Last week we established that Homeland is the best kind of pulp trash merely masquerading as prestige television. Skeptics, you’re probably going, “Young lady, let’s have a chat.” But I am here to say, “Sit down, John.” And I will say it right in front of the entire office. (Also you smell like booze.) But listen: At this point Homeland’s air of geopolitical relevance is crucial for its brand, particularly when it comes to handing Claire Danes all the Emmys her condo can accommodate. But it’s the soapy heart of this show that keeps us entertained and riveted with each salacious cliffhanger. As someone who recognizes the through lines between Homeland and, say, a supernatural teen-monster serial, I feel like I can really help illuminate exactly why Homeland is about on the level of Teen Wolf. (Please note that comparing a show to Teen Wolf is not, nor will ever be, an insult.)
This week’s lesson? Shipping.
Assuming you are not a teenage girl or a Tumblr-reading secretary, chances are you’re unaware of the phenomenon of shipping. Derived from “relationshipping,” it’s what happens when viewers root for two particular characters to fall in love, sometimes at the expense of every other element or dynamic on the show. Mulder and Scully were shipped. Doctor Who and Redheaded Lady have been shipped. Andy Rooney and Ed Bradley were very passionately shipped (by me). But far from being fans with cute daydreams, shippers can be so loud and irrational about their particular “one true pair” (OTP) that they’ll send death threats to the writers and essentially divide and/or poison an entire fan base (see, The Vampire Diaries, Once Upon a Time). But if we’re being honest with ourselves, shipping is a pure intention. All of us want to see two people about whom we care deeply to find love in each other’s arms, right? So it’s a compliment to a TV series that we might actually get so invested in the characters’ humanity that we want to see them experience the kind of love we ourselves will only hear whispers of while we all collectively roll across the lawn into open graves.
Anyway, Homeland: Carrie and Quinn. Yes? Yes. While it may have seemed like this week’s episode, “Shalwar Kameez,” laid the foundation for a romance between Carrie and Quinn almost out of nowhere, Carrie and Quinn shippers have been calling it since Peter Quinn first stepped onto the scene in season two. It’s like I’ve been saying: Homeland is in many ways a soap, and the fact that a possible romance between these two characters is more compelling than drone strikes could not make this point more clear. But again, soap or not, it works. Two gorgeous, supremely messed-up superheroes falling in love? Yes, of course. There’s always Frontline for the other junk.
After last week casually brought us to the brink of infanticide, “Shalwar Kameez” presented us with more or less Carrie at her best. Driven, getting her way, telling off condescending alcoholic co-workers, heck, even jogging to jazz. It’s just nice to see Carrie given as much purpose as she needs to thrive. And that was before she faked an illness so she could assault/seduce a grieving teenager in the bathroom, which is classic Carrie. As a visiting Saul marveled, Carrie had not only strong-armed her way to the head of the Islamabad command center, she’d also set up a rival shadow team tasked with secret missions, all in the same afternoon! Because Homeland prizes comfortable familiarity over plausibility, Carrie’s shadow group is basically just Fara (sporting a lovely new British accent) and tech geek Max. Yep, two known former associates of Carrie’s up and left the States for the Middle East and the CIA does not seem to be tracking them anymore or care in the least. Quinn’s crushes are up for official departmental interrogation, but other ex-CIA employees can hang out in war zones under the radar. Fair enough.
While it’s not totally clear what Carrie has in mind in sending Fara to sort of seduce Aayan into cooperating, the entire scenario is Carrie at her most brutal. The balls on this lady! She not only pressed the button to have Aayan’s entire family murdered, she caterwauled in a bathroom until he arrived to help, lied to his face about being a journalist, and even dangled the nonexistent carrot of helping him leave Pakistan and go a fancy British medical school when we all know full well she probably can’t make that happen. As viewers, we love Carrie to be, uh, unorthodox, but I’m loving how this season is carefully working to justify just how badly this will all explode in her face. Aayan is such a nice-seeming kid that if Carrie’s blunt weapon drives him into the dark side, we may just continue to root for him over her. But as ever with any soapy serial, it’s foolish to predict where any one plotline will go.
While Carrie’s baby-free life finds her at full-strength, Quinn was not doing quite as well back in the States. Yes, he was still sleeping with his sardonic, Rubenesque building manager (when he wasn’t day drinking and throwing his cell phone in the swimming pool), but he was also staying up late at night watching YouTube videos of Sandy getting beaten to death in the streets. Not very healthy, in my opinion. Probably better than checking your friends’ Instagrams in the middle of the night, but still not great. Anyway, when Dar Adal showed up to ask him what was up, Quinn flew into a rage and put him in a sleeper hold at the mere suggestion that he’d been too in love with Carrie to save Sandy’s life. Uh, black ops assassin doth protest too much? The truly painful part of Quinn’s plotline was his ostensible breakup with his new lady friend. For the past few episodes she represented a diversion, a glowing green EXIT sign over the frightening mess that was his career. But in kicking her out of the apartment only to then rejoin Carrie overseas, it’s now clear that Quinn won’t be shaking the spy games demons anytime soon. (Quick question: Do the Emmys award trophies to Best Sustained Shirtless Scenes? I told you this show had a lot in common with Teen Wolf.)
In what would amount to the episode’s cliffhanger, Quinn noticed a mysterious man in the background of Sandy’s beating death. In a classic “Enhance!” moment, he was able to detect that the mysterious stranger was wearing a military-grade earpiece and was therefore likely to have planned Sandy’s death far in advance of the seemingly impromptu riot. Quinn and Carrie don’t know it yet, but we recognized the mystery man as the same one who came in and bopped Aayan in the mouth when he was trying to sleep. So there’s now an official connection between the jet strike, Sandy’s death, and the necessity for Aayan to not become a celebrity. But come on, who even remembers any of the plot when this exchange is still ringing in our ears:
“God, I fucking love you, Quinn. You know that, don’t you?”
[Long pause.] “Yeah.”
Guys, I don’t care if you are a middle-school preteen typing in a purple LiveJournal or my mom who has run out of BBC period romances to stream: Quinn and Carrie’s burgeoning romance is undeniable. “Shalwar Kameez” certainly began pointing us in the direction of where the spy stuff is headed this season, but, more important, it pointed us in the direction of where all these heart-beams will be shining! Just, please, Quarrie shippers (ships always have dumb, amalgamated names), please don’t start brutal, divisive flame wars with the Saul Berenson-Pakistani Ambassador shippers! This fandom just cannot take it.