Homeland: Why is This Night Different? Review

Peter Quinn has a kill order on Carrie Mathison. And Carrie Mathison is in the same room as Peter Quinn. Here's our review!

Oh, Homeland. Just when I think that I am done with your plotting and contrivances, along comes a strong hour of television that pulls me back in. I suppose I’m paraphrasing Michael Corleone at the moment from the not-so-classic The Godfather Part III, but I could just as easily be referencing our dear, sweet and surprisingly maternal Carrie Mathison.

For the last three episodes, Carrie Mathison insisted that she was out of the CIA and the espionage game, even as she demanded to stay behind in Lebanon to investigate why someone is trying to kill her and her ostensibly nice German boss (I’m sure that no skeletons will come tumbling out of that closet any day now). But now the truth has come hitting as hard as blow to the head from Peter Quinn. She’ll never be fully out, and the confrontation between these two star-crossed lovers/killers is the type of drama Homeland was built for.

Ever since the second episode ended with Quinn taking an apparent hit order from Saul out on Carrie, we spent a whole hour waiting for this to come to a knife’s point. And while I did not review last week’s episode to prove my two theories—a) Quinn would not go through with it, and that b) Allison Carr was behind the hit not Saul—I’ll still pat myself on the back here for being right on both predictions. Just take my word for it.

But it isn’t necessarily that it played out how I expected that makes it satisfying; it’s that the whole hour continued to have me second guess myself and really wallow in the characters’ emotions. This episode was wholly and intentionally built around giving Claire Danes a showcase hour of anguish, and her range of disbelief and indignation giving way to grief was unsurprisingly perfect. Thinking that her mentor and best friend—even if they apparently have been on bad terms for years—had put a hit out on her was already enough anxiety to play around with. However, the sequence where Quinn makes her record a video message to her daughter that appears like she is about to die is the kind of morbid high-concept daydream that this series once spat out every week. We get all of Danes’ crying and lip-quivering tics, and they deliver like a haymaker.

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These moments help to also overshadow some potential problems with the subplot. For example, if Carr (who was suspicious ever since she tried to have Dar Adal push Saul out of Germany to save her own neck) is resourceful enough to break into Saul’s kill list, why would she use Peter Quinn to kill Carrie? Presumably, Saul has more than one assassin in his circle, and she still uses the one who has a very long and complicated history with Mathison? She then attempts to cover her tracks by having Quinn killed, but in reality even if Carrie wasn’t in the car, she seems overconfident in thinking this hit would go down easily.

Similarly, I grow increasingly tired of stock supporting characters doing stupid things to move the plot along. For example, the cliché German dumb-dumb hacker with a requisitely sleazy lifestyle of bribes and the German sex trade makes a deal with the Russian intelligence and doesn’t think twice about being driven in a car to a secret meeting place? It’s almost as thinly contrived as the journalist mouthpiece leaking intelligence secrets on the Internet because she felt snubbed by a phone call at that exact moment.

There is also some fairly dry stuff this hour about Saul and Allison Carr wining, dining, and threatening a Syrian ex-patriot to return home and start a campaign to replace Assad. Of course, this plan will never succeed, because Homeland wants to mirror the headlines, not imagine a fictional alternate universe where the biggest problems of today (such as Assad clinging to power through mass murder while ISIS overruns his country) are fixed by Saul Berenson’s big bushy beard.

Nonetheless, the hour had plenty going for it in the character interactions between those who truly matter. And in this case, it was mostly Carrie and Peter Quinn. I especially liked how far gone Peter is after spending two years assassinating targets in Syria, yet we and Carrie can still see his pained jealousy that she moved on and made a life for herself away from the company.

Another strong character moment was seeing Saul attend Seder in a wealthy powerbroker’s family home. He might be breaking bread with fellow Jews, but there is still that disquiet tension between him and his faith, as well as the growing one between the U.S. and Israel as these two interests are suddenly not-so-congruent. The suggestion that Israel is apprehensive about ISIS and the Syrian regime killing each other as long as it maintains chaos near Iran is also quite a telling and bold point made by a series with more finesse than its depiction of liberal mouthpieces as self-serving journos or Russian punching bags.

As for the future, I am sure that Carr put a hit on Carrie because she is protecting her firm’s employer. But I still do not believe the good German is ever so good in a show from the producers of 24. Likewise, if the indication of the ending is that Carr had something to do with blowing up Saul’s intended Syrian strongman, I cannot see the advantage for her since he was a boon for the CIA, as opposed to a thorn in its side (which Carrie is at the moment given her current employment loyalties).

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We will have to see where this goes in the future. But personally, the most interesting things are again the pre-existing characters—such as what will happen if and when Saul discovers that Carrie is “dead.” For now, I am just happy to have a strong episode of Homeland. It’s the first in a good, long while.



3.5 out of 5