Homeland Season 6 Episode 9 Review: Sock Puppets

Homeland provides another satisfying and head-turning twist, continuing to prove Season 6 is something different.

This Homeland review contains spoilers.

Homeland Season 6 Episode 9

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I want to take a minute and consider how much of a rebound Homeland has been on this year. It’s fair to say that season 5 was not exactly anyone’s favorite, and even the better post-Brody stories like season 4 were never quite able to recapture the pace and excitement of Homeland’s early, dizzying heights. I’m not entirely sure season 6 has either, but this episode again marks sure footing and compelling drama where the storytellers know where they’re going, and they’re getting there in ways that can be both predictably satisfying and also totally out of left field.

Granted, in tonight’s biggest game changing, there is a certain amount of suspension of disbelief needed to be taken with the idea that Dar Adal would betray Javadi so quickly and gleefully… or that they would not make sure to collect his phone. Even so, there’s a briskness and precision of purpose that we have not seen on the one-time Showtime flagship in a long while. It even is making lemonade out of its fifth season woes by bringing back Saul’s grievous (and utterly frustrating) lack of judgment regarding Allison Carr. And in doing so, the screws turn a little tighter, and I suspect viewers sit up and are leaning a little closer.

In that vein, this episode also knew how to spread out the character building moments more acutely. “Sock Puppets” opens with the typical convention of a visit to a psychoanalyst being an excuse to pull back the layers on a character. But it also works quite well here given Carrie’s checkered history with mental health over the years. It is again these moments that I have grown to prefer for giving Claire Danes something to really sink her teeth into. The big dramatic scenes of children being ripped from her arms or tears rolling down her anguished face are part and parcel for Homeland, but after six years, this can also frequently feel like a crutch.

Ad – content continues below

Giving Ms. Danes quieter moments to really let the waves of Carrie’s troubled history roll for a bit in her soul, without it being in a moment of mental collapse or existential crisis, are where she really excels. She even sells that Carrie would be so open on her first psych evaluation with a stranger about her relationship with Brody, even if she never says his name.

The way she takes responsibility for pushing Brody toward his doom in season 3 is not maudlin or inaccurate; it is a simple fact of coming to accept and live with the worst demons that she has conjured in her life. The way in which she also can speak of her relationship with Franny here does more to heighten it than any number of scenes of her rushing desperately to her pre-school, making sure she’s picked her daughter up from certain danger.

Of course, this little vignette into the real ghosts that haunt Carrie Mathison must (and should) be placed aside as the plot wheels start turning once more. The most tantalizing aspect of this is that Carrie and Saul get another shot at persuading President-elect Keane so unexpectedly soon.

I am somewhat bemused that Dar Adal would so happily betray Javadi to Mossad when he knows the president-elect will be acting on Javadi’s “intelligence” as she pushes the U.S. and Iran toward the war that Adal desires. The prospect that she’d want to keep tabs on Javadi and to keep him as a resource for down-the-road is not just probable, it’s definite. So sending him off to be tortured to death by the Israelis is a rather convenient plot twist that allows Javadi to sow the seeds of Adal’s quickly approaching downfall.

Luckily, this hour perhaps more than any other is really letting F. Murray Abraham have fun with the ride. The way he so happily begins to make Javadi sweat in his gilded Manhattan suite about Mossad is a marvel. He practically purrs, “I said leave him alone, we’ve got important work to do!” It’s just malevolent enough to make you appreciate how much of an enjoyable bastard Dar is while still somehow avoiding the prospect of turning into a cartoon.

It’s also the scene, that saves Carrie and Saul from being completely discarded from high-level, deep state politics. After all, it was only one scene earlier where Keane acted as foolishly as many feared from last week. Not only did she believe that Iran was cheating on the nuclear deal, but she was now willing to side with Dar Adal and even consider his picks for secretary of state. That is until she finally sees Javadi’s video.

Ad – content continues below

Indeed, as soon as Carrie and Saul found the Iranian double agent’s mobile in the laundry, one could tell they were happy to wipe away that Tehran rat from their lives. Saul sternly muses to his future president that this phone is a gift from a “doomed man,” yet one imagines Carrie had to withhold the urge to snicker.

This narrative centerpiece between Carrie, Saul, and Keane was also the highlight of the night as all the pieces came into focus: Javadi, Iran, Israel, Sekou, and the kind of deep state conspiracy theory that is comforting a nation filled with alt-right apologists at this very moment. And Keane’s reaction is glorious, summing up the relationship between political (read: civilian) leaders and the military and intelligence communities after decades of deep-rooted growth.

“Dar Adal. You know he sat there earlier today and lied to me all over again, that obsequious little shit! What is it with you people, the intelligence community? I mean, who even thinks like this?!”

The blankness on Saul and Carrie’s faces is of a grave concern because they still haven’t revealed the murderous side of this coup involving Sekou, but it also has what I suspect is a comic subtext. Carrie and Saul represent the best of this fictional world’s intelligence apparatus, and have the moral convictions we hope all in Langley really do possess. But they look pretty feckless when being confronted with how double-dealing and bizarre their destructive spy games can be.

