Homeland Season 6 Episode 8 Review: Alt.Truth

Carrie and Saul are sharing screentime in tonight's Homeland. So of course it's good. Especially when it makes unexpected turns.

This Homeland review contains spoilers.

Following last week’s episode where Dar Adal had Child Protection Services take away Carrie daughter—all to prove… he could?—I was worried that season 6 might become lost in the woods. Luckily, it found its path again in “Alt.Truth,” a strong, timely, and immensely enjoyable hour of paranoia. That long dormant feeling of utter confusion and despair that we haven’t regularly enjoyed since Nick Brody was a character is slowly reemerging in season 6, and the darker things get, the more addictive the show becomes.

In the case of “Alt.Truth,” last week’s padding seems to be done, and things are kicking into gear for the final third of the season with Elizabeth Keane isolating herself, and Carrie and Saul now officially on the outside with no visible trail back to the center. Of course, that’s where they’ve thrived the most in the past too.

Indeed, this hour is very Carrie and Saul centric. Faced with the fact that he has to get Javadi in front of the president-elect, and the knowledge that Dar Adal has essentially removed him from the equation of decision-making in what is looking increasingly like a coup, he turns to Carrie at a moment where she—and the momentum of the series—desperately needs a friend. Saul is able to show Carrie where her daughter is being kept, but more importantly, he is also able to show her a path out of her funk.

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Combining their shared information, the mentor and the one-time protégé assemble a very clear picture, one with disquieting implications the viewers have long known: The CIA and Mossad are developing a phantom threat in Iran to either ensnare Keane in a false threat, or to simply get rid of her. It is good to see Carrie and Saul work together without too much animosity for the first time in several years, but the best line of the night comes after Saul’s shock to learn that Sekou probably did not detonate that bomb in Midtown, and that an FBI agent has been murdered. He asks, incredulously, why Carrie hadn’t already come to him. She replies, “Honestly, I didn’t know whose side you were on.”

In this game of intramural espionage, betrayal, and jockeying for political position through a level of lies and deceit worthy of any third rate banana republic, there really is no such thing as loyalty or trust to be had. Saul’s non-answer to her explanation confirms that we’ve entered a brave new world on Homeland. The fact that government relations between career folks, intelligence agencies, and new administration political appointees appears just as fractured from the outside in our world as this fiction only heightens the appeal of the series, whether it be coincidence or not.

Eventually, Carrie and Saul do succeed at getting Javadi before President-elect Keane, where one of the series’ better twists has just occurred. The entire journey for Carrie and Javadi left me suspicious. Narratively, it just seemed too easy for them to place the pieces together this quickly, and that something bad must occur before she arrives. Perhaps they’ll be ambushed and Javadi murdered? But if that were to happen, Dar Adal would’ve played his hand too broadly. Keane’s a world leader, not a disinterested citizen, and she’d be able to see where there’s smoke there’s fire.

The car ride over does, however, feature a solid reminder of the previous double agent we’d lost many seasons ago, with Javadi promising to tell Carrie where he had Brody’s remains moved to. It’s apparently a nice shady space hidden in some pine trees. Granted, Javadi seems to lie about everything else, so I do not blame Carrie for quietly declining his offer for a map. It is also in these little moments where there are not tears but far more visible lines of silent pain that Claire Danes really gets to show off.

But in case she might’ve had second thoughts on that map, Javadi reveals that (surprise, surprise) he is still a snake. Off-screen and between episodes, he somehow miraculously contacted Dar Adal and made the choice to, by his own words, “bet on the sure-thing.” In this case, he willingly stoked the flame of war for the president-elect with lies. By making the decision to tell Keane that the the Iranians are cheating on the deal, he has caused her to seemingly permanently banish her trust for Saul Berenson and especially Carrie Mathison.

It is a special level of self-serving cowardice that Javadi exhibits when he is willing to push the U.S. and his native Iran toward war over a lie just to save his own skin. Actually, he already had a deal that would save his skin with Saul and Keane, but he was so craven about the reach of Dar that he still threw his home country under the bus. Meanwhile, Keane rather foolishly makes the hard cut from Carrie in this moment.

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As Carrie tries to put logic and context into this situation, Keane simply says that she was wrong to ever take Carrie’s advice. Obviously believing that Carrie is as much responsible for the Sekou disaster as the media, she’ll also leave Mathison out to dry while willingly letting herself continue to be fooled by a CIA charmer that previously locked her up in a makeshift house arrest.

For Carrie and Saul, it is back to the days when no one would allow them to peak over Brody’s shoulder, so I suspect they’ll now land on their feet as the two best characters on the show are forced to collaborate once more.

