By Josh Logue
Surprise! “Homeland” has a trick or two up its sleeve. In the form of a one legitimately surprising and significant development, yes, but also an all-around solid, enjoyable episode of television marred mostly by damage the show has already done to itself this season rather than any specific transgression in this week’s episode.
In another, better show, suddenly killing off a character like Aayan that way could have simply been a stunning and unconventional move. And it did feel legitimately shocking, but this is “Homeland,” so the moment after you acknowledge your surprise (perhaps, like I did, with an audible “Woah!”), the next thought that pops annoyingly into your head is probably going to be something along the lines of: Well, good. At least that’s over with.
That’s the kind of hole this show has dug itself into. Even the good moments are spoiled by the miscalculations that preceded them. And those issues still make their way onto the screen after the fact. This week, in the form of an over-the-top screaming and struggling Carrie who, in a better world (with better writers), would have weathered that moment stoically, only allowing us in through her tremblingly expressive face, adding gravity to an already significant moment by doing less, not more.
So, no. This episode doesn’t give me hope for the show. As Saul would inevitably say were “Homeland” written by Aaron Sorkin, they did a big thing badly. Fumbled the Big Moment by getting there via a stupid relationship between Carrie and yet another targer/source. I’m done giving this show chances. I’m going to keep watching it because, of course, I have to write about it each week, but also to simply try to enjoy the things it can still manage to do well.
Which, yes, do exist, but the same problem applies.
Take the first half of the episode. Ultimately we realize Carrie pulled of a sneaky little trick, allowing Aayan to visit school one last time and sending some CIA agents pretending to be ISI to scare him into staying and eventually leading them to Haqqani. That worked, but until it became clear what was happening – a little sooner I think than the writers may have intended – many moments felt unbelievable in a way even the revelation of Carrie’s scheme couldn’t erase. She lets him return to school a half second before telling him not to take any unnecessary risks. That should strike anybody as unconvincing. And Aayan’s college sweetheart shouting “Do you love her!?” felt completely out of place in a supposedly Serious Prestige Drama though, of course, sadly appropriate considering “Homeland’s” track record vis-à-vis relationships and over-the-top acting.
Still, the episode came together the way a good episode of television ought to and “Homeland” rarely has recently. The ambassador’s husband handed off his intel on Carrie to the ISI, which likely lead to Aayan’s death (though I don’t think that was explicit). Carrie and Farah squared off in a gratifying shouting match. And, to top it all off, Michael O’Keefe’s John Redmond gave Carrie a fantastic little side glance after she told Aayan she loved him over the phone. If nothing else, O’Keefe will get me through the rest of this season.