Homeland Season 7 Episode 4 Review: Like Bad at Things

Homeland Season 7 has its best episode yet as it enters abject nihilism by highlighting what happens when guns meet delusions.

This Homeland review contains spoilers.

Homeland Season 7 Episode 4

Tonight on Homeland, things ended how they always seem to when you have men with guns staring at other men with guns. And for all the bluster and talk of non-violence, there was only one sane voice in the proverbial room via Saul Berenson, and without having a single equal on the other side—or even amongst the rest of the FBI leadership inside that mobile command center—there was but one way this hour was going to conclude: catastrophe.

The slow-motion car wreck that led to that abject nihilism in the final moments turned this into one of the most searing and interesting episodes Homeland has enjoyed yet in its recent renaissance during the Trump Years. Cynical, downbeat, and all too believable, the hour raised some interesting questions about the role of the media, social media, and ultimately human nature when aggression meets aggression, and only in retrospect is it apparent that it’s not a spoiler to say that blood would always be spilled… especially when the lynchpin of it all is the character Brett O’Keefe, the embodiment everything Homeland writers hate about our modern media landscape.

O’Keefe has turned into a wonderfully awful creation by Jake Weber and company: craven, self-righteous, and utterly lacking in any conviction, there is not an ounce of nuance in the depiction of a man who cannot raise his voice to prevent a massacre, but will almost die while making sure his face and ego is broadcast across the world. The blunt force of the allegory is why it so potent. It’s conceivable several think pieces might be forming right now across the internet about a conservative talk radio pundit who leads his most devoted followers over a literal cliff; depriving them so much of reality that they fail to see how they’re circling the drain until they’ve long been swallowed by it. But that is only one aspect that makes “Like All Bad Things” a cut above.

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Earlier in the episode, before the Devil came for his due, O’Keefe whines to Saul over the phone that the private militia he’s holed up with are preparing for “their own private Alamo.” How apt a touchstone to highlight their disconnect from reality. While the men who died at the Alamo made a courageous stand for land they believed was their own, the facts of the battle were immediately mystified and stretched for the political purposes of the time—turning a moral-crushing defeat and slaughter into a stirring call to arms among the Texian Army led by Sam Houston. And in history, it has been literally whitewashed from being a story of political ideals (and arguably land acquisition) into one of Brave White Men Dying Bravely™. In actuality, almost a dozen of the 189 dead defenders were Tejanos, Hispanic natives born in Texas (as opposed to transplanted migrants from the United States). They too fought for independence, but the myth erased them from the cultural (white) imagination

This illusion of simplifying everything to what is perceived as “us vs. them,” whether it is “Texans vs. Mexicans,” or militias vs. the FBI, and even good vs. evil, is almost always a delusion, and these men on one side were in part so deluded because of the likes of O’Keefe. As Saul said, he spews toxicity, half-truths, and outright lies, such as the suggestion that President Keane, the ostensible antagonist for at least this season, ordered the murder of a child on his redneck compound. That falsehood escalates a tense situation until everyone is removed from reality, including the FBI forces who are presented as almost equally shortsighted and trigger happy.

The scenario of a 16-year-old kid running after his dog is a pure contrivance, but it doesn’t feel any less authentic than the deterioration of the situation in Waco, especially with the shooting of the dog almost acting as a taunt of the child, daring him to raise his rifle. The situation was better handled by the authority figures on the government’s side, because it isn’t a case of the Rebels vs. the Empire; and if nothing else at least those in charge would prefer not to see dead citizens on the six o’clock news. But that reality does not need to occur for it to be reported as such.

So the media critique of the season continues with acute cruelty. A man, who may or may not be just a redneck blogger or a professional disruptor, sneaks into the hospital and takes a photo of the kid lying on a hospital bed and crops the image so that no one can see the army of doctors trying to save his life. It works like a charm.

He spreads it on social media, and the professional media machine in turn fails to vet the image in a rush to compete with eyeballs on Twitter and Facebook, so a fake news story finds at least momentary life as cable news fodder. President Keane, in the other part of the episode, will rage in an amusing jab at her real-life counterpart about her not giving a damn about a “thumbs up from talk show morning hosts,” but in the current state of things, the world does care. It probably wouldn’t matter to conspiracy theorists, and the parasites who capitalize on their stupidity like O’Keefe, if the media did eventually confirm the boy was alive and even interviewed the lad (look up the ignorance surrounding “Pizzagate” for more). But there wasn’t time for even that.

The child’s father shoots the FBI agent they took hostage, and angry men with guns open fire on other angry men with guns—one side probably imagines themselves to be Eliot Ness (the Kevin Costner one, not the real life Treasury agent), and the others think they’re big John Wayne killing inhuman foes. But the truth they create between their skewed perceptions doesn’t feel that far off from our own. We’ve seen these scenarios for decades in real-life, and with NRA tensions flaring once more, it is easy to imagine our increasingly partisan nation sparking brief shooting wars like this.

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When O’Keefe is dragged out of the wreckage, the faux-patriot who promised to prevent anyone from getting hurt—yet could only standby haplessly, absolving himself from the responsibility that Saul tried to place on him—is unsubtly using Old Glory as a cloth to stop him from choking on the venom he has spread to a now dead household. It is unclear in the aftermath how many died. The two patriarchs who thought themselves the strongest are corpses, and so are some of the women, but I could not make out if one was the mother whose disdain O’Keefe pretended he could not see. Presumably, as the firing began with children in the middle, there will be dead babes too on the evening news next week.

The only thing that could potentially stop this from becoming a flashpoint in cultural prejudices is that the boy who lived will now have a long time to think about what O’Keefe’s visit meant, including him calling his family the lunatic fringe, and then doing nothing but talk when his presence got them all killed.

Until that potential twist though, it makes Keane and Wellington’s political maneuvers seem comical. The episode even dryly began with Keane fuming in Wellington’s house about what she believed was joint chief insubordination. She claims she came to his home, because she didn’t want the intelligence services listening to her phone. The irony is not missed by the rather droll cut to Carrie watching this exact conversation on her hidden cameras. Wellington reveals he used her authorization, and the episode’s biggest suspension of disbelief occurs when she does not fire him on the spot.

Be that as it may, the two think they have a “win.” But now that will be completely wiped away when it’s revealed that Keane’s FBI opened fire on what is essentially Trump Country. It will be an unfair wrap to place on Keane, but that bit of media criticism is all too easy to write. And we’ve seen in the past how erratically Keane acts when placed under intense scrutiny. The claims of her being a tyrant tend to have a self-fulfilling prophecy component.

So Carrie and Max work quickly in an hour that mostly sidelines them to underscoring what we already know: Wellington’s sometime-friend-with-benefits definitely paid off a guard to murder a treacherous general, and she did so by acquiring about $50,000 on the drive over. It would never be enough to convict, but let’s just say it’d be a hell of a smoking gun to start with for Robert Mueller. However, Carrie and Dante have no legal leverage, and the show hints that this could destroy them again. Once more Carrie’s sister glowers disapprovingly over her lack of positive choices for her health and child, and Carrie then suggests what they do next could cost Dante his job.

At this point, if I’d hazard some speculation: Carrie will get out of this relatively unscathed, because we’ve seen her home life wrecked far too often, but the man she is trusting to watch her back, as she makes the highly short-sighted decision to take uppers and downers to manage her other medication, will lose everything.

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Of course he’ll have to get in line after this week’s episode which suggested, like a thriller from ‘70s cinema, we’re all doomed.


5 out of 5