This Homeland review contains spoilers.
Homeland Season 6 Episode 5
Well that escalated quickly, didn’t it? Last week, the world of Homeland crumbled before a vision of terror that’s haunted the dreams of Americans for going on 20 years. In that amount of time since Sept. 11, 2001, the anxiety of another devastating terrorist attack occurring in the heart of American society has faded more to the recess of American life, but Homeland makes a convincing argument for what would happen if we awakened one morning to the sight of smoke plumes once more drifting across the Manhattan skyline.
… and it would not be good.
Thus Homeland delivers a high stakes episode that completely upends everything from the past four episodes, if not even the past several seasons. This would be a game changer in American policy. The last time something like this happened, America was so scarred that it found loopholes to legalize torture, open a black hole of incarceration off the shores of Florida, and invade two countries, the second of which had absolutely nothing to do with the terrorist attack.
The thought of what could occur in our reality with a newly minted 45th president who imagines American journalists are enemies of the state is fairly disquieting. But things aren’t much better in Homeland’s alternative reality where President-elect Elizabeth Keane is being completely supplanted in what is looking like a slow, but efficient, coup—one in which Carrie Mathison will be the sacrificial lamb that Dar Adal has painstakingly prepared for the gleeful slaughter of upon the altar of the press.
All this informs a terrific hour where anything that could go wrong for Carrie does. It’s a crescendo of tragedies that feels far removed from the first two seasons where one foot remained firmly planted in reality, but however incredulous it is, the hour is also sincerely compelling.
The first crack to break in Carrie’s world was the one that viewers knew was coming: What happens when they discover it was Sekou? Apparently, the intelligence agencies that planned the faux-terrorist attack timed it perfectly. In addition to it occurring before rush hour—and thus “only” killing two innocent bystanders—it also happened at a place where a CCTV security camera was able to capture Sekou’s face right before the bomb went boom.
Sekou was young, foolish, and angry to romanticize suicide bombers. But he was still just a dumb kid, and it is quite shocking that a series as usually reverential (or at least ultimately defensive) of the status quo would basically make the CIA and intelligence community responsible for the vilifying and scapegoating of Sekou—the son of American immigrants. And the machinations moved fast, FBI Agent Conlin was justified in his self-righteous dickishness by learning that Sekou was apparently a terrorist, and, worse for him, he had Sekou in custody. As a consequence, his head will be on the chopping block when the press inevitably gets wind of Sekou’s story… and he is more than eager to pass the buck to Carrie.
In reality, I wouldn’t see Carrie surviving the tempest that is about to engulf her, even without the Peter Quinn heartbreak (which we’ll get to momentarily). Dar Adal is well aware that the full parentage of her daughter will become public record after the press starts digging (he might even leak it), not to mention the fact that she’s repeatedly been committed for psychological breakdowns, including once after being disgraced from the agency. Mind you, it was because Adal and his ilk were too stupid to listen to Carrie’s impression of Cassandra, but that will likely get buried under her protection for well-known American traitor Nicholas Brody.
Adal himself also has put the plan into lightning quick motion. Using the terrorist attack to make Keane look weak, he has her carted off to an undisclosed location while making sure her literal flight is leaked to the press. Not even in office, Keane has her equivalent of George W. Bush staring haplessly from Air Force One’s window above the despair of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. That disaster and failure of government competence cost Bush his credibility and political capital in his second term… Keane is already weakened though and she hasn’t even been sworn in.
No doubt that Keane is likewise aware of the storm clouds that are building given that Adal gives her access only to the sitting POTUS (on Adal’s terms) and the CIA itself. She is cut off from her chief of staff as well as anyone who could help her try to deflate the media narrative building of her being a hypocrite and coward for running at the first sign of terrorism.
There is no way Adal would make such a bold move as to essentially imprison an incoming POTUS within a gilded house arrest unless he isn’t planning to pay the consequences. This is the first steps of a coup, and right wing media smells the blood in the water with the show offering its own version of a slimy amalgamation between Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. It’s a marriage made in angry, aggrieved white man hell, but it is noticeably defining Keane’s visage to Americans while she is handicapped behind proverbial bars.
