This Homeland review contains spoilers.
Homeland Season 6 Episode 11
Homeland season 6 is in its final movements. The season finale is only a week away, and the penultimate hour didn’t want you to forget that as it ended its 50-minute drama on a thundering cliffhanger filled with explosives, vital missed phone conversations, and every implication that a full-throated military coup is in motion with CIA badmen headed to “protect” the president-elect at gunpoint.
And ironically, the most exciting thing about the episode is not in the pyrotechnics of a somewhat arbitrary cliffhanger; it’s in the tension of a president (or president-elect) sitting down with rightwing talk radio/fake news, legitimizing that type of crazy and challenging it in a conversation that would suggest the fate of the republic rests in the hands of the seedy underside of the internet. It is as dubious a scenario as the idea that a secret cabal in Langley would actually try to remove an American head of state by force, yet it is a far more tantalizing one. Also, intentionally or not, it’s a mirror for our times with recent reports that there were now a thousand Russian-backed fake news propagators targeting swing states in the 2016 election.
But before any of that, we should address how the cliffhanger from last week was resolved. As expected, Peter Quinn did not blow away Dar Adal’s right hand man with a clean sniper shot. Although the hour still ends with the fellow nonetheless dead. And these sequence of events were hardly the strongest element of the night, with Peter Quinn and Carrie re-litigating what happened to him in Berlin. But I will concede that it was nice to receive some temporary closure to their drama. After all, she did save his life and brought him into her home, risking her daughter for his well-being.
Also, in the end, Quinn did get what he wanted most: the chance to beat Astrid’s murderer to death with his bare hands. Luckily, at this point Carrie had already called in the safe house and found irrefutable proof for the feds that elements of the intelligence community were behind the death of Sekou. That combined with images of Dar Adal hanging out with “Not-Alex Jones” after they smeared the president-elect’s dead son should be enough to end this conspiracy in its tracks.
Yet, the plot thickens still.
The much more anxiety-inducing loose end from last week was, for me, the fate of Max, one of the few supporting characters from season 1 who is still on the show and has neither been turned into a traitor nor a ghost remaining to haunt Carrie’s ever-growing guilt. Which makes Max primed to go out in a situation that would further rack Carrie’s mind during moments of despair.
Things certainly do not look good since it turns out that Dar Adal, head of special ops, was not tricked by my meek suggestion for Max to have hopefully deleted the photo on his phone. Recognizing Max in an instant as Carrie Mathison’s favorite techie contractor (who also served the agency heroically in Pakistan), Dar Adal would is not about to be fooled by excuses. Max is smart to admit he knows Carrie, but given how deeply she’s entwined in the old man’s conspiracies, there is nothing he could say that wouldn’t stop them from seeing the word “spy” stamped onto his forehead.
Hence my happy surprise that it has ended (for now) without a bullet in Max’s head. Instead, Dar concocts an easy to escape scenario so he can take the cyber-sleuth off-site in order to spy on his own political talking head hack. Apparently shaken by the idea that the organization is hellbent on turning Peter Quinn into their next fake news talking point, Dar is more concerned with how to save Quinn’s reputation than he is in the clear knowledge that President-Elect Keane is trying to throw his ass in jail.
Adal’s concern for Peter would be kind of touching if not for the perverted wrinkle added earlier this season. Now it just makes him appear a bit foolish on prioritizing Peter’s fate over his own with the coup hanging in the balance. Nevertheless, it is in keeping with Dar’s soft spot causing him to leave Quinn alive (or trying to), and at least it gets Max out of the line of fire. For now.
Of course, the best element of the evening was again Keane going to war with the growing cottage industry of lies, innuendo, and falsehoods that makes up our political conversation in the 21st century. I even smirked when some White House press corps. Journalist incredulously asked if some website smearing her dead son would cause her to step down. Obviously, it would not. And given we live in a reality where everyone, including much of the press, pretends a real-life president being investigated for colluding with a foreign government is nothing to get acrimonious about, suggests this is wish-fulfillment.
But it does set the stage for Saul Berenson to be standing in the back, ready to rock the fledgling administration’s world again. Just the image of Mandy Patinkin in a black overcoat waiting all by his lonesome at the end of the hall is full of foreboding for Keane as he was her chosen scapegoat which she’d sacrifice to get rid of Dar. It also is a wonderful moment, watching Patinkin relish in Saul regaining his confidence. He’s become useful again, and now he is on the inside rather than trying to figure out where that inner circle is even located.
