By Josh Logue
Homeland is still good, so let’s stop talking about how surprising that is and get to this week’s episode, huh?
A lot happened this week, but the best avenue in may be this rather conspicuous observation: Quinn is the new Carrie. Or, rather, he’s assumed what used to be one of Carrie’s defining functions: the rogue agent. He’s out on his own now, working to track Haqqani down with no backup and against Carrie’s direct orders. That puts Carrie in Saul’s old role of the level-headed skeptic whose responsibility it is to reel in the passionate underling.
That’s a great reversal for both their characters, but it suffers because of the show’s inconsistent, bumpy characterization. It feels as though the writers knew where they wanted to get the characters narratively and emotionally speaking, but couldn’t quite figure out how to smoothly move them there and tell the season’s bigger story simultaneously.
Case in point, Carrie’s dad dies this week, near the middle of the episode. It’s a legitimate shock, for us and her, and she reacts with the superb, choked back anguish that really only Claire Danes can pull off, but all of that is gone a few scenes later when the episode’s attention turns back to Quinn and Haqqani. That’s exactly the kind of major revelation you expect (in the case of shows like Mad Men) or at least hope (in the case of shows like this) will bleed throughout the entire episode, affecting just about every scene, big to small, like such a revelation would in real life.
Still, it’s hard to fault a show that’s come so far in only a few episodes too much. The emotional notes are applied erratically and often bluntly, but the episodes narrative came together so well, as they’ve done quite often throughout this whole season.
Quinn contacts an old girlfriend working for the German foreign ministry to help him locate Haqqani and then tracks down Aayan’s college sweetheart (remember her?) to help him foment a protest around Haqqani’s compound. That may be one of the most cynical portrayals of popular protest I’ve seen on TV (it appears to happen in moments and at the mere whim of a CIA assassin), but it also gives Quinn cover to sneak a bomb under a grate near Haqqani’s compound. The plan is to force Haqqani to move, and detonate the bomb as he passes it.
That facilitates the most pronounced moment of Carrie/Quinn/Saul role swapping. Carrie, by that point, has caught up to Quinn, so she’s out there in the street, right next to the bomb. Quinn is onlooking, detonator in hand, able though unwilling to sacrifice Sau- I mean Carrie to get Haqqani. He doesn’t, of course, but guess who they spy (get it!?) in the back of Haqqani’s car? Dar Adal! Remember him? F. Murray Abraham’s character from the last two seasons who used to be Quinn’s handler and most recently betrayed Saul and sided with Lockhart in a scheme that ended last season with Brody’s death.
So, you know, that’s kind of a big deal. Turns out there is something bigger going on. But, to be honest, I wish this show (and many other shows out there) would learn to pay attention to their characters over setting up these tectonic plot twists. I’d much rather feel more comfortable, say, with Quinn’s very sudden transformation from ethically preoccupied soon-to-be-former CIA agent to revenge-obsessed potential murderer of civilians. Or have some indication that Carrie suddenly remembering she had a baby mid-episode had more to do with her character than with the writers’ apparent reluctance to delve too deeply into that particular quagmire. And I’ll probably have to go on wishing. It’s more than enough, I’ll admit, that Homeland has improved as much as it has. I’m happy. I really am.