With that said, I imagine this choice is going to come back to haunt Keane, because she is letting double-speak push her closer to Dar Adal, who had a single telling scene this episode.

Indeed, the hour is titled “Alt. Truth,” which is clearly a dig at the alternative right, which manipulates facts to breed conspiratorial innuendo and distortions. One wonders if the producers even considered changing the title to “Alternative Facts” after Kellyanne Conway’s infamous spin, but that would’ve likely just too belabored the point. Instead, we see the series’ version of Rush Limbaugh crossed with Sean Hannity prey on an Iraqi vet who admits to suffer from crippling PTSD; they trick him to semi-admit that Keane’s dead son was a self-serving coward in the war.

Further, the pundit actually finds video of young Keane’s death, which when taken in context proves he died trying to save the lives of his men. Yet, when edited in a way that makes Karl Rove’s infamous “Swift Boat” tactics from the 2004 U.S. election look tasteful, they transmutate the image of a fallen American hero into one of a coward abandoning his post. It’s a twisted partisan game he’s playing that would place party over country, all in the hope of besmirching a gold star parent who has already won her election. It also is entirely plausible that certain media personalities would play this card in our post-Swift Boat and post-birtherism world.

What is slightly more surprising is that Dar Adal shows up to watch the tape and is thrilled. For starters, he can trust the alt-right media to make its own propaganda without his help. But I foolishly had hoped for a half-a-second that a CIA man would cringe at this clear spread of misinformation. He doesn’t need this to undo Keane. Then I realized that, as Carrie and Saul allude to, he is committing a form of treason to work against the Iranian deal. What’s trampling on the grave of a dead serviceman to achieve his ends?

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And indeed, he must be moving closer to those goals since Keane is now in complete isolation from anyone who could warn her of the dangers to come. For that reason, it appears now is the time to tie up other loose ends…

Which brings us to who is certainly the soul of season 6, Peter Quinn. Like Quinn, I was suspicious that Dar Adal offered the handicapped and tortured spook a chance at peace on a lake. In many ways, it was odd that he even bothered to invite Astrid back into the show. Maybe he really did want to see if he could essentially buy Quinn off? But Adal doesn’t seem like the kind to bet on silent obedience. Maybe Dar simply created this scenario, because he knew Astrid would handle the risk of sneaking Quinn out of Bellevue?

In any event, now that he knows where Quinn is, and that he is still enamored of Carrie Mathison, it is time to wrap things up and take him out. But not before Quinn gets paranoid and fantasizes that there are spies where there are none. Suspecting that Astrid is working for Adal, Quinn is so adamant to find the spy watching the spies that he he claims Astrid means nothing to him, that he just slept with her out of loneliness. Then he took horrible things even further by punching her.

I don’t believe that Astrid, before or after the accident, meant “nothing” to Quinn. But honestly, she never has been a very important character to me or likely many other viewers since she was always the foil to Carrie—the other woman who even if we liked, we quietly rooted against, whether she was better for Quinn or not. Yet, this episode pulled a very time honored trick in television writing: making you truly care about a character before you take her away. Seeing Quinn punch her in the stomach was as shocking as it was disturbing, and instantly made us see him more for what he is: a broken man.

Astrid probably should have left him flat no matter what after that instant. Despite his issues, he has now been physical. We might sympathize with Quinn, but we also understand that who is now is not who he once was. Quinn even articulates this to Astrid, which is what gets her to say in spite of his poor attempt at an apology. For a brief moment, I finally saw Astrid as something Carrie will never be: stability and patience. She could be an out for Quinn, and she herself showed remarkable grace given how awful he was to her. And that is when they take her away, because of Quinn’s paranoia regarding her gun, no less.

So here we are, the only chance Quinn actually had for peace is gone. Again. Now he is cold, wet, and severely pissed off that Dar Adal put him and Astrid there just to die. He’s a man with nothing to lose, but as his evidence will always be discredited, I’m not sure what he can do except take matters into his own hands. At which point, this could end even more tragically than it already has, and we just saw Quinn standing over Astrid’s dead body—a death caused by her refusal to let Quinn go.

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At least until the gunman showed up (at which point, I think we all knew how it was going to go down), tonight was a series of unexpected events, and one that leaves the pieces on the board in disarray, and Dar Adal closer to his checkmate against an oblivious queen. I really do not see how the “heroes” prevent this collapse, which leaves this reviewer more keyed into Homeland than he’s been for a long time. So let’s see where the pieces move, because it’s become irresistible to look away.


4.5 out of 5