And it's not just the mission. It never has been. - Carrie Mathison
You've got to let me go. - Peter Quinn
By this point, if you're familiar with my work, you already knew what you were in for as the penultimate episode of the Homeland season arrived. I told you, but I've said it many times before, as have countless other critics. It's the point of highest drama, where the circumstances are at their most dire. It's the part of the story in which the stakes are at their most grave. Sunday night's Homeland was another such instance, featuring multiple deaths, a kidnapping, a