The third episode of Homeland season seven is designed to show the precariousness of Carrie Mathison’s life, while also amplifying the tension between Brett O’Keefe and the rest of the world. Despite a few head-scratching choices by White House chief of staff David Wellington, it’s ultimately a solid hour because of the great work of the cast, particularly Claire Danes, as Carrie is forced into a fragile, emotional place for almost its entire length.
It opens with Carrie rocking, looking nervous, breathing heavily. It’s the morning after she assaulted the troll who was holding her computer ransom and she still has blood on her forehead. She’s in her doctor’s office, realizing that, as she says, “Impulse control is becoming a problem.” She agrees that perhaps the lithium has stopped being effective in treating her bipolar disorder. Think about what she did in last week’s episode: her quickness to post the pic from David’s house, deciding to download a file from 4Chan, taking off her shirt, almost killing her troll. As she says, she’s not as “risk averse” as she should be. Danes is very good in this scene, showing the fragility of Carrie’s situation.
Meanwhile, Saul Berenson and a cadre of FBI agents head to the remote house where Brett O’Keefe has been secretly broadcasting. They’re greeted by a man with a big dog that’s apparently trained to eat government agents. Saul demands to see Brett and refuses to leave. Not much later, the talk-show host comes out with four armed men. Tensions are high. Saul insists that they just talk through the options in plain sight. While David pressures President Keane to drop the charges, it feels like something bad is bound to happen. But when? And how?
Carrie comes home during all of this and has a heart-to-heart with her sister. She knows she needs help, and her doctor has given her a new prescription to break her out of her manic cycle. After a few days of sleep, they can figure out what to do next. She insists that Franny never be allowed to see her in a psych ward. Does this feel like ominous foreshadowing to anyone else? Again, it’s nice to see Danes dig into the emotion of a character she knows so well.
While Carrie is sleeping and Saul is negotiating, Keane goes to an important meeting with her military advisors. They want to hit a convoy of weapons going from Iran to Syria, and they keep encouraging the POTUS to authorize it, but she campaigned on the promise of a military drawdown. She’s incredibly defensive throughout the meeting, accusing her advisors of trying to use her national vulnerability against her. There’s a nice edit here to O’Keefe trying to figure out his next move as well; they couldn’t be more politically different, but these are two people trying to figure out how to use their power.
Carrie tries to go into her medical haze, but gets shaken out of it by a loud knock on the door. It’s Dante Allen, one of her few remaining connections in a position of power. Although he told her to go to hell in last week’s episode, he’s back on her side. He decided to look into the photo of the woman Carrie spotted in David’s kitchen, and he’s found something out: She works for the International Democracy Foundation, and she got a parking ticket near the prison that was going to process General McClendon the next day. The theory, is seems, is that she went there to coordinate his murder. Let’s just process that for a second, though. Would David Wellington use someone like this to coordinate a hit ordered by the president of the United States? Someone who’s careless enough to get a parking ticket?
Anyway, Carrie takes an upper to offset her downer and she’s off on an adventure with Dante. They stake out the woman’s house and when Dante goes to follow her, Carrie breaks in through an open window. She takes some pictures of the ticket and personal photos, and she downloads the hard drive. But it all goes very wrong shortly thereafter when she’s picked up on the street by local cops. She knows that if she’s processed, it could put her custody of Franny in jeopardy, so she refuses to even give her name to the arresting officers. Uh oh.
While Carrie is making risky decisions, Brett O’Keefe seems to be doing a lot of the same. Saul tells him that he’s the most urgent national-security issue right now. Brett blathers on about his First Amendment rights and the anger of the country while Saul accuses him of poisoning the conversation. Ignoring a bit of nasty transphobia by Brett, they both have some salient points. Saul reminds him that he’s in the best negotiating position. What’s it going to take to get everyone out of this standoff safely? Saul informs the POTUS that Brett wants amnesty for everyone who has aided him, and that he wants a televised trial. But something’s wrong: Brett tells his girlfriend not to go anywhere. Something is definitely about to happen.
As we’ve seen the last few episodes, Brett’s girlfriend wants this nightmare to end. She runs to the FBI and tells them that more armed men are coming to the house. Suddenly, trucks pull up and the armed O’Keefe supporters grab Saul, threatening to kidnap him. The FBI pull their guns and it looks like it could all go very wrong, but cooler heads prevail. For now.
While Carrie gets released due to Dante’s political power — he even gets any evidence of her detainment stricken from the record — tension rises across the country. David is convinced that the way to distract people from the O’Keefe story is to do what the military advisers want so badly: bomb the convoy. It will control the news cycle. Keane refuses, but David goes over her head, calling in the attack anyway. It’s terrifying to think that a chief of staff could go over a president’s head and order a military strike, and you have to wonder how David will talk his way out of this one.
As armored vehicles approach Brett’s compound, we see Carrie and Dante developing a deeper relationship. She tells him about the issues with Franny last year and cries. (Anyone else think Showtime and Danes will submit this episode for Emmy consideration?) Carrie sits with Dante on a curb as soothing music plays on the score. It’s a moment of peace and quiet for Carrie Mathison. She could definitely use a few more.
• Are the new faces making you forget the fan favorites from seasons past? Is Dante the new Quinn? Is Brett the new Dar?
• The opening credits continue to fascinate me, especially the imagery of armed policemen, rallies, and the American flag in this chaotic year. Plus the line, “The White House is in crisis mode.”
• I’m starting to think this will be a purely American-set season, given we’re a quarter of the way through and only have seen hints of Middle Eastern action. Will you be satisfied if that’s the case?
• Homeland has a history of shaking it up at this point each season, so a major revelation or even a death is probably on the horizon. Any guesses about what might happen next week?