Some final seasons are merely greatest hits of what came before or fan service to tie up loose ends, designed in a way that feels too desperate to please. So what’s most interesting so far about the final season of Homeland is its melancholy recognition of the show’s staying power embedded in a commentary on how the world has gone through cycles of violence since the tragedy of 9/11. As Saul Berenson and Haissam Haqqani stare out over the horizon and dream of a day when there’s peace in the region, there’s a sense that it’s the show’s writers, too, longing for some sort of satisfying end point.
Accordingly, “False Friends” leans into a recurring theme of Homeland: double agents and the inability to ever really trust someone in the world of espionage. It plays out not only in how Haqqani’s son Jamal (Elham Ehsas) betrayed him by working with the Pakistani government to destroy the peace process and take leadership, but in how Carrie is uncertain how much she can trust Yevgeny, or what he’s even really doing in Kabul. Is he trying to defect to the Americans by helping Carrie? Is he using her? The episode’s best scene may be the one between Carrie and Jenna on the roof, in which Carrie explains how you can never really know if someone is just trying to sow dissent and chaos or genuinely coming to your side. A double agent doesn’t reveal itself until it’s too late. In this world, even when you trust someone, you’re unsure.
This gray area of existence is also reflected in Haqqani’s view of the Taliban’s weakening power. One of the show’s best lines is delivered to Haqqani’s son when he says, “We are just strong enough never to lose and just weak enough never to win.” This is what leads to endless wars: a sense that victory for either side is never going to happen. And, as Homeland has made clear, there are certain people interested in maintaining the endless wars that have plagued the world in this century.
Of course, shady American politics play a role in that too, and Homeland has never been afraid to point a finger in that direction. It’s revealed this episode that President Warner (Beau Bridges) may have one of those Homeland problems with his Vice President Ben Hayes (Sam Trammell of True Blood fame), whom the always-reliable David Wellington (Linus Roache) is concerned may be mounting a run for the presidency himself. Could a sitting VP challenge the sitting POTUS in an election for the first time in history? Don’t forget that the chaos that ended last season resulted in a situation in which the president and his veep are from different parties. So it’s possible that one could literally run against the other in a general election. The more urgent question may be if the VP is shady enough to sabotage the current White House to preserve his chances to win down the line, and what that could mean for the upcoming peace process, something that would certainly look good in a reelection campaign for Warner
Back to Carrie Mathison, still chain-smoking through her anxiety over the fact that Yevgeny, her handler in Russia, is in Kabul, and seems to think they’re working together. She has an interesting theory that he gave them the name of Samira Noori as a sign that he’s willing to defect and work with the Americans. As seen in the bar, Yevgeny thinks they’re working together. If that collaboration is part of the plan for him to defect, are we supposed to believe that this plan was concocted while Carrie was deeply not herself and off her meds? She’s so out there that she can’t remember what happened, but she found a way to turn an asset while in that state? Something doesn’t add up there quite yet.
Like us viewers, Carrie needs to know more, and she convinces her superior to let her stay in Kabul to figure out what her Russian friend is up to now. As she suspects, he drops off another note with a time and place. Carrie’s team tries to surveil her and Yevgeny, but the smart guy planned the meeting during a time when prayers are read over a loudspeaker, leading to a wall of sound. Mike and Jenna would probably be confused about what they heard anyway, as Yevgeny really just proves how close he and Carrie got in Russia. He saved her life when she tried to kill herself in captivity (which feels awfully convenient) and reveals that he knows that she almost drowned her daughter — that’s not something he could have learned from a file. The episode ends with Yevgeny’s motives and how Carrie is working with him, possibly even without her knowledge, still tantalizingly unclear.
Much clearer is the arc of Haqqani and his son Jamal. It’s revealed pretty early that Jamal was the one behind the I.S.I. attack on his father, telling the Pakistanis, led by Tasneem Qureshi, where dear old dad was meeting with Saul. At first, Haqqani blames Berenson for the attack, but he quickly realizes that it was his blood that betrayed him. Most importantly, he doesn’t kill Jamal, basically excommunicating him, which just puts him back into the arms of Qureshi.
In the end, the peace achieved between the U.S. and the Taliban via Berenson and Haqqani feels like it’s on thin ice before it can even be announced to the world. Haqqani’s son is working with the Pakistani government to dismantle it, and Yevgeny is hanging around Kabul acting suspicious. Meanwhile, Carrie has the nerve to suggest that President Warner travel to the region to announce the arrival of peace. Has she seen Homeland before?!?!
• It’s a funny little bit that the soldiers around Max think he’s such good luck that they get new guys to rub his belly like a Buddha. However, doesn’t it feel like the set-up for cruel tragedy? I worry that the guy who was happy that a storm is going to keep Max in the region longer than he should be there is just asking to die.
• David mentions that Ohio wants to move their primary up to be second after Iowa. In actuality, it’s an event that headed the other way on the calendar, as Republicans succeeded in moving the Ohio primary back a week, dropping it right on St. Patrick’s Day this year. Read more here.
• Saul tells Haqqani that he can be “Like Faisal was to the Saudis, Kemal to the Turks.” Homeland can often assume you know what its characters are speaking about in terms of history, but if you need help, here’s something on Faisal, and something on Kemal. They’re two important figures in the history of the region, and Saul knows that their names would resonate with Haqqani.