This relatively somber, slow episode ends with an explosion … literally. From here on out, it’ll be fascinating to watch Homeland present a world in which international tensions are at their highest, especially as issues of racial and religious profiling dominate our real-world headlines and our president’s Twitter feed. How does Homeland play differently when #MuslimBan is a trending topic and stories about potential war with the Middle East feel disturbingly prevalent? As Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham) and Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) argue over whether or not to spark such a war, one can’t but think Homeland is echoing the issues of early 2017 in ways that the writers couldn’t have possibly predicted.
“A Flash of Light” also contains an interesting throughline: whistleblowing, and the information gained by having an inside man. Sekou Bah (J. Mallory McCree) is perceived as having ratted on his own people in order to get out of jail early, something that just doesn’t happen for Muslim men arrested for supporting terrorism. President-elect Elizabeth Keane (Elizabeth Marvel) asks Carrie to give up confidential information, gleaned from her time with Dar and Saul (Mandy Patinkin), to use as a “kill switch,” if you will, for when Dar goes too far. And Saul is pulling the strings on his inside man in the Middle East, an act that could get both of them killed.
Before then, Saul’s journey that led to last week’s cliffhanger progresses to a warehouse in the West Bank. After a serious manhandling and a cloth over his eyes, Saul finally meets with Majid (Shaun Toub), the man he essentially put in place as an informant back in season three. Saul needs to know the truth about the Iranian parallel nuclear program, which would be a violation of the U.S.-Iran agreement. Why does it matter? Majid points out that no matter what he discovers, half of each of their countries will still want to go to war. It’s one of the best scenes of the season so far, and it feels increasingly resonant in an era of “alternative facts.” So what if Majid discovers that there is no program? What will it matter? Saul, being an old-fashioned guy, still values the truth.
So does PEOTUS Keane. Dar tries to pressure the incoming leader of the free world to commit to moving on Iran by leaking a story to the New York Times, minutes before a press conference. It’s an ambush, which is Dar’s style. Keane doesn’t blink. She wants Saul Berenson’s report on the program immediately: “There will be no rush to judgment on the Iran issue.” Dar, on the other hand, wants to go to war.
After the blackmail move that got him released, Sekou arrives at a homecoming party at his apartment, but he immediately feels out of place. While Carrie beams with pride, Reda (Patrick Sabongui) is less pleased. In a very Homeland bit of foreshadowing, he says, “As long as it doesn’t come back and bite us in the ass.” We also learn that Sekou’s people think that he must have sold them out to get released. He needs to affirm that he’s not an informant, and so he breaks the rules of his release and posts a video on his site, outing the C.I. who got Sekou arrested in the first place.
While Keane is trying to get the aforementioned dirt on Dar Adal, Quinn (Rupert Friend) is investigating the man across the street who has been surveilling Carrie and her daughter. He breaks into the apartment and has a look around, the camera cleverly mimicking the POV of a man who’s a bit unstable and has a bit of fuzzy vision. Before he can get too far, the man returns. Does he recognize Quinn? He threatens him, but doesn’t seem to notice that the guy in the lobby also lives in the basement of the house he’s watching.
Meanwhile, Dar ambushes Carrie at the school as she’s picking up her daughter. (It’s totally not okay to have an important political conversation after revealing you know where your colleague’s child is at a certain time every day.) He tells her to “stand down” in her advice to Keane, which she doesn’t take well. He turns up the heat by saying, “I don’t think you understand how vulnerable you are.” Will this kind of aggressive action make it easier for Carrie to sell him out to Keane?
In the West Bank, Saul’s sister wants some answers about Saul’s late-night meeting. She’s understandably upset that the only time her brother has visited in a decade was as cover for his covert operation. Before Saul can leave, another old friend, Etai Luskin (Allan Corduner), knocks at the door. He’s clearly suspicious about Saul’s activities and takes him in for further questioning. Etai feels betrayed by his former colleague, especially if he’s not sharing information about an Arab nuclear program that could put his own people at risk.
While Saul is being taken for a ride, Quinn goes for his own in the middle of the night. He spots the surveillance guy from across the street going out, and follows him. He takes pictures on his phone along the way, seeing him dropped off in an industrial area of town. Quinn parks and gets out, but gets stopped by the cops before he can get too far. He snaps a few more photos, though.
And then we see where Sekou works the next morning. It’s the same place that Quinn was at the night before, connecting some of the dots between Carrie, Quinn, and Sekou. What does the guy watching Carrie have to do with Sekou? Before that line can be drawn, Sekou begins his delivery day, driving a van across the bridge into the city of New York … where it explodes. Car alarms and screams are heard over a cut to black. That’s when we learn that Saul is being let out. “You’re needed back home. There’s been an attack in New York.”
• Sekou clearly didn’t plant the bomb in the van himself, even if that’s what’s likely to be the first story reported — a suicide bombing by an angry suspected terrorist who Carrie helped release. Did the man across the street plant it in the middle of the night? What about Sekou’s co-workers, who seem even more radicalized than him and were angry he took down the video? Did they hill him as revenge for whistleblowing?
• How will the attack and the Iran/Saul/Keane narratives be intertwined? Will it be used as further reason for a new president to go to war?
• It almost seemed too easy how Carrie got Sekou out of jail. What if this was all planned? The arrest, the release, the patsy for an attack — all a plan to initiate a war with Iran? Reda and maybe even Conlin would have to be involved, but it wouldn’t be the craziest plot twist in Homeland history.
• It will be very interesting to see where Homeland goes from here, especially in terms its depictions of Muslim immigrants. No one wants a Homeland in which the Muslim characters are two-dimensionally evil. Let’s hope they handle it well.