This week’s excellent episode of Homeland amplifies Carrie Mathison’s eternal dilemma — her personal life versus protecting her country — offering riveting new material while also feeling of a piece with the history of the show. Even the Franny material really works, anchored by Claire Danes’s performance and strong writing. It’s hard to disagree with Carrie’s sister Maggie that she has put her daughter in an abusive, unsafe environment. While it’s tempting to root for Carrie to have it all, she’s traumatizing her daughter in the process. And now, she’s forced to choose country over family.
“Lights, Amplifiers, F**king Twitter” centers on Carrie’s interrogation of Dante Allen, with Saul watching from another room. But first, Carrie has to drop off Franny at school, even though her daughter is clearly shaken from the events of the previous night. We’ll soon learn that Franny cried all day at school and Maggie had to go and get her. It’s the final straw for Maggie, who calls it an abusive situation and tells Carrie she’s going to file for custody. Although Carrie first fights this revelation, she seems to understand she’s in no state to care for her child, marching away from the home and back to work. She vents out a few screams in her car, but the future of the country is the most important thing right now and Carrie honestly believes she’s the only one who can save it.
Senator Paley thinks he has the country’s best interest at heart too, although his political differences with President Keane may be blinding him to the truth. As Keane says in the Oval Office, he’s wanted her gone since she was sworn in. And so, his request that she resign before Simone Martin’s testimony may be in the best interest of the country, but it also fulfills Paley’s own agenda. (Quick aside: This season has been remarkably smart about politics, illustrating how often people can run with an idea if it fits their worldview. Social-media dog whistles and echo chambers are inescapable in our real world, and this season is deftly commenting on that experience in surprisingly nuanced ways, given some of its more outlandish writing in recent years.) Keane refuses the resignation request, of course, and she later tells David Wellington to put pressure on Moscow directly. That will turn out to be a very bad idea.
Time for the Carrie and Dante duel! After she convinces Saul to let her run the interrogation, Dante strikes right as she enters the room. Knowing the cameras are on, he immediately undermines her authority. She’s a lunatic. She’s self-medicating. She’s buying pills out of a trunk. He makes everything she plans to say seem immediately suspect. It’s a brilliant tactic, as he surely knows Saul is watching. Carrie doesn’t really falter — although Danes is brilliant at showing how these accusations sting for a second but don’t knock her out, like a fighter taking a punch before finding their footing — and instead lays out the main piece of evidence: the correlation between Simone and Dante’s travel. She even throws around a treason charge. He says nothing. She gets up to leave and he says he has to take a leak. She tells her team to take him through the front, so he can see the mountain of evidence on the wall and know how bad he’s burned.
After a short detour where David pressures the Russian ambassador to put a stop to Simone, we’re back to the interrogation room. We get a great exchange that illustrates the gray areas this season keeps investigating: “It’s true.” “But it’s not the truth.” And then Carrie lays out how Dante used her from the minute they reunited. She was always an asset. She even plays to his emotions, telling him, “The problem isn’t that you don’t love your country, it’s that your country doesn’t love you back.” Dante adamantly denies it all and asks for an attorney, and it’s enough to wonder: This season has spun so many times, maybe he really is telling the truth? Is he being framed? We all thought David Wellington was guilty just a few weeks ago, remember?
Carrie isn’t buying it. While she goes home to deal with Franny and Maggie, we see Paley put Simone through a practice interrogation while the Russian ambassador meets with the deadly agent Yevgeny in a basement. He tells him to put a stop to Simone’s testimony. It’s pretty clear that the Russians want Simone dead, which would actually still accomplish quite a few of their goals: She couldn’t perjure herself and Paley would likely reveal what she said in committee, thereby undermining her presidency without what the White House is calling “a hostile act.” And so, Simone now has a target on her back. Before long, Yevgeny has tracked her down and is sending Russian agents to the safe house.
At the same time, Carrie and Saul pull a risky operation on Dante. Instead of an attorney, they send in their own man to masquerade as counsel. He convinces Dante to sign some papers … on which they’ve placed deadly poison. Dante clutches his chest and slumps to the floor. Before his heart stops, he tells Carrie, “Like McClendon. The Russians. Simone told me.” That’s enough for a warrant to get Simone. It also makes it pretty clear that Dante was a part of this operation, at least after the fact. Someone rushes in to give Dante the antidote, but it appears to be too late. His heart has stopped. What if Dante dies? Is that a tragedy or the cost of stopping treason? Or both?
Here’s the bigger problem: What if Dante and Simone die? There will be no one left to confirm the entire McClendon thing was a Russian operation. Yes, they have Dante’s confession on tape, but using it would reveal the unethical things they did in that interrogation room. Saul surely wouldn’t want that out in public.
We’ve got one more twist left this week: As Simone is rushed from the safe house to Yevgeny, the scary Russian doesn’t kill her — he hugs and kisses her. They’re a couple! As they speed off into the night, doctors work on Dante in the hospital. Carrie walks away, fading out of focus as she leaves.
• If Simone and Dante were a part of an international operation to kill a general and destroy Keane’s presidency, wouldn’t they hide the fact that they were traveling together? You would think a superspy like Dante would know that, but perhaps he never suspected anyone would have a reason to look at his itineraries.
• Speaking of Dante, Morgan Spector has been really excellent this season. He’s been asked to fill the enormous shoes of Rupert Friend (while narratively recalling Damian Lewis, no less), and he’s carved out his own character in a crowded field. If you enjoy watching him here, he’s also very good in an upcoming drama starring Olivia Wilde called A Vigilante, which premiered at SXSW last month. He’s an actor to watch.
• As long as we’re on the new-faces front, I’m also digging the gravitas brought to the show by Linus Roache (David) and Dylan Baker (Paley). They’ve helped ground an incredibly strong season.
• Finally, I want to call attention to one of the best lines of the season. It’s an astute observation that we are in uncharted political waters, no matter which side of the aisle you sit on: “The things we thought could never happen in this country apparently can.”