He gives Keane the intel she needs: proof that the CIA has created an online propaganda machine in this country reminiscent of current Russian programs. If this episode was written after the 2016 election was completed (which is likely), it is easy to imagine the writers enjoyed the uncomfortable comparison, as well as highlighting how our intelligence community has spent decades perfecting misinformation campaigns in other countries. Even evoking the shadow of Iran-Contra and Oliver North.
“It’s what we did in Nicaragua, Chile, Congo, a dozen other places all the way back to Iran in the ‘50s. And it doesn’t end well for the elected regime.”
You don’t say, Saul? Hence the liberal fantasy of a leftist president confronting a rightwing blowhard to his face, which is more than a stretch. With that said, it leads to the moment of the night: Keane vs. an unholy hybrid of Sean Hannity and Breitbart made flesh. He’s even quite witty about it too, the way he just says, “No, no, and no” to Keane’s accusations.
From personal experience, I can say any politician calling a large swath of the politically disagreeable the word “deplorable” will not end well for the speaker. Then again, she at least has evidence that can bring this particular operation down with prosecution. She even says as much when she declares, “In my government, truth will have a value and you will have no place.”
That would be a nice parallel reality to the here and now. But until she produces the evidence her Justice Department is compiling, it can be perceived as a president-elect overstating her case and threatening First Amendment rights out of anger due to the disparaging of her dead son. Luckily for Adal, that would appear to be the kind of evidence a potential coup would stop.
Which, indeed, brings us back to the hour’s big cliffhanger where Carrie and the feds trigger a bomb in a garage just as our favorite retired analyst pieced together Dar’s men are coming as “security” for a president they intend to topple.
Honestly, after all this, the season finale has a lot of work to do. For starters, it must convince us that Dar Adal’s plan has a good chance of succeeding even when it almost certainly fails by the hour’s end. So far, they have swiftboated her dead son and engineered a false flag terrorist attack. If they can successfully suppress the evidence of that (which would mean muzzling the FBI and Justice Department, not just Keane), there is still the matter of gaining public support for overthrowing a fairly elected president.
Even in our currently and highly polarized times, it is almost impossible to imagine anyone but the most vitriolic partisans supporting a military coup of a commander-and-chief whom they disdain. And in the show, Dar has basically created very bad press for her by smearing her son. It does not seem likely the plan is to create a JFK style assassination—although maybe that is in the cards with Peter Quinn being painted online as the patsy who supposedly pulled the trigger. But barring that kind of twist, it seems the plan is to overthrow the president, and I cannot see however much bad press they throw her way that it’ll give Dar the coverage needed. In this current context, how would the rest of the government not hunt him and his cohorts down for threatening to destroy our democratic institutions? That includes Carrie who has compiled quite a bit of evidence alongside the FBI.
A much more convincing and gripping tale of attempted military coup in the United States occurred in a forgotten classic called Seven Days in May. In that film, Burt Lancaster almost succeeds at crafting a scenario where he and most of the rest of the joint chiefs would dispel Fredric March’s liberal bleeding heart president from power. Made in 1964, the film was set during the height of the Cold War, March XYZ played an Adlai Stevenson type who made a fantasy deal with the Soviet Union that they would both unilaterally disarm and dismember both nations’ nuclear arsenals. Given the political paranoia found in the days of McCarthyism, it is fairly plausible that if a far-left president did something that extreme, it could lead to historic dissent. Granted, that going all the way to the Pentagon’s most powerful still mostly seems like good fiction, but there it is.
Keane could appear to be a threat to the CIA, but she hasn’t taken any actions yet that could turn public opinion on her to historically dangerous lows, and Dar Adal has failed to create the proper situation in which I believe his coup would be effective.
But we’ll have to wait until next week to see where the final pieces of the puzzle land. Maybe there is a missing Ace in the Hole that when played could end Homeland’s refuge of a world where a sane person of integrity was recently elected president. Or it’ll more likely end in spectacular failure for Dar. Either way, I have found myself drawn into season 6 in a way that has not occurred since season 4. For that, the year has already won me over, even if I don’t think this penultimate episode achieved everything it strove for.
In seven days in April, we’ll see if the finale can stick the landing of what has been one of Homeland’s best years.