Homeland Review: The Return

If that guy, if he's involved in the bombing like those photos suggests, but he wasn't working with Sekou...I don't even know what we're saying here. - Conlin

I'm not saying last night's Homeland saved the sixth season, but it certainly helped. This was the first time the 47 minutes felt legitimately short, because I was entertained by the proceedings on screen. It was eventful, it built to a strong conclusion, and it included multiple big-time events. Notably lacking this season were the kind of jaw dropping moments that have helped propel past seasons of the series, especially ones occurring in rapid succession. Really, there had been one before "The Return."

Finally, the show woke itself from a coma, and while the overall story arc is still questionable and somewhat directionless in comparison to its own predecessors, I actually gave a damn by the end of it.

First thing's first, we finally saw Conlin listen to Carrie about Sekou's possible innocence in the bombing. Early in the episode, he was still extremely skeptical and continued pushing the idea that a link existed between the newly-freed Bah and the terrorist attack. Because of that, I was worried we were going down a dangerous road, wherein we know the young man was innocent, but the people on the show refused to believe it. That could have made us more likely to sympathize with one side (or religion), and against the FBI and other intelligence agencies. But, Conlin continued to work on the side of truth, not dismissing the photos, not sticking to an erroneous conclusion.

It isn't about making one side the villain. It's about everyone acting like they have a brain, and not falling into stereotypes.

In fact, his vigor in following up the lead takes him to the strange nondescript building, the issue in the basement, and likely his death in a phenomenal scene a few minutes later. Carrie ends up caught in the middle of the murder, arriving a short time after Conlin took the bullet to the head, and we get a harrowing, effective sequence that ends with Carrie slipping as she rounds her Volvo to escape from the killer. It's the same man that was across the street, the same man Quinn trailed to the Medina dropoff, and while we don't yet know his complete motivations, there's still half a season left to explain much of it.

Saad Mahsud's lack of answers was what convinced Conlin his suspicions might be misplaced, but it was the CI's "government" response that was most telling. We could be dealing with another private security, military industrial complex angle here. It's been done to death over the past 15 years on TV, but it works, because the idea of it is ultimately frightening to almost every civilian. This organization is hiring federal employees - those with clearances - and the company is taking them to a floor marked "-6." That's a little hokey, but I've also never been in one of those buildings. This portion still felt very made for fiction, but it wasn't pure nonsense like Carrie stumbling onto Quinn's phone or letting him babysit Franny last week.

People actually stopped and thought, both on screen and behind the camera, and last night's episode reaped the rewards.

It makes quite a bit of difference. Homeland has been much more agenda driven this season, but on numerous occasions last night, we saw characters evolve and listen, rather than rushing to judgment. Not only Conlin, but also anti-war Elizabeth Keane, who listened to a constituent as she was a semi-captive audience. She didn't necessarily change her stance, but she broke the cement off her face and actually considered the impact NOT mentioning her son had on the other soldiers who lost their lives "doing something important," not ever thinking of how misguided the decision was in the first place.

Marjorie (Deborah Hedwall) may have altered her worldview, because the speech she gave upon arrival in New York City refuted President Morse's assertion that it was time to strengthen the Patriot Act. It focused on the sacrifices of the men and women in uniform, and also spoke to the united soul of the country. The "two minutes" line was very well done. That's the first time I've watched Keane and not just agreed, but opened my own mind to her as a character. Marvel is always good, but she can play JERK better than anything. Here, we needed the other side, and Elizabeth brought it.

I don't need a show to agree with me, but I prefer it to challenge all open doors, all possibilities, and all persuasions. Last night, for the first time, there was actual balance to what occurred. Saul realizes Dar may be working behind his back, passing information through Mossad, and he also knows how tenuous his position is as Victor reminds him how important leverage is to the job at hand. Without it, he can't get the information he needs. We see Saul use that clout and his skill as an agent to get the attention of Nate, the young go-getter he meets while attempting to get intel on Tova's whereabouts and movements. Homeland showed us both Saul's power, and then a check on that power. It provided internal conflict and a sense of professional mortality, which Patinkin can sell about as good as anybody.

Yes, some of it still paints the Israelis as antagonists, but it also gets us closer to the Berenson vs. Adal confrontation that always provides great drama for the series.

Quinn's reaction to Carrie at Bellevue is worth mentioning, less for what it meant to the story and more for the email conversation I've had with the former officer who contacted me a few weeks ago to explain how Homeland's treatment of PTSD and Sarin has been very true to form. One of the things he told me, which I imparted last week in my review, was that Quinn was given a job and that was his only concern. That job was to protect Franny. As Carrie attempted to get more information from him regarding the photos, what did he say to her?

"You said protect Franny, and I did. Then you took me down when my back was turned."

It syncs up with the emails I received, and it backs up everything this gentleman mentioned to me about Quinn's depiction, which he stressed might not be entertaining, but was painfully accurate. I'm still in the entertainment business, but because of his communications to me, when that happened last night, it struck me and I couldn't wait to share it with you.

Can't say I was expecting to see Astrid (Nina Hoss) reappear on the scene, but as Quinn was being swapped for a double and wheeled into the plain black van, you knew it was going to be somebody interesting. The score got loud, it was the grand finale of the episode, and so when it was her, my general reaction was... "Oh. Okay then." It should lead to another good back-and-forth between Hoss and Danes, so that's good enough for me.

Sad to see Dominic Fumusa go, as last night was certainly his best, and made you want more from the character. That's smart by the writers, because I didn't really feel that way until about 15 minutes before he was dead. That creates sympathy, and because Carrie was working with him in his final hours, she in turn becomes a character we can root for again.

I'm still not at all sold on this season's story, but last night was a much needed BIG push in the right direction. I enjoyed the episode and found it much closer to what I've come to expect from the better, pulse-pounding installments of the series.

Real talk: I'm worried about Conlin's cat. Is someone in the area? Can we make sure the animal is fed and safe? Let's get on this. #FelineLivesMatter

I'm @JMartOutkick. Email me at jmartclone@gmail.com. I look like government.