This Homeland review contains spoilers.
Homeland Season 7 Episode 11
Since the last episode of Homeland, we received new intelligence from the cast and producers of the Showtime series. Claire Danes reconfirmed what many of us already had heard through the grapevine: next year’s Homeland season 8 will be the show’s last. Additionally, executive producer Alex Gansa further elaborated that it will be a new and standalone story set in Europe and away from, ahem, the homeland. This is a curious reveal given that the last two seasons have been the series’ finest since the first two years that began the whole saga.
Yet given how things played out in tonight’s “All In,” the penultimate hour of Carrie and Saul’s fairly botched up attempt to save the republic, we are definitely witnessing events come to a head. As much the third act of a high-stakes Hollywood thriller as it is the latest twist in a listless narrative involving conspiracies, shady presidencies, and more Russians than you can throw a vodka glass at, “All In” enters the climax stage of what’s been two seasons worth of build-up. It also strains incredulity and common sense more than once in an effort to heighten the tension. Nevertheless, if I claimed I wasn’t on the edge of my seat as Carrie stared down the barrel of Simone Martin’s gun, I’d be lying. The Pirozhki has just hit the fan, ladies and gentlemen. And it is hard to imagine anyone is coming out of this clean. Except Carrie. She’s all in with this last ditch and desperate swing of a legally dubious espionage operation. In other words, she’s come home.
Much of the episode pivots on two crucial things: Saul and Carrie buying time while sweet-talking a few Russian generals to get Russian Big Bad (fine, I’ll start calling him Yevgeny!) out of his compound… and Sen. Paley mucking it all up back in D.C. I’ll start with the latter, because it’s the weak link of the episode. In essence, Paley goes to our old friend Dar Adal, whose prison stint honestly doesn’t look so bad considering how other traitors have been treated in the past with glorified sentences of permanent isolation.
Still, it’s really nice to see F. Murray Abraham on the series again considering he was a wonderful foil for Saul and Peter Quinn alike, and a perfectly scuzzy company man to lean on Carrie when her interests short brushed against his. However, Paley needing to speak to Dar Adal of all people about figuring out he needed to hunt Saul’s Russian experts was a stretch, as is Dar Adal believing that Keane’s vice president would ever pardon or commute his sentence considering he was in a conspiracy to overthrow and assassinate a U.S. president. One from Beau Bridges’ own party. In fact, the one who made him vice president! It defies logic that anyone thinks a president would pardon, and thereby tacitly condone, conspiracies against another chief executive, even if it is one they don’t like.
But I can believe Dar would still help Paley just to spite Keane, which he does. Paley’s chief of staff in turn then far too easily discovers the college kid helping Dar’s operation and leans on him with the kind of brevity that’s usually reserved for the machinations of a Law & Order episode. This finally leads to Janet Bayne taking Paley by the Russian embassy to get him to enact a form of treason in order to save his own skin. Useful idiot, indeed.
This is where I have to break with the series’ cynicism. Despite living in a world where I cannot honestly say whether or not our president is a knowing (or unknowing) Russian asset, I don’t think Paley or most U.S. senators in his position would intentionally sabotage a U.S. operation with Americans in the field just to win a political victory over a president they despise. Yes, there are elected officials and staff I can be this cynical about, both in our current executive branch and in the House of Representatives. Some senators too. But those kind of pols don’t end up as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. That tends to attract a certain type of self-righteous patriot who wouldn’t be so politically opportunistic to earn monikers of, I don’t know, being “the most hated man in Washington.”
So I don’t believe Paley as a politician who spent his life inspecting and working with the intelligence community would knowingly put intelligence officers in danger. But whatever, it’s a TV show and now that I’ve gotten my griping vegetables out of the way, it’s time to enjoy the rest of this high-stakes and highly entertaining hour.
Because in Russia, shit goes down. First of all, seeing Saul and Carrie sit across the table from Yevgeny is highly satisfying, even if Yevgeny is mostly regurgitating eastern grievances in the show’s token attempt to try and “understand” the season’s big bad. No, he’s still a douchebag who left dead Americans on American soil. Mind you, Saul and Carrie break that unspoken Cold War rule too by leaving several dead Russians on Russian soil in their failed attempt to snag Simone Martin at the compound. It’s a great scene with audiences having already realized that Paley have screwed the pooch, and waiting for it to go FUBAR, and it does with a sudden and still shocking gunshot to the head of an American.
