This Homeland review contains spoilers.
Homeland Season 6 Episode 10
There was a moment midway through tonight’s episode of Homeland where the president-elect, the soon-to-be most powerful person on the planet, paid an unannounced visit to Carrie Mathison’s brownstone. With all the subtlety of “Hail to the Chief,” Elizabeth Keane acts like a concerned, mentoring figure to Carrie while having her secret service agents turn the screws of pressure simply by turning an about-face toward the door. “Privacy” means the bodyguards pretend they’re studying the interior decoration and glasswork of a door, and friendly concern means “why can’t you throw your former bosses under the bus, again?”
It’s a surreal moment that is just absurd enough to seem relatively plausible as an executive power play. And the fact that Carrie both crumbles by all but confirming that Dar Adal got to her by threatening her access to Franny… yet still will turn a blind eye to the King Spook having murdered her late client and an FBI agent left me with a gnawing sensation: what do they do now? Momentarily during this episode, Saul seemed destined for the wind (at least until season 7), and Carrie was not going to do anything to endanger the possibility of getting Franny back. And for the first time in a long while, I really wasn’t quite sure where Homeland was headed as the pieces continued to fall in a space absent from any intended or designated place.
I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed this kind of uneven footing in a Homeland season, the kind where my uneasiness is actually the intended effect by the writers, as opposed to coming from a bout of skepticism. I’m now all in for the final two episodes of the season, and it’s been a long time since I’ve felt that way about the prospect of a Homeland finale. And as much as I enjoy watching F. Murray Abraham’s Dar Adal, let’s please take that bastard down.
The most intriguing aspect of the hour was how Carrie and Saul so easily crumpled to Adal (or the system) getting the upper-hand over both of them. Carrie, ready and eager to push Saul in front of that bus as long as it gets Dar too, has her entire world rocked when she connected dots that should’ve been obvious a while ago: Her Child Protection Services issues are implicitly linked to her spy game ones.
On the ride to her deposition, the driver proves too chatty by half to be anything less than a malevolent force in terms of television or movie plotting. And sure enough, he makes a threat about Carrie’s proposed visit to Franny that day, implying if she gives Keane the axe to wield across Adal’s head, Carrie will lose access to Franny. Indefinitely.
The tension gave Claire Danes her second best moment of the season (right after being forced to talk about Brody’s fate in last week’s opening). Obviously rattled, she quickly understands that Keane’s administration didn’t send the threatening car, nor did the DOJ, and as the lawyers’ camera goes on for her to be sworn in, she goes from determined to confused, to beaten in about the span of 15 seconds.
And then really does throw in the towel, no matter how many midday visits/shows of force from incoming commander-in-chiefs she might experience. We’ve never seen Carrie so beaten, even when season 1 ended with her accepting she was just “crazy,” and Brody was an A-OK bloke. Yet, her relationship with Franny is a very convincing pressure point; and that is what spies always do best—they find that sweet spot and squeeze.
Saul’s desire to go to ground and forever live in Greece under an assumed identity was somewhat of a surprise, however. I can believe he’d be furious to have his reputation and legacy ruined due to the political machinations between Keane and Adal, but it will still be blighted if he runs. In fact, more so, since he looks like a corrupt sleaze in the press by vanishing.
Unexpectedly, what brings him back to his senses is a chat with his ex-wife. Like I suspect is the case for many viewers, I couldn’t care less about Saul’s failed marriage, but at least in this case, Saul’s inability to see he’s way more into his ex than she is into him comes crashing back on his head: why does he really care what people say?
I’d take it a step farther. Why does he care if he’s pardoned or living in self-imposed exile? Either way, his legacy is destroyed. At least this way, he can take some pleasure in throwing Adal back under the bus.
It leads Saul to having a “back to Carrie” moment, because he breaks into her house ridiculously easily. He also finds her room for secret obsessions. In all honesty, it’s pretty impressive she is keeping her likely high six to low seven-figure job to afford this place since she seems to spend all her time since the Sekou fiasco in her home connecting yarns of string to newspaper clippings on walls, or meeting off-the-book with Keane. Nevertheless, I can’t help but take vicarious enjoyment out of Saul’s satisfaction at the sight of knowing his protégé has not forsaken her spying ways. She’s every bit the paranoid spook he taught her to be, and to him this is as gratifying as any traditional father learning his daughter still roots for his old alma mater during March Madness.