Adal meanwhile may have to do something about Saul Berenson. When Saul finally returned to America, he ignored Adal’s skepticism about Saul making enemies with Mossad and instead shows discomfort with Berenson pulling on his Javadi wire to discover what is likely the truth: the Iranians aren’t cheating on the nuclear deal; it’s just another boogeyman that Adal and hawks in Israel have created to build a narrative against Keane, one that will only heighten when it leaks that Carrie Mathison has been an unofficial adviser to the president-elect on matters of foreign policy and national security.
Maybe Saul is unintentionally digging his own grave to be taken down in the purported “web of Carrie Mathison?”
Yet before any of that comes about, Carrie deals with a public assassination that Dar Adal could not anticipate, as well as one that is much, much worse for Carrie and the poor, doomed Peter Quinn.
I imagine many viewers, like Carrie, took it as a hopeful note that Peter could connect to Franny so well with stories of rabbits also named Peter. Alas though, this was misdirection for what the hour really had in store for Peter. With the city in freefall after the apparent terrorist attack, Carrie has to leave Franny at home until her nanny gets out—just long enough to reluctantly put Franny in Quinn’s charge. And he takes protecting her to horrible results.
Playing like the last act of Brothers—a film I suspect influenced some of the ways Brody interacted with his family in season 1—Quinn’s neurological damaged being coupled with PTSD proved more than just toxic for himself, but dangerous for everyone. As Adal’s media circus began following the breadcrumbs to Carrie, Sekou’s legal counsel, Quinn probably guaranteed himself a lifetime back in a mental ward. He also discredited Carrie further by assaulting a reporter, annoying though she may be, and shooting at one of the protestors outside the brownstone. Viewing as everyone in collusion with the spook across the street, Quinn ultimately takes Franny and the nanny hostage.
It is all very dramatic, perhaps even excessively so. Nonetheless, it is also accomplished in the utmost satisfying way when Carrie convinces them to let her inside the brownstone and uses herself as a human shield to stop an NYPD task force from riddling Quinn full of bullets. Still, the damage is done. This likely does prove that Peter wasn’t ready to be fully on his own if he misconstrues watching a child with holding her hostage and attacking police officers; it also discredits anything Peter Quinn says about being spied on.
One wonders how Dar Adal will react next week when he sees his once prized assassin and semi-friend caught up and further ruined in the scandal he’s built around Carrie and Keane? It could give him a nice moment of pity before washing his hands like Pontius. In the immediate drama, though, Carrie is just relieved that Franny is safe. That makes one of them, at least.
Predictably, she finds Peter’s phone after the cops leave—miraculously missing this piece of potential evidence themselves—and in it, she discovers his proof that the man from across the street visited Sekou’s place of business the night before the bomb went off. Coupled with the fact that evidence she was able to leverage against Conlin was leaked by a mystery source that wanted Sekou out (and by Carrie’s hand), Carrie has enough to see the fingerprints of her old colleagues.
If I had to wager what will come next, Carrie will weather the maelstrom long enough to find proof that no one will believe, but will convince Saul Berenson to pull on the thread around the false narrative of Iranian cheating to link it to the attempted coup.
For the sake of the series, they have to prove this is a coup, right?! But in reality, I just don’t see how Carrie regains credibility within a nation on the brink of renewed insanity, and one that will turn its judging eyes to her. Clearly, she won’t be considered the best judge of character after letting Peter Quinn stay in her daughter’s house, right?
I don’t imagine there is a way out of this for her in our world, but our world is more insane these days than Homeland. So who really knows. In any case, Carrie is back where the series started for her during the season 1 opening credits: “I didn’t see it coming.” Of course, she shouldn’t have, given it wasn’t what the media is now saying. But I don’t see facts mattering any more for her than they do for our 2017. Both of which are grim places in the midst of a burgeoning constitutional crisis.
Luckily, the Homeland one is at least becoming riveting entertainment. And that isn’t something I could say about this series for a long time.