So our heroes failed to get Simone, but this is where we get Carrie’s mission statement for Homeland’s endgame. Because while things went sideway outside of Moscow, they fell to complete hell in the American capital when Vice President Beau Bridges has the nerve to remove Keane from office via the 25th Amendment. Personally, I think Keane played this terribly and even if/when Carrie proves the Russian conspiracy, at best a reinstated Keane will be the second coming of Jimmy Carter: a well-meaning liberal mind that proves ineffectual at getting anything done due to an inability to read the American people or other elected officials in D.C.
David Wellington spelled out exactly what was going to happen last week. While she could have tried to use VP Beau to her advantage and not fire the cabinet and kickstart a crisis, she decided to do the right thing for the wrong reasons, which is its own kind of vanity. So Elizabeth forced the crisis that ends with her having the humiliation of being the first American president removed from office via the 25th Amendment. It still is an ugly day for democracy to see the elected president forced out like that, which does make one wonder what would happen if we actually saw an impeachment or any other form of presidential removal that did not include a voluntary resignation.
In any case, this means Carrie and Saul are out on a very high branch with their safety net gone. And this is when Carrie is at her best. In fact, she more or less sums up her arc for the whole series in such a cheer line that it could be used as a slogan for the final Homeland boxset: “You’ve given me a hard time the last few years. I’m in; I’m out; I’m all over the place. I am not all over the place now. I’m here. And I’m all in.”
Hell yeah, Carrie. It’s good to have the kickass version of our favorite CIA analyst back in her natural state. Saul would seem to agree, because for the first time in I don’t know how many seasons, he is looking at her with pride and respect instead of wary suspicion and disappointment. This is the scene of Carrie doing what we always wanted her to do: take control. And so she does.
Not that Mandy Patinkin also doesn’t then get his own moment to shine. When confronting the Russian general whose American accounts they drained that night, Saul gets to speak for the voice of all Americans in a fantasy scenario of putting Russian spooks in their place. “This is what it looks like when the gloves come off.” The same could be said about the Russian general too, who amusingly behaves a lot more like a medieval lord (or modern mob boss) by using his own makeshift army of security to stage a glorified coup on the GRU.
I am no expert on Russian intelligence or its military apparatus, but I would hope that it is a little more stable than the series portrays in this moment. Either way though it provides a spectacularly exciting finale in which Carrie and her team have to hide in ski masks amongst the Russian general’s team, and Carrie gets a sequence that just barely walks the line between grounded and ridiculous in a way that’s far more successful than other moments we’ve seen Carrie unconvincingly run into—such as the Berlin subway season 4 finale, complete with a Jack Bauer pose of guns blazing.
Here, Carrie is put in the extraordinary situation of climbing across a building on the fifth floor (for which the television director apparently didn’t have the coverage or budget to shoot from the most dynamic angles), but once she reaches the suite Simone Martin is holed up in, Simone, who is no James Bond herself, easily gets the drop on Carrie. This isn’t going to be resolved with bullets, but by Carrie doing what she is so good at: manipulating assets. She turns Simone from being Yevgeny’s lover to being Carrie’s stool pigeon with ease. And to be fair, I do think Yevgeny would have either killed Simone or at least attempted to make it look like he did (and when it came to light he did not, the Russian intelligence would still drop her off at the bottom of some lake).
So Carrie, in the height of drama, whisks Simone Martin away from the Russians by using a cunning trick that is one of Carrie’s all-time favorite spy affectations: convincing wigs! Carrie is the brunette, and Simone is the blonde. They switch places and leave viewers staggering to figure out what will happen in the season finale. Yevgeny is chasing Carrie, so will he catch her?! Will Paley find a way to get Beau Bridges to silence Simone before she gets back to the United States? Can Saul give another Russian officer a verbal beatdown?
If I had to hesitate a guess for the finale, I suspect that Beau Bridges will at first try to disavow the operation, putting Saul in mortal danger, but when facts come to light that they’re bringing Simone Martin back to America, he’ll do the right thing and help them extract her, even if it means the end of his political career since he helped the wrong side of history.
However, even if Carrie wins, maybe the next season is set in Europe… because Carrie doesn’t get out? An interesting theory is that Carrie is taken by the Russians who keep her as a political prisoner, much like how season 1 began with the return of Brody as a prisoner of war being released. I am not suggesting there will be a massive time jump of 10 years like for poor Brody, but some sizable time could come to pass, so that when Carrie is released, it is part of a future espionage game that won’t take her home until after her daughter is already grown up or at least a teenager… and Carrie has to deal with one last broken promise.
Call it a hunch. We’ll know for sure next week though after this crackerjack hour—one that crackled so well at the end that I’m going to probably give it a half star more than it deserves.