I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I miss the frenetic, action-packed Homeland of past seasons. Sure, season six has offered some strong character work, but we’re halfway finished and I’m still waiting for it to really build momentum. Perhaps it’s a slow burn that’ll pay off in the second half — Homeland has played this game before, in which slower episodes start the season and then chaos unfolds in the back half — but even with the death of a major character and the return of another one, I’m waiting for the pace to quicken, and hoping it does so soon.
Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) is at the police station, waiting to see Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend), who was arrested at her house at the end of the last episode. She’s obviously concerned, but she also has a few questions about his nighttime surveillance mission. After waiting for hours, she learns Quinn isn’t there. He went straight to Bellevue, and he’ll be on lockdown for 72 hours. She’ll have to investigate herself.
The president is speaking on TV, encouraging his successor, PEOTUS Elizabeth Keane (Elizabeth Marvel) to strengthen the Patriot Act and avoid another Sekou Bah. Was this young man made a patsy to ensure that the incoming leader of the free world wouldn’t pull back on the war on terror? Keane is increasingly frustrated at the fact that she’s sequestered while the lame-duck president makes speeches in lower Manhattan. It doesn’t make sense.
Carrie finds Conlin (Dominic Fumusa), hoping that he’ll get to the bottom of what Quinn discovered, and how it relates to the explosion. She shows him the photos. There was a man across the street. He was watching Carrie. He drove to the same company where Sekou worked, and he did so the night before Sekou’s van exploded. What the hell does all of this mean? Carrie suggests that maybe Sekou didn’t know there was a bomb in the van. At first, Conlin plays high and mighty, but even he has to admit that it doesn’t add up.
While Carrie and Conlin launch their own investigation, Saul is trying to find some information about Tova (Hadar Ratzon Rotem), Dar Adal’s (F. Murray Abraham) Israeli contact who could be closely tied to whatever is happening with the manipulation around the story of the Iranian nuclear program. Interestingly, he faces pushback from his own people as they lie about Tova’s surveillance file. Saul gets an admirer who works for the government to admit that Tova is off the leash. She’s not being surveilled anymore. What’s going on?
Meanwhile, Conlin’s C.I. comes to him for protection and Conlin is pissed. He shows him a picture of the mystery man that Quinn followed and the C.I. has no idea who it is. This is a bit of an overwritten and overacted scene, but it reminds me of a great film called T(ERROR). It’s about the inherent flaw in a system in which people are rewarded for turning other people in — and how they’ll eventually do whatever it takes to be “right.” Seek it out.
Through back channels, Saul winds up meeting with Victor (Ronald Guttman) to discuss Tova. Eventually, Victor explains that Tova has been traveling a lot, which is inherently suspicious, and gives him the file, but it’s made clear that Saul now owes him a favor. It’s only a matter of time until that favor will be called in. Maybe not until a future season, but eventually.
While Carrie goes to talk to Quinn, which does not go well — Quinn now thinks that Carrie is working for “them” too — Conlin actually does some investigating. He traces the jeep that Quinn followed to a mysterious company, into which he sneaks, pretending to be a job candidate. The pool of candidates are taken deep below ground, and Conlin leaves the group, finding a room filled with tables, chairs, and fiber optics. What do they do here? How are they related to the bombing? He’s caught before he can get too far, and guards escort him out. He wants to discuss what he’s discovered with Carrie at his house and texts her his address. Anyone who’s watched this show knows what’s coming next.
Before that happens, though, PEOTUS Keane has an adventure. While Chief of Staff Rob Emmons (Hill Harper) is finally coming to meet her, she’s headed in the other direction, smuggled out of the safe house by a woman named Majorie Diehl (Deborah Hedwall) who senses the urgency of her plight. Keane and her driver have a heart-to-heart on the way back to New York. They are both mothers of sons who died fighting for our country, but they see the war — both its purpose and results — in very different ways. Keane regrets voting for a war that killed her son, and the sons of other people. Her new friend doesn’t like to think that her son died for a regretful cause. When Keane finally gets to New York City, she’s gained some new insight and inspiration. She gives a hell of a speech about who we are as Americans, much better than the earlier one from the sitting president.
Carrie gets to Conlin’s house to find the back door open and blood on the floor. Food is sitting out, as if someone was interrupted. A man walks into another room in the background while Carrie goes upstairs to find Conlin dead on the floor, a bullet in his head and a gun in his hand. They’re trying to make it look self-inflicted. The man who killed Conlin closes the door to make it sound like he just left, but Carrie doesn’t fall for the ruse. She hides to avoid discovery, then runs to her car and drives away, rushing to get Frannie, who could be in danger now too.
Later that night, the always-reliable Max (Maury Sterling) comes by to guard Carrie and Frannie, and says he’ll install security in the morning. Carrie sits in the dark, scared. Fade to black and pull up on Quinn, strapped to a bed. Someone turns off a light in the hall, then mysterious figures rush in, inject Quinn with something, and throw him on a gurney. He’s whisked down a hall and taken into a waiting vehicle, where he sees … Astrid! “Hello, Peter,” she says.
• Given this is Nina Hoss’s first appearance this season, allow me to preach the quality of her film work, particularly in Christian Petzold’s amazing Phoenix, for which she should have been Oscar-nominated. She rules, and I’m hopeful that her return to Homeland will give it a much-needed injection of adrenaline.
• Having said that, Marvel’s driving scene was very good. It allowed her much more character development than we’ve seen so far this season.
• We’re halfway done. Who’s your MVP of the first half? There aren’t a lot of standouts, to be honest. I guess I’ll go with Marvel, whom I find the most intriguing, especially considering how her character is poised to influence the back half.
• Homeland needs a real shock — something we truly don’t see coming — to kick off the second half of the season.