Unsurprisingly, they do succeed at recruiting Keane to their side. But technically, she’s not even president yet, so they must wait until she’s sworn in to make their move. And apparently, that is some time from now since she still hasn’t announced her picks for the State or Justice Department leadership. Also, getting all of our ostensible “heroes” on the same page for the first time in season 6 does not actually lead to fully satisfactory moments, which only elevates the hour.

The first and biggest fallout is that Keane and her future attorney general have zero interest in pursuing a prosecution against Adal with evidence that was obtained by a foreign power torturing (and murdering) an Iranian national. So we’re back to the plotline that had almost been forgotten: They want Carrie to throw Saul under the bus so they can also get Dar Adal. While she is now much more appealing to Carrie than before—ratting on Adal now that he’s proven himself to be a traitor—it still is in essence a betrayal of her mentor.

Ad – content continues below

Honestly, I do not see how Saul survives this. Mandy Patinkin is a key component of what keeps Homeland running, but more dangerous than any al-Qaeda terrorist cell holding him hostage is an incoming presidential administration that wants his head on a plate, so as to scoop up Adal’s head in the process. As it turns out, Keane is to some degree the anti-intelligence community threat that Adal fears, and she has no qualms about taking Saul’s scalp in the process of pulling off Dar’s. Even if Carrie doesn’t play ball, which would undoubtedly alienate her newly regained position of confidence with the PEOTUS, this is obviously the thread that Keane has elected to pull.

While I’m even suspicious that the pardon would be forthcoming, (Keane did say “eventually”) Saul is right: his entire legacy and life’s work would be undone and forgotten. He’d strictly be the man who slept with a Russian mole. Adal would look far better in the media circus this would create, and this is how they plan to take him out? I’m sure there will be some out for the Homeland writers, but in reality this would be the end of Saul’s career.

It’s also a crackerjack scene where Carrie goes from his prodigal daughter returned to him to just one more disappointment that turns the knife. After all this, Saul is still on the outside looking in—gone from being Dar’s pariah to Keane’s fall guy. And you can tell Saul is in a bad spot when Patinkin drops his papa bear routine to hiss, “Well, coming from someone who fucked a guy in a suicide vest that means a lot.” This thread is unresolved for now, but it would seem the Saul/Carrie unity was short-lived this year. Obviously.

The other development from Keane’s epiphany is that Adal picks up quickly on the new dynamics. It’s another strong scene for F. Murray Abraham as he gently underplays his growing suspicions about Keane being onto him as they attempt to make small-talk. It’s her forced attempt to try to be nice and even dangle an unearned carrot like CIA Director before his eyes that causes him to catch on. She never would go this warm from cold around him, and she’s being just a little too emotional about her son.

It’s enough for Saul to save his “fellow travelers” whom he’d have handed like heads in a basket to the president-elect. The way he is both in sudden terror of Keane and absolutely unflappable in his ability to throw a U.S. president off-balance is again the subtlest of suave touches.

Still, he’s too distracted when he goes home to notice something is off. Thus he finds himself helpless before an excessively armed Peter Quinn. I think I speak for many by stating that Abraham’s Dar is both so slimy and yet charismatic in an understated, genteel fashion, that I never bought for a second he actually loves Peter Quinn. As Peter himself revealed, Dar’s just a dirty old man.

Ad – content continues below

The same way Adal could get into Keane’s head at the drop of a hat, I suspected he was playing on a severely brain damaged Quinn’s emotions to prevent him from pulling the trigger. Yet, it appears that Dar Adal does have some miniscule fraction of a heart, because he did not order the hit on Quinn and Astrid: his boneheaded muscle apparently made a command decision. Well, that might be a boon for Dar since it will be one more loose end that Quinn will tie up all on his own when he guts that dude like a fish next week.

The other major plot development of the evening, and where the episode gets its name, is the revelation that the group we’ve assumed for weeks had been a Fox News-like stand in is actually much closer to a nefarious version of Info Wars. It also has the uncomfortable implication that the CIA is paying for what is essentially grassroots propaganda to misinform and dumb down the populace. This kind of fear seems less likely now since in reality, our CIA is fighting desperately against the “fake news” conspiracy theories that are increasingly incubating everywhere, from fringe websites all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

This also leads me to hope that neither the CIA or really another organization, right, left, or federal, actually pays for thousands of sock puppet trolls online. Seriously, do angry comment sections ever actually persuade or manipulate anyone? Not enough to pay for that kind of systematic vitriol… I would hope.

Anyway, this will likely be a major aspect of the final three episodes. I could even see this media arm outlasting Dar Adal’s perch in power. It was also a nice moment for Max. At first, I suspect “M&M” was just him lying his way through the front door. But nope, it’s pretty clear he did meth and… that other stuff while mourning the death of Fara Sherazi. Poor Fara, another quality character that Homeland almost unceremoniously shed in season 4. With any luck, Max and Saul will not have the same fates in season 6.

Overall, this was another quality hour that leaves viewers just disoriented enough before the final three episodes to not entirely be sure what will happen next. That is the best kind of place for Homeland to be, and a polar opposite location from what was happening last season. Here’s to rooting for a strong finish.


4 out of 5