In an interesting reversal of expectations, the Manhattan explosion that ended “Flash of Light” doesn’t result in a globe-hopping, action-heavy episode this week. Instead, the drama comes home for Carrie Mathison, as a tense situation becomes amplified through the prism of Peter Quinn’s PTSD and paranoia. Although, as the saying goes, it’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you.
This week introduces us to a new player who thrives on paranoia, an Alex Jones type (right down to the accent and bluster) who hosts a show called Real Truth. Jake Weber plays the host, an opportunistic jerk who sees the explosion as a chance to rail against the incoming President Keane. How on Earth an attack between Election Day and Inauguration Day could fall solely at the feet of the president-elect defies logic, but then again, so do many things in the real political sphere nowadays.
As she’s being criticized on live TV, Keane is rushed to safety. The politician who ran on a platform of not overreacting to attacks feels reticent to run away — and she should, since Real Truth later tries to portray her as a coward for doing so. This week’s episode is all about sidelining people who are merely reacting to a unique situation, including Keane and Quinn. She’s sent to a safe house, the location of which she doesn’t even know, but apparently Dar Adal can find it on his GPS. Keane is being controlled in every way, which certainly seems possible after a major attack, but also feels like a statement on how war hawks can squash resistance to their strategies, no matter what.
Meanwhile, one of the worst days of Peter Quinn’s life begins. As Carrie, Franny, and Quinn watch reports about the attack, Carrie gets a call from Reda Hashem, who tells her that it was Sekou who blew himself up, killing two and injuring six. Sekou’s mother and sister are being interrogated and Carrie has to go help them while Reda figures out their next move. They got a terrorist out of jail. What do they do now? Carrie asks Quinn to watch Franny until the nanny shows up. She’ll soon regret that decision.
Conlin calls Carrie, furious about what has transpired. He’s going to tell everyone that Carrie essentially blackmailed him for the release of a terrorist. He needs to know where she got the recording of Conlin and his informant that led to Sekou’s release. She won’t reveal her contact at the NSA, but when she goes to warn him, she learns something stunning: He didn’t leave the recording for her. Yes, she asked him, but he didn’t come through. Someone else did. A third party conspired to get Sekou released, likely knowing exactly what would happen next.
As this all goes down, the media shows up outside Carrie’s house. How they got there (and how quickly it turns into a demonstration) stretches credulity a bit, but Homeland has a habit of doing that to quicken a plot. Before the nanny even shows up, dozens of reporters are knocking on Carrie’s door, sending Quinn into a PTSD-induced panic attack. He grabs one of the reporters, chokes her, then throws her down the front stairs. When the nanny gets there, he won’t let her leave. We have a hostage situation. It gets even worse when a protester (again, what exactly are they protesting?) throws a rock through the window and Quinn responds like a soldier in war would respond — by shooting him. Suddenly, SWAT teams have descended on Carrie Mathison’s house.
While Quinn is being pressured, so is Keane. Dar arrives at her safe house, and I don’t buy for a second that he would be allowed to do so during a national crisis, but whatever. He updates Keane on the saga of Sekou Bah, including Carrie’s involvement. She needs to lay low. Why does it feel like that’s exactly where Dar Adal wants her?
As Carrie explains to Conlin that the recording came from someone other than her contact, she learns about what’s happening at home. She runs to the scene, explaining to the officers that Quinn not only has PTSD, but that he’s a trained killer. If they send people in, he might take them out. On cue, a SWAT team officer rappels in from the roof and Quinn gets the jump on him. Now he has another hostage and more firepower. These scenes are tense and really well-shot, even if the entire situation feels somewhat unbelievable.
When Saul and Dar reunite, Saul explains what he learned. In short, something isn’t right. He explains that the cigarettes he found after the Nafisi interrogation proved to him that the entire thing was a charade. Nafisi must have been in that surveillance room, which means he was likely trained on what to say to Saul. To what end? Is the entire story of a parallel nuclear program a ruse? Saul explains that he has Javadi looking into it.
While those two old friends catch up, Carrie is trying to talk Quinn down. She takes the blame for what happened. She needs to see her daughter. She comes in, hiding Frannie away in the bathroom with the nanny. The cop’s body cam comes up and the agents outside realize that the three women are out of harm’s way. It’s time to break in. As Quinn tells Carrie about the guy who’s been watching them across the street, the SWAT agents breach. Carrie jumps on Quinn as a human shield to make sure they don’t shoot him.
With Quinn taken into custody, Carrie finds his phone in the rubble. (Really, Homeland? The SWAT team wouldn’t lock the scene down given what happened?) She sees the pictures of the window across the street and the man coming out. She sees his license plate and the journey Quinn went on the other night, including the stop at Sekou’s company. Something is very, very wrong.
• The Latin meaning of this week’s title: “an act or situation provoking or justifying war.”
• I admire the willingness of Homeland’s producers to go short. This episode was only 45 minutes, which is more like 40 without credits. A lot of other TV networks and platforms could learn from this example: Just because you have an hour doesn’t mean you need to use all of it. Ahem, Netflix.
• Rupert Friend was great in this episode, as he always is, and the scenes in Carrie’s house were really well-directed, but I just didn’t quite believe it would all go down that quickly. What did you think?
• It’s hard to believe we’re almost halfway through this season. How long can Keane stay marginalized? What will happen to Quinn? And when will Carrie and Saul finally reunite? The show has always been better when they do.
• My theory that all of the Sekou drama happened too easily paid off with the reveal that someone else is pulling strings. I love it when that happens.