Homeland Season 7 Episode 9 Review: Useful Idiot

Homeland makes some interesting (and not so interesting) turns in tonight's episode, which sets the stage for the home stretch.

This Homeland review contains spoilers.

Homeland Season 7 Episode 9

In a delirium and completely off the reservation, Carrie breaks down as she enters the hospital bedroom of Dante Allen. Seeing the turncoat and brief onetime lover lying (probably) dead in his bed, just as she has previously watched Brody, Aayan, and Peter Quinn die before him, she is feeling some understandable turmoil, which is only compounded by the fact that she almost turned her own daughter into roadkill.

Screaming to the heavens, she sees the ghost of herself as a nurse, ready to cap off this bizarro surrealism by demanding, “What did you do?”

Personally, I’d hesitate to go so far as to say “you’ve lost the plot,” but I would definitely say tonight’s episode missed a step, making the first wrong move in what has been Homeland’s best season in five years. While is not at all fatal for the series or anyone in it—besides, you know, Dante—it certainly is disappointing after the last few weeks’ rollicking twists and turns. Because for tonight, Homeland twisted itself into a knot of soap operatic proportions.

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The episode begins benign enough with everyone dealing with the fallout from last week’s shocker: Simone is a traitor but has gone to ground, and Dante Allen has confessed his treason but may not recover from his heart attack. The first warning sign of trouble, in retrospect, is that the only character of importance Saul had hovering over Dante was Carrie, when in fact he should have armed personnel both inside his room, and three beside the door. Upon immediately seeing the inexplicably lax security, it became obvious that Dante was a dead man sleeping, whether he recovered or not.

Fortunately for Saul and company, he did recover long enough to both size up again his choice of confessing his litany of sins to Carrie, and then decide to continue singing. Carrie played this scene very well, convincing the dumb bastard that he should betray anyone who’d dare poison him… by telling his chief poisoner exactly what she wants to hear. He gives up the entire Russian operation, including a Twitter code that apparently burns down the SVR’s whole network that made this happen, flushing close to two dozen out for Saul and the FBI to begin visiting.

So all’s well and good, and at least on the Saul end, this continues in an intriguing fashion. First Saul, Keane, and Wellington bring in Sen. Paley and let him know he’s been a useful idiot, which is the highlight of the episode. His incredulity at hearing about Russians obviously is meant to mimic certain Republicans now who at least feign ignorance to what obviously is happening in the world. Yet his dismissive attitude turns to indignation and then outright horror. Having him literally ask why a “UI” is next to his and Carrie’s names (when really he should know) is just delicious. Sir, we’re listing you as a useful idiot. It just makes sense. Sir.

When Paley goes to whine to his legislative aide, Dylan Baker gets to really chew the scenery as he wallows in his stupidity. The episode even tricked me into thinking the aide is also a traitor, because “Russians,” and that Paley inadvertently tipped her off they’re burning down the SVR network. However, as that happened anyway, I suppose I’m just paranoid these days, no? Instead he immediately looks for the political posture he’ll need to withstand the shitstorm to come. And frankly, in reality, it should come no matter what happened to Dante, but I presume the “twist” will be Paley will swing back to antagonistic when he finds out that Dante died under FBI custody in a hospital after conveniently having a heart attack. (We’ll get to more on that later.)

In the meantime, Saul and his team have a nice ethics discussion about hacking and the dark web, which is just repetitious enough that I think we understood what was happening while still being so vague that we can’t check the proverbial science of it. Either way, the episode gives a light thumbs up to breaking into telecommunications to spy on people. So that happened. But like The Dark Knight, it proved effective, so it is hard to argue with it in this fictitious context.