It also comes with a wonderful and terrible message from Max: proof-positive that Dar Adal is working with the far-right sock puppet operation. This may also be the last message Carrie ever gets from the undervalued techie.
Indeed, as is not exactly shocking, the role of this propaganda arm of Adal is taking on insidious implications in the final stretch of season 6. Perhaps more than even Homeland showrunners could have known when they broke down the season, what once appeared to be just an obnoxious stand-in for Fox News-meets-Info Wars has turned into something much more fucked up.
Adal is building his own fake news apparatus to misinform and brainwash the American populace as thoroughly as these offshore and Russian backed cyber divisions attempt to undermine their own citizens—and most especially Western democracies by funneling lies, innuendo, and fake news into supposedly intermural, national conversations.
With that said, I am not so sure how effective these elements really are without, say, hackers intent on stealing personal emails from politicians and giving them to WikiLeaks at the most opportune times. Fake news is useful during an election, but I’m not so sure how great it is at discrediting a newly minted president. Nothing about internet comment trolls or even misleading reports about presidents’ dead sons is enough to force a PEOTUS to resign… particularly in the short timeframe Dar Adal has before she comes for his scalp.
Clearly, there is a missing piece of the puzzle we won’t see until the next week or two, but if this is Adal’s nuclear option, he may ironically be bringing a knife to a gun fight.
Then again, perhaps he is so brilliant in his maneuvers that he is predicting Keane will do something unconstitutional in reaction to seeing her son getting “Swift Boated” in a way that makes Karl Rove appear polite. We don’t need propaganda, from the CIA or foreign governments, to know that mudslinging like this occurs in modern politics. Perhaps, though, we should be concerned when Keane says in reaction to the footage of her late son running, supposedly for his life, that “no one should be able to see this” that she will overstep her constitutional limits and ignore the First Amendment in going after Adal.
But for the immediacy, however, Max is in supreme trouble since when Conlin got caught spying on this organization, he ended up with a bullet in his head. Hopefully, Max erased that video as soon as he sent it to Carrie. If he didn’t, I fear that he will not be making another even-season reemergence in the show’s eighth year.
But the other “retired” spy to make dangerous progress this night is of course Peter Quinn. Apparently, the man who killed Astrid and framed/murdered Sekou has been operating out of the same safe house Peter Quinn used during the beginning of his career as an assassin-in-training. This kind of coincidence makes Adal and his newest muscle seem uncharacteristically sloppy, especially since this moron knows Quinn is after him and he’s already paranoid that Dar Adal called him on an unsecure phone line.
Quinn gets a few moments that allow him, and his audience, to recall his past life. He apparently roamed these parts of the greater Washington area under the alias of “Johnny” and flirted (or more) with a local waitress who loved men in uniform.
It reinserts the pain of Quinn’s loss when we see a new character with fresh eyes realize PTSD and worse has ruined the strapping all-American, loyal terrier who used to reside behind those eyes. Still, most of this feels like padding until we get to the point at the end of the hour.
Quinn has finally found his target, the man who murdered Astrid, and he invites Carrie to seemingly watch him pull the trigger. However, I am confident he won’t. The first reason is because if he was going to kill this schmuck, he would’ve done it before the show cut to black. Instead, we got a fairly unconvincing “cliffhanger” as Carrie looked on horrified as Peter seemed to brush the hairs on his finger against the hair-trigger.
The other reason is that Carrie is there with him. She may not put her neck on the line against Adal after Franny was threatened, but if Quinn and Saul could get their hands on this bloodthirsty meathead, it could far more explosively destroy Adal’s career. In fact, the seeds of a major conflict for Dar’s soul have been planted tonight. He, rather miraculously, care about Peter Quinn. Tonight, even referred to his black-eye to Keane as a “fight with a friend” who blamed him for something of which he was innocent—a truth so unlikely that even Keane considers it to be an alternative fact. As would we if we didn’t know better.
Yet, his Alex Jones stand-in puppet also has a “story” being developed about Quinn, the war veteran who shot at reporters at Carrie Mathison’s apartment. Inevitably, somehow Carrie and Quinn discovering Adal’s muscle will lead to Quinn being some type of minor celebrity that the only way to theoretically defuse will be to spread online lies and gossip about. I suppose we’ll learn soon enough how deep Adal’s “love” for his “boy” goes.
But that’s for next week, as we hurdle toward a finale that could go in a series of unpredictable ways. How marvelous.