This Halloween season you’ll have a number of options should you decide to turn your home into a haunted house. First, you could spend hundreds of dollars on fake cobwebs and spooky-sound-effects CDs. Alternatively, you could just open up a few ectoplasmic ghost traps from your day job of busting ghosts. Or you can do as Homeland’s Carrie Mathison does and simply go off your meds while plastering your living room with photos of the hundreds of people you’ve possibly killed over the years. Why settle for standard-issue spookiness when you can haunt yourself with devastating memories of the past?
The episode title, “Super Powers,” was a clever if distressing riff on Carrie’s bipolar disorder, long an essential component of Homeland’s mania. Every season brings a mental breakdown of some kind, so it was probably for the best that this episode directly confronted our expectations by having Carrie incur that breakdown ASAP. The twist this time was her assertion that an unmedicated state often helps her unravel complicated plots, and for safety she’d be asking her studly boyfriend, Jonas, to act as her personal nurse while she did it. At first, Carrie was indeed productive (those complicated picture-maps can’t be easy to assemble!) and even her sex life seemed very A+. But if we had reason to expect this off-meds situation would all go according to plan (silly us!), that hope evaporated the second Jonas found an empty vodka bottle in the trashcan and then discovered Carrie sitting on the floor muttering about how angels were trying to kill her. Alas, if bipolar disorder ever could be considered a super power, it was not this day.
“Super Powers” echoed another major Homeland trope: the romantic isolated getaway. I think we all hold season one’s cabin interlude with Brody dear to our hearts, and that episode’s fraught coziness was repeated last season when Carrie went into hiding with her teenage asset/lover Aayan. But “Super Powers” had her holed up in the woods outside Berlin following last week’s attempt on her life, so except for a brief jaunt to the airport to place Frannie on a private jet back to the States, Carrie and Jonas were off the grid. Well, almost. As it turned out Jonas kept a burner phone in case of emergencies, which ended up being the fatal security flaw. Peter Quinn needed only abduct Jonas’s young son (with whom he shared custody with his ex) to cause a chain of phone calls that would eventually betray Jonas’s (and Carrie’s) location. Which culminated in a quietly terrifying climax in which a shaky Carrie waited in the woods with a rifle while her attacker drew near the house. The fact that she didn’t know it was Quinn just made it that much more heart-stopping when she fixed him in her crosshairs and pulled the trigger. But of course, Quinn wasn’t going to go down so easily.
In fact, if we’re being real, last week’s tease that Quinn had been tasked to kill Carrie was almost certainly misdirection. For one thing, why weren’t we shown a photograph of the target, per his previous hits? And why were we not shown the fully translated code? For all we know the target wasn’t “MATHISO-” but rather “MATHISON’S BOYFRIEND.” Or maybe even “MATHISON’S BDAY PARTY BYOB.” What I’m saying is, at some point it occurred to me that Jonas himself was the actual target here, and Carrie was probably NOT going to be murdered by Quinn in the third episode of season five. (But then again, my theories are not the most airtight; per reader consensus, Peter’s victim last week said “bitte” rather than “Peter” in a German accent, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.) Anyway, regardless of who the real target may be, Carrie straight-up shot Quinn in the back this week, and he was able to shake it off and put her in a sleeper hold before dosing her with a sedative. No matter our expectations for these two characters, these were surprising turns of events!
Probably the most surprising non-Carrie twist was that Saul is having some kind of sexual romance with Allison. Surprising primarily because, aw, is he completely split up with Mira now? But also, at one point in this episode Saul read Allison the riot act for trying to get him thrown under the bus last week (of course Dar Adal wasn’t about to side with some rando CIA station agent over his bestie, Saul) and the hostility in Saul’s eyes was extremely convincing. So what are we to make of their secret affair? Were they somehow working together to game the system? That appears to be the case, as they were now somehow both safe from CIA recrimination, and an ambassador has been unceremoniously scapegoated. Earlier, when Carrie described Saul as a changed man (for the worse), we could have written this off as just bad blood between former friends. But the proof was now before us: Saul is more and more often resorting to unethical behavior in order to gin up his power. I’d be surprised if this show ever spins him into an outright villain within the CIA. But at this rate, maybe not?
The Lady Snowden plotline continued this week, with the main hacker dude successfully making contact with Laura and passing to her what he believed to be the remaining documents he’d stolen from the CIA. But when Laura went to decode them on her secret laptop she was greeted with only an animated middle finger, suggesting that perhaps the hacker’s more money-grubbing accomplice had switched out the USB drives so that he could sell the documents to a strange man in a Berlin nightclub. Or something? Not exactly riveting stuff at the moment, but I have a feeling this document-leak plotline might be headed somewhere interesting. Fingers crossed!
“Super Powers” contained roughly zero explosions but still felt major and fraught, as an unmedicated Carrie is a terrifying Carrie. Whether she’s doing lines of crushed-up caffeine pills off the kitchen counter or screaming at her boyfriend to call her a war criminal, Carrie — and this episode — meant business. The cleverest — and most affecting — part of it all, was how Carrie’s ghosts aligned perfectly with Homeland’s ghosts. Carrie calls upon hers to help navigate a labyrinth just as Homeland calls upon its tropes to keep us thrilled. Five seasons in, Carrie’s ghosts are manifold, but the only thing we’re haunted by is the sense that this show is still as great as it ever was. Now let’s get back on those meds before the rest of the angels arrive.