Be that as it may, it also makes the Russian storyline err closer and closer to the side of 24 histrionics. While Russian Big Bad #3 on the series didn’t go full Bond villain and run into that hospital guns blazing, it wasn’t too far off from that either. For beyond setting up his nigh obsessive compulsive disorder to win and “protect” his network (or professional standing), his plan doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Dante has already given up the network, and in theory there are going to be a lot more loose cannons singing to the FBI soon enough, including that finance bro traitor from Greenwich, who called Big Bad to complain. Seriously, at this point the damage is only growing. While with Dante dead, Simone can’t be named as a traitor, the U.S. government should have irrefutable proof for at least its leaders—executive and legislative—to understand we’re in a new Cold War.

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“Should,” however, is the operative word here. Because Russian Big Bad does get to Dante in a moment that begins ingeniously enough: he shoots his loyal fool and then drives him into the hospital. I like this moment, if only for the line, “You’ll be fine, we’re at a hospital.” If that’s the case, then why a stomach wound? Because secretly, he’s more than happy that this will be one less pair of loose lips after Dante’s gone.

Meanwhile, the episode’s espionage games begin to fall apart when Russian Big Bad sneaks into Dante’s room with ease. I was willing to overlook how easy he snaked his way around the Virginian hospital, because that was complete chaos and no one knew to be on the lookout for Russian spies. But the FBI technically has Dante in custody at this point, and he is now at the center of a major White House maneuver. The idea that one guy could get in there that easily is preposterous.

But absurd is met by worse absurdity with the Carrie subplot tonight. Genuinely, we’ve already reached the climax of the personal narrative this season, in which Carrie’s entire relationship with her sister and daughter achieved a crashing crescendo when Carrie was given the final choice, family or career, daughter or country. Carrie chose the latter every time. Her walking out of that door might’ve been the hardest thing she’s ever experienced this side of a Brody hanging, but she did it. It was final.

I expected some aftermath, some blowback and a denouement, but how Homeland decided to stretch out and repeat this beat to the point of near parody was without a doubt the most grating thing Homeland has done this side of a CIA-manipulated Child Services storyline. First Carrie confronts the brother-in-law we all hate, and who proves again ever so hateful. Sure enough, he “reluctantly” reveals his sister is getting a lawyer, so Carrie in turn does a classic Carrie freak out and decides to take Frannie out of school, even though she knows this kind of high drama will only backfire.

And it does. Spectacularly. Because in addition to us now facing a genuine sister vs. sister legal subplot on our espionage show, the actual espionage part begins crashing into the legal antics at the worst possible moment. Like Eugene Levy walking in on Jason Biggs at always the most inopportune moment, Carrie’s professional life cascades into her personal one again and again at the precise point that leads her to ruin. While, yes, it is entirely possible Dante Allen’s ominous phone call would happen simultaneously with her picking up her daughter at school, the fact that the writers put her in that position right after she walked out of her sister’s house two episodes ago without looking back is not great drama; it’s farcical.

So by the time Frannie comes running out of the school and Carrie almost runs her over, giving more fodder to lawyers to explain why Frannie won’t be in season 8, it’s descended into soapy dreck. I’m sure that kind of tragedy, or a near enough one, is also sadly very possible in day-to-day life. As is Carrie running a stop sign and hitting a school bus… but let’s not go there on this show.

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But we did, and as a result, we’re witnessing diminishing returns as Carrie’s life falls part yet again. Been there, done that. And you know what? Last week, Carrie agreed. If she wanted Frannie back, she should’ve checked herself into a hospital as soon as Dante woke up. But then we can’t have our espionage show. So pick one. Except Homeland already has, which makes this episode mostly not just ludicrous… but redundant.

So next week, Carrie will have to deal with the realization that all the men in her life die—not that Dante is comparable to the torture and brainwash Brody endured—and that she is attracted to some fudged up individuals. Meanwhile, the good guys should again take what win they can and begin flipping the rest of their Russian assets who went to ground. However, Paley will probably do something stupid after Dante’s death and blame Keane, while the Russian spies they wrangled will probably become protected once Paley or whoever leaks that this information was attained without a FISA warrant.

Maybe I’ll be wrong on both counts. I was wrong about the Frannie story being over, so hopefully there is another twist coming I can’t predict that will turn season 7 back on course.


2.5 out of 5