This Homeland review contains spoilers.
Homeland Season 7 Episode 6
Right off the bat, the sixth episode of Homeland’s seventh season has an advantage over the five hours that proceeded it: Carrie and Saul are onscreen together again. Finally. Indeed, the show is always missing a little bit of its original magic when it keeps Carrie and her CIA Papa Bear away from each other for too long. Whether they’re collaborating, fighting, or some weird harmonic symbiosis of both elements—which is the case of tonight’s episode—they’re always an intriguing duo to watch. Especially how when even by speaking for a brief few minutes, they may have inadvertently turned the rest of season 7 on its head.
Yep, it was Carrie’s concise but high-stakes convo with President Keane’s national security adviser where the rest of season 7 seemed to be lay out for our viewing pleasure. As it turns out, it wasn’t Keane and Wellington who killed Gen. McClendon; it was the Russians! While this became more apparent last week, the breadth of the developing conspiracy is only now faintly comprehensible. For the record, it is quite a testament to Carrie’s faith in her mentor—and/or how quick toward risk-taking Ms. Mathison is while on uppers—that she thought it was a good idea to casually drop into a chitchat that she is illegally spying on the home life of the White House Chief of Staff, and Saul Berenson’s co-worker and strongest advocate in the West Wing. Oops.
Nevertheless, this is exactly what Carrie does because she is so desperate in talking out with someone about the peculiarity of Simone being Wellington’s murderess. It is a curious choice that she thinks it is safer to confide in Saul, a literal president’s man, than in Dante. Given how the episode ends, we can now know why the writers had her make this specific decision, however last week showed her develop quick loyalty and trust in Dante… which Saul shatters in a matter of minutes.
To Saul’s credit, he stops himself from blowing a complete gasket when Carrie reveals she’s been doing Wellington dirty, and listens to the conundrum of seeing Simone do one thing, but then not letting a blackmail threat affect her relationship with Wellington. Noticing the intersection with his subplot, Saul suggests that the same Russian spy syndicate that created the fake news scandal of a boy dying on an operating table is now also the network that is trying to frame Wellington as a traitor in the hopes of putting the fragile presidency’s back against the ropes. Further he suggests that the FBI agent who came to Carrie with information could be an unwitting (or witting) co-conspirator with the no-good Ruskies.
This is a huge bombshell that turns season 7 on its head and certainly has immediate ramifications. Carrie goes from having romantic banter with Dante to being convinced he is a traitor and taking drastic actions—which we’ll unpack in a moment—while this crystallizes the level of threat to the state of events for Saul. And as bad as our real world predicament is now, a manufactured story (Russian or otherwise) that suggests the POTUS and chief of staff planned and organized an assassination is a whole other ballpark of crazy. We are talking the potential collapse of our constitutional institutions… which makes this plot twist somewhat more acceptable.
Because otherwise I am not too crazy about what this will mean for season 7, as it resembles too clean of a narrative pivot. Suddenly the off-balanced president who showed demonstrable fascist tendencies last season—and by ordering McClendon’s murder this season—is the victim of a Russian conspiracy to smear her with fake news. Granted, this kind of ambiguity has some impressively nuanced implications about patriotism and tribalism—she might be somewhat tyrannical, but she’s American, dammit!—yet it feels like it could almost be more of a case of the Homeland writing staff changing the subject to something more topical, which is namely Russian interference in our democracy.
Be that as it may, season 7 could be converging these elements so that when Keane gets her back pushed completely against the wall in the coming weeks, she’ll lash out as irrationally, and with as much shortsightedness, as she did at the end of season 6. It remains to be seen how they’re playing this, however in the present it certainly upends everything we thought we knew in the past five episodes.
In the case of Saul, it changes the narrative from him being a man reluctantly collaborating with a potentially dangerous administration to one who is trying to protect it and his government from collapsing under the weight of damnable fake news. He and the viewers even get a very nice seminar on how easily an intelligence community can manipulate social media to disseminate lies and falsehoods, as seen when his banished-to-academia colleague runs a power point presentation on the threat.
Meanwhile, Carrie is right in the thick of the world falling into crisis, thanks in part to a plan she seemed to enact. Because going after Wellington was her idea, right? Yet if it was, how can we explain how smoothly she, Dante, and her crew were able to ascertain intelligence that nailed Simone to the wall? In reality, we’d like to think all intelligence gathering is that precise, but in the world of dramatic television, it was far too easy to get Simone in a room with a U.S. Senator who has enough information to cause her to cut a deal and squeal on the “crimes” of Wellington.
Carrie seems to think as much, as Sen. Paley finds an all-too-cooperative and receptive Simone. When Carrie starts panicking and telling Dante that she thinks they’ve been set-up to think it’s Wellington, he does that one thing she despises: ask if she is on her meds. Never mind that he she requested he keep her balanced, that is enough to make her suspicious. And Saul’s hunch about the man who identified Simone being in on the Russian conspiracy is enough to send Carrie over the edge from disappointment with Dante to downright paranoia about the man.
It is fair in spy games to suspect someone like Dante. After all, it has been well established that Dante’s career has been in the gutter for years at the FBI—that is just the kind of profile any foreign intelligence agency would seek to exploit and turn. Further, she is not Saul who let his feelings for Allison Carr blind him to how he had been manipulated during the whole of the dreadful season 5. Carrie will be no one’s fool. She needs to know.
So while Saul’s Russian asset is busy getting himself killed by the series’ new Russian big bad in a predictable plot twist, Carrie plays the honey pot to Dante. She and the dudes are having a victory party, and as a viewer personally spending too much time watching where Carrie’s hands are around Dante’s drinks, it did not dawn on me once that they were all in on giving Dante a little shuteye. So Carrie flirts and Dante takes the bait, following her home and falling on the couch for a nice long sleep.
There is something chillingly awesome about how efficient Carrie is—who can only seemingly do romance when she’s faking it—and how quickly she brings the rest of the team into Dante’s abode. The hour ends ambiguously enough with all of them rummaging through his stuff while we viewers must decide for ourselves whether he is a traitor.
Personally, I am going to err on the theory that he is not. This is actually based on no evidence whatsoever, as much of it would be condemning in retrospect. First of all, the man’s shabby career again makes him appear like an easy mark, at least on paper, for persuasion. He also did lead Carrie to Simone. There is even the fact he is an FBI man yet has all those tattoos, which is wildly incongruous with his profession… but we imagine the last bit is just a wrinkle in casting Morgan Spector in the role.
And yet, I will posit that Dante is innocent just because it is too easy of a red herring to now assume he’s guilty. He has been doubted and second guessed for years in the bureau, so now it will create some nice dramatic irony and tension that the one man who believed in Carrie has now lost the benefit of the doubt from her. There is also the fact we’ve seen a lot of double agents over the years on the show with Allison Carr and whatshisname in Pakistan in season 4. Even Brody’s doubtful allegiances proved to be the central hook of the show in its original inception. So a plot twist where the man we suspected had betrayed his country is simply a wild goose chase that divides our “heroes,” makes for some great dramatic storytelling developments—as opposed to a full-ahead rehash.
Either way, how this develops in the next few weeks will probably come to define season 7, as well as the fate of Elizabeth Keane’s presidency. The proto-fascist we despised we now root for, and the one good American could now be a Russian traitor. Season 7 is filled with troubling ironies about the shifting concepts of loyalty, trust, and even patriotism. As the waters beneath us move, it is impossible to do anything but go toward the current’s intended direction… even if it makes us anxious just how far from shore and our once trusted safety nets we begin to drift. In fact, it could be those safety nets that drown us all.