Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham) and the cabal he represents are going to war with the president of the United States. As the sixth season of Homeland has progressed, we’ve seen how far Dar is willing to go to serve his own needs. The question now, with only two episodes left, is who will be able to stop him?
It could be Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend), whose dark past with Dar would certainly give him the motivation to do so. Peter is currently seeking out one of the key players in Dar’s system of hate, the man who probably planted the bomb that killed Sekou Bah and definitely shot Astrid. He works his way to a diner where he used to be regular enough that a waitress recognizes him. He’s looking for the assassin, and he knows that the guy now works on the same covert team with which Quinn once resided. The quest leads him to a nondescript house, where we get a flashback to happier times in the espionage game and see a van of the type Sekou drove in the garage. The dots are finally connecting.
Meanwhile, Max (Maury Sterling) reveals to Carrie what he learned in the bunker run by Brett O’Keefe (Jake Weber), noting that countries like Russia and China have propaganda factories, but that he didn’t think it was happening in the United States. If Dar Adal is involved in this kind of campaign, he’d be breaking about a dozen federal laws. Max needs to prove that he is, but Carrie can’t concentrate on any of this news because today’s the day she’s reunited with Frannie.
Not so fast. After being dropped off for her testimony against Dar Adal (and, by extension, Saul Berenson), Carrie’s driver says something suspicious about making sure the Frannie meeting is still on. She calls and discovers that Frannie has a small fever and they’ll have to delay. How did the driver know this? Did someone purposefully get Frannie sick? Or is it simply to show they can get to her? Whatever the reasoning, it works, because Carrie flees the testimony and refuses to go on record against Dar. She calls the number on the business card given to her by the mysterious driver, saying, “Tell Dar Adal he wins. Now I want to see my daughter.”
Feeling emboldened by his move against Carrie, Dar goes back to meet with PEOTUS Elizabeth Keane (Elizabeth Marvel) in one of the best scenes of the season. He’s got the list he didn’t show her last time of suggested cabinet appointees — and they’re three people whom Keane would never appoint. Dar isn’t just pressuring Keane; he’s trying to enforce his will. It’s a bold move as Dar knows that Keane was coming after him. He’s essentially making his play now that he thinks she’s failed to get him.
Keane is furious, noting that 60 million people voted for her and no one voted for Dar. He returns her fury, spitting out a remarkable threat: “Don’t go to war with the national security establishment.” Why not, Dar? Keane refuses to be held hostage by a man with whom she fundamentally disagrees on policy and who she knows is corrupt to his core. She raises the stakes, saying, “This moment right now is when I decided to put your ass in jail.” Call it a hunch, but I don’t think Dar will make it to jail. On his way out, Dar calls O’Keefe and tells him to pull out the big guns. Remember the commercial they made about Andrew Keane? It’s going to air.
Elsewhere, Carrie learns that it wasn’t Frannie who was sick. It was another kid. Someone is playing games with her. While Carrie dissects exactly what happened, Keane shows up, eager to convince her to testify against Dar. She can’t do it, and just as Keane won’t be strong-armed by Dar, Carrie won’t be strong-armed by Keane. Frannie’s safety has to come first.
After a heartfelt scene in which Saul tries to say good-bye to Mira (Sarita Choudhury), Carrie sees the campaign to smear Andrew Keane. Homeland has always explored how people who deal with international issues are impacted by personal ties. At its best, the show humanizes those in positions of power, and that’s what happens with the Carrie and Keane arcs in “The Flag House.” As Carrie is reunited with her daughter, Keane watches her worst nightmare come true. She didn’t want to mention her son because she didn’t want to risk him becoming political fodder. Marvel beautifully sells both the deep emotion and the righteous fury of this betrayal of Andrew’s memory and bravery.
If anyone can pull down the curtain and reveal the men behind this Emerald City of corruption, it’s Max, who snaps a video of Dar and O’Keefe meeting on his phone. Sadly, he bumps into a co-worker, who spots the phone. Later in the episode, Max is taken by the Nurse Ratched of this cuckoo’s nest, but not before he sends the video to Carrie, although it’s intercepted by Saul. What’ll happen to Max? They killed Conlin for less. Is this the last we’ve seen of Max alive?
While Saul realizes how embedded Dar is in the propaganda machine and Keane witnesses that machine’s impact on her own family, Carrie goes on a trip. Clarice (Mickey O’Hagan), Quinn’s buddy from earlier in the season, brings her to Quinn, who is hunkered down in a house across the cul-de-sac from the place with the alarm he still knows how to deactivate. Through a scope, he shows Carrie that the man who’s been the lynchpin for the entire season is inside. What will they do now?
• I suggested a few weeks ago that Elizabeth Marvel might be the MVP of this season, and “The Flag House” confirms it. She’s angry, emotional, and driven — a real leader in an impressive ensemble. I wasn’t fully convinced she was right for this part when the season began, but I was wrong.
• When Saul comes to Carrie’s house at the end of the episode, it looks like he’s ready to fight instead of flee. Will he testify against Dar? If Dar is burned, won’t the people he’s been protecting kill him before he can say anything? We know that Dar doesn’t want Quinn killed, so he doesn’t have complete control over this crew. Dar himself could soon be expendable.
• It’s nice to see Sarita Choudhury after a few years’ absence from Homeland. She always had strong, believable chemistry with Patinkin.
• This episode works well within the show’s ongoing themes, as Carrie, Keane, and Saul all make decisions influenced by the pull of their closest family members. We’ll see how those choices play out over the season’s final arc.