with the prospect of Carrie going home to play mother after how badly she did when left alone with her daughter for one day. This has danger written all over it for the child, for the remaining likability of Carrie’s personage, and even for the drama of the series. But it’s home we’re headed since—now, stay with me—Carrie might be the next CIA Director!
I know that is ludicrous and crazy…and that’s just the way Homeland likes it! In what universe would a bipolar woman who slept with a known terrorist get that gig? Well, first David Petraeus wasn’t exactly a top tier candidate as it turned out. Secondly, however, she already has been station chief of both Kabul and Islamabad, and previously was the point man on the Javadi operation that has been curiously slept under the rug along with the rest of season three.
On top of that, Lockhart is obviously on his way out after giving up all of our Pakistani assets on a silver platter to the Taliban, a disaster of epic proportions which seriously needs to be at least mentioned next week. With that said, if Carrie can get the guy who got the U.S. Embassy in the span of 72 hours after the embassy fell, she’ll certainly look very attractive to the perpetually offscreen “Mr. President,” at least by television logic. And Lockhart seemed very curious about what Carrie heard was going on in Washington in regards to his replacement.
It probably won’t happen next season, actually, but it could definitely be in Homeland’s very near future.
The rest of the night had some nice moments for Max who has really grown into a fan favorite this season. The silently vigilant sidekick from season one has become something of a conscience on Carrie’s shoulder, whispering the needed guilt and kick in the pants she needs after Fara’s death. But it’s not Max that gets her blood going again; it’s of all people, Aayan.
Last week Quinn found the absurdly easy clue of the ISI using the exact same issued cell phones as the Taliban, suggesting that the people who got the drop on them are both ruthlessly efficient and also dumber than a bag of hammers when the plot calls for it. But this somehow conveniently leads to Peter finding out where Haqqani is hiding. But more interestingly, he also uses this opportunity to bring back Aayan’s importance to the narrative.
Quinn tracks down Aayan’s old flame to reveal that he was murdered by Uncle Haqqani, triggering a protest of the big bad in plain sight for all of Islamabad. This again refers us back to one of the best aspects of season four that could use further development: the role of the ISI. We briefly see Pakistani military officers being debriefed about the situation, and see the continued give-and-take between Khan and Tasneem Qureshi. Their flagrant concern for the safety of Haqqani is as disquietingly uncomfortable (and believable) as is Qureshi’s apparent ability to threaten a commanding officer like Khan over the issue of Peter Quinn.
I also must stress again that Carrie and Quinn should know that Qureshi is a lead to Haqqani and the embassy attack. Do not let us or the showrunners forget that Dennis Boyd gave her up to Martha, and if Martha failed to ever mention this to anyone in the CIA in the 12 hours it took to leave Islamabad, then she is an even worse ambassador than she is a picker of spouses. Tasneem orchestrated an attack on the U.S. embassy; there is no way the CIA wouldn’t be giving her a house call of similar professional courtesy. Maybe next week.
Anyway, it does set up a crackerjack and tension-based climax where Peter Quinn uses the demonstration to flush Haqqani out for assassination—and then waffles because Carrie shows her long golden locks. I realize that at that moment Carrie’s anger hadn’t flared at the thought of Aayan’s death just yet, but honestly she should have let Quinn have it. He’s proven to be television-bulletproof so far, and he found Haqqani with almost the ease of ordering an Uber. He probably could have made it out of there alive.
Of course, once Carrie’s blood was up, rightly so as the murderer of Fara Sherazi was being greeted as a hero by the adoring public, she is stopped from the last minute of committing certain suicide by Khan.
I am fine with this momentary détente, even if it feels like they’re dragging the plot thread out for one more week. But then Khan reveals something: Haqqani is carpooling with Dar Adal!
With a twist this big, I again must insist that next week will determine whether it was a brilliant move on the part of Homeland’s writers or a desperate grasp of table-turning. But as it stands, there is no reason imaginable for a CIA upper echelon spook to be cozying up with a Taliban leader who orchestrated the deaths of dozens of Americans including CIA operatives. As with any intelligence, espionage, or even law enforcement organization, if you mess with the team that badly there are consequences. Not unless this is some ridiculously convoluted (and bloody) scheme for the CIA Director throne. Has Dar Adal been the CIA’s Frank Underwood all along? Surely there are better ways to lobby for the coveted gig, even in the bloodsport that is beltway politics.
So, to recap, either Dar Adal is a traitor or Homeland is becoming a bigger fantasy than Game of Thrones. Neither of which strikes me as a brilliant direction for the show going forward, especially if my “Director Mathison” theory comes to fruition. But I’ll give it a week before rendering final judgment.
In the meantime, I admit that while this episode did not blow me away, it had me hooked enough to continue hoping it will do just that to Haqqani in the finale. And Dar Adal too before Homeland has Carrie trying to bring down “Evil CIA Director” next season….