This inconsistent, frustrating season of Homeland continues to spin its wheels, saving big-picture issues like the bombing investigation for future episodes, while focusing on another valley in the life of Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes). However, the way this one comes about seriously stretches credulity. As of late, Carrie feels too much like a pawn in a plot device machine; Quinn (Rupert Friend) hasn’t developed much since the premiere; Saul (Mandy Patinkin) even less.
While Quinn is waking up groggy after being abducted from Bellevue in the middle of the night by Astrid (Nina Hoss), Max (Maury Sterling) is setting up Carrie’s house against a possible attack. Now that Carrie knows that whatever Conlin (Dominic Fumusa) discovered got him killed, she’s understandably worried for her safety and that of her daughter.
Speaking of Frannie, her school calls, and the first bullshit detector moment of this episode goes off. Carrie is so nervous about her daughter’s safety that she’s setting up surveillance equipment everywhere, but she still sends her to school? You’re too scared to call the police, but Frannie can’t miss a day or two of kindergarten? Come on. It turns out that Carrie sent her to school and Children’s Services snatched her up, and they want to talk to Carrie, which would never happen in a school setting like that, not unless it was a specific school situation. Carrie tells the Children’s Services agent (Marin Hinkle) that Frannie was traumatized by the Quinn event and then they went home too quickly. Makes sense. They can just go to a hotel, right? Nope, this is a TV show, so Frannie has been put in a state-registered youth home. (Ding, ding, ding, goes the detector again!) I really hope that the agent is really a serial killer in disguise because that would be more believable than an uninjured child being taken from her single parent, who also happens to be a former government agent.
We’ll get back to this silliness. But first, let’s check in with Javadi (Shaun Toub), Saul’s mole in the Middle East, as he comes to America. He gets some special treatment at the airport, but there are dozens of protesters outside, recalling how thousands rushed to airports around the country to protest President Trump’s travel ban. Homeland hasn’t tied into real-world concerns this season as much as I hoped, focusing more on the personal conflicts of people like Carrie, Quinn, and Keane (Elizabeth Marvel), although that could change soon.
Speaking of PEOTUS Keane, she’s speaking publicly about the son she lost in the Middle East for the first time. The events of September 11 changed him, as it did so many young Americans, pushing him to enlist. Even as Senator Keane started to oppose the war, her son didn’t back down from his duty. He was killed just as he was starting his third tour.
The increasingly nefarious Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham) is watching the president-elect’s speech when we spot General McClendon (Robert Knepper) for the first time in weeks. He’s nervous, having heard that Javadi is in town, and how Keane is turning hearts and minds against conflict through her status as a Gold Star mom. Most urgently, Saul and Javadi cannot meet. If they do, he says, “Everything unravels.” Just what is Adal mixed up in now? Is he going full bad guy this season? To keep Javadi and Saul separated, they stage a quickie interrogation/debriefing on his trip to the Middle East. He won’t be out of there for hours, and they can deal with Javadi in the meantime.
In an office, Carrie offers totally logical explanations about what happened with Quinn and her daughter. Should she have left Frannie with him? Probably not. According to the agent, Frannie said that she was terrified and that she thought she was going to die. She advises that Carrie get a lawyer.
While Carrie starts to break down, Quinn flees his guardianship by Astrid. He’s trying to hitchhike back to New York to help Carrie — which, well, doesn’t make a lot of sense. The last time he saw her at Bellevue, he accused her of being against him and working for the other side. Quinn isn’t the most consistent character mentally, so this can be forgiven, but it feels more like a continuity error than a case of vacillating loyalties. Anyway, Astrid gets him back and Quinn learns that Dar Adal sequestered him there for his own safety. Sure. Dar Adal doesn’t do anything for anyone else’s safety.
Everyone is trapped to some degree — Carrie in the system that took her daughter, Quinn in a house on a lake, Saul in a conference room — when Javadi is kidnapped and tortured. Somebody sold him out, turning him over to his own people, who now know Javadi betrayed them. It’s like giving a rat back to the mob. As his nails are ripped off, someone comes to his rescue, a man who used to serve under Javadi. Later, Javadi will shoot this man to tie up the loose end, illustrating the lack of loyalty in Homeland’s world of espionage. Before that, he reveals to Saul that Nafisi is dead, and that he was working for Mossad.
The hearing for Carrie’s custody of Frannie is already going down, and the prosecution’s smoking gun is, well, a gun. They reveal to the judge that Frannie told them a story about waking up to find her mommy asleep on the floor with a gun in her lap. Carrie says she wasn’t asleep, but the judge is more upset that the gun was loaded. Carrie reminds them all that she’s a trained CIA agent and that the safety was on, but, you know, TV logic kicks in again. Then they throw out that Carrie is bipolar, even though she’s on a prescription and has been for over a year. As Reda notes, mentioning someone’s treated mental illness is totally out of line when discussing custody. The judge orders further psychiatric evaluation anyway and that Frannie remain in foster care. Um, okay. Perhaps the writers are trying to draw a parallel from the way Carrie is being railroaded to how Sekou was essentially imprisoned for what he said in the first arc of the season. That’s interesting to consider, but I still don’t buy that they’d take away an uninjured child from her CIA mother after one incident, whereas what happened to Sekou was all-too-believable.
The truth is that Homeland needed a reason to send Carrie off the wagon, and that’s what happens as she downs a bottle of Champagne and drunk-dials the PEOTUS for help. As she’s plummeting out of her sobriety, Dar stirs the pot some more, telling Quinn that Carrie is to blame for his condition because she ordered the doctors to wake him from his coma, knowing he might have a stroke. We also learn that Dar called Children’s Services to get them on Frannie’s case. Yep, Dar has gone full villain.
• Even before the episode’s final scenes, it dawned on me not only that Dar Adal is the “big bad” of this season but that this is the year in which he needs to die. He’s doing things so evil that he can’t just go back to the gray-area mercenary he’s been in the past. I don’t want him chumming around with Saul and Carrie after this season, and killing him off would be the kind of shake-up this show desperately needs.
• There’s an odd motif of people being physically trapped when they become a danger this season. Keane was taken to a safe house that left her with no power, Quinn is in a similar situation now, Sekou was arrested, Carrie’s child has been taken away. It’s a season of abductions.
• If history holds, we’ll have a “crazy Carrie” episode next week, off her pills and on the bottle. We generally get one every year, and it’s coming in right on time. Strap in.
• Only five episodes left to salvage this season. Do you think Homeland will turn itself around before the finale?