This Homeland review contains spoilers.
Homeland Season 7 Episode 3
Well played, Homeland. Here I was, ready to spend paragraphs cringing at the return of “Carrie Mathison vs. Social Services” after it was the one interminable part of season 6… and then instead of going left, Homeland does a fake-out and drives right. I see what you did there. Very clever… actually it was. After scaring the hell out of Carrie about what’s at stake of putting herself out on this limb—and terrifying us of another Social Services subplot—the series made clear that Carrie is involved in a “revolution” fight that could cost her all. But not tonight. Nay, this evening is for a (barely) false jump and moving things in a confrontational (and dare we say standoffish?) way.
Indeed, last week I was both impressed by the tension and disturbed by the subject matter of Carrie Mathison having to go Jack Bauer on a creep in the dark internet deep. However, I overlooked that her almost strangling the freak wasn’t just about a righteous Time’s Up rage; Carrie really has lost some of her even keel after lithium has put her on the right path for the last five or so seasons. The threat of bad days returning, complete with everything Carrie says being dismissed out of hand, might be generated by a narrative inconvenience, yet it remains borne from a very possible daily tragedy for those coping with mental illness: she has developed a tolerance to the drug that helped her beat her demons.
While I still think her sister is far too quick to dismiss her out of hand for being paranoid given what she’s been through—including an assassination attempt on the POTUS less than three months ago!—she is still not quite alright. And thankfully her taking a shot in the dark for help from a psychiatrist she has had all of one session with did not end in vain. The shrink unfortunately puts all the worst fears in Carrie and the audience’s head about what this could mean: Are you a danger to Frannie? Are you a danger to all the other characters on the show?
This, for now, appears to be part of a red herring curveball coming later this episode. It nonetheless forces Carrie to deal with a very real and bitter problem, as she is relapsing into a manic episode due to her bipolar condition. But this being Homeland, one scene of the sobering reality sinking in for Carrie is all we can be afforded. In a poignant moment, Claire Danes sinks her teeth into Carrie vowing to not let her daughter see her in a mental ward. In the next, she is being drawn back into a political conspiracy of the highest stakes, including the assassination of incarcerated U.S. general.
This revelation comes via the return of Dante Allen, the leaker whom Carrie was ready to throw to the political wolves in order to bring down President Keane. After pushing her to the ground two weeks ago, and telling her in so many words to go to hell last week, Dante shows up at her door with something better than roses: intelligence that suggests Carrie’s person of interest is romantically linked to Chief of Staff David Wellington and happened to be “in the neighborhood” when General McClendon had an unexpected bout of angina.
And to be fair to Dante’s insistence, we’re watching this show these days for the fantasy of Carrie bringing down a corrupt presidential regime. That’s right, take the Adderall and get snooping. Of course that is when the shoe drops. Carrie lands photographic evidence that this woman is not only entwined with Wellington, but received a parking ticket the day before McClendon’s death. She also copied a hard drive that will no doubt will prove vital for next week. Nevertheless, the real horror of the situation is made explicit when Carrie, who is obviously not able in her current state to rationalize with what cops want—i.e. not refuse to give her ID and be looking around with a jittery shake—ends up in a heart-stopping detour.
It is indeed painful to watch Carrie dragged, kicking and crying, to where her fingerprints shall be scanned. It is also the plot development that will immediately endear Dante to at least some viewers. Admittedly he is also the one pushing for her to get out of bed and endanger her mental health’s well-being—as well as potentially endanger her motherhood—by pursuing this case. Yet we as viewers are just as culpable of wanting to see Ms. Mathison back on the field and kicking ass. So whatever Dante’s many sins may be, which seems to include a drinking problem, he is at least able to pull some strings and keep Carrie out of D.C. paperwork.
I am not entirely sure how he was able to pull that last bit off, especially without raising suspicion of why he would interfere in the booking of a B&E. And maybe he won’t, but he shows at least some minor understanding of Carrie’s situation because his ex-girlfriend also was bipolar. He even is (seemingly) standup enough to reveal he didn’t leave her because of that; she got things under control and left him due his own inadequacies. His empathy and ability to see Carrie underneath her condition (as opposed to only the condition) makes him immediately sympathetic. Which is quite a shock given how violent he was to Carrie two weeks ago.
Be that as it may, we might as well prepare for him to either die or be professionally destroyed before the season’s end, right? I mean, why build him up in a penultimate season, if not to see him fall?
Speaking of falling, the end of Brett O’Keefe is going to be a dispiriting spectacle, which is just the way he likes it. He, and Homeland, has turned his fugitive status into a little mini Waco, Texas by way of the backwoods of the Midwest. Saul and the FBI have him completely cornered and he enjoys the best bargaining power he’s ever had with political leaders. They may want to send him to jail, but he could deflate the situation to his advantage, sparing his girlfriend and his “fans” from prosecution while getting a televised circus in his courtroom. For while Saul is right, two years is a lifetime in politics, what makes him think O’Keefe won’t be running his mouth on the internet that entire time?
But O’Keefe isn’t after the well-being of his lover or his followers. Who he really was is underlined repeatedly, beginning with him marveling at how much attention they’ve garnered simply by Saul being there. They’re a “big deal,” and that is all that matters. He doesn’t even seem phased by any of Saul’s threats, save for that his signal to the world, to his spotlight, will be cut away.
Without an ounce of subtlety, Homeland is making O’Keefe’s last stand a deconstruction of the fragile egos of the demagogues who pollute our national conversation. But that’s alright, because there isn’t a hint of nuance in these battalions of blowhards. O’Keefe makes a good show of listing all of the things that “the heartland” and lower income, rural white America has to be aggrieved about with their country in the last 50 years. And other than the LGBTQ bigotry, it is almost all entirely valid. And Saul concedes this; but this isn’t what concerns O’Keefe. He’ll spread lies—even if in Homeland, the irony is his lie about Keane killing a four-star general is the truth—and do it to empower himself, not help others. He is more inclined to talk about building the proverbial wall than trying to actually create an economy that builds the middle class as opposed to squeezes it.
If O’Keefe cared what was best for these people, he would have taken Saul’s deal, which he made as a stalling tactic. He got everything he could reasonably ask for, yet still let the rednecks bring in more men, more guns, and more likelihood for a Waco-styled tragedy.
Save for the thought of one of these talk radio “poisons” having the grit to actually stare down the armed FBI (they all seem far too cowardly with their paper bravado), it makes for great tension and even greater television. O’Keefe’s girlfriend got the hell out of Dodge, but far too late to avoid prosecution now. And the rest are in a situation that very likely could end in gunfire.
It’s why the chief of staff rather foolishly asked a U.S. General to perform a Wag the Dog scenario in Syria. In reality, I have trouble believing an American general would break protocol and take the word of an unelected, and non-uniformed administrator over waiting for the POTUS’ authorization (even if he despises her). Nor do I think Wellington could talk his way into keeping his job after this stunt. I don’t trust or like Keane, and yet I at the very least can still respect her resolve. After campaigning as the anti-military industrial complex candidate, she cannot simply start an international incident where people die solely as a political distraction.
So how is Homeland going to spin this into her not taking Wellington’s head? Well, something really bad will have to happen at O’Keefe’s Alamo, won’t it? We’ll find out for sure next week. Until then, I’m still smiling at how well Homeland “got me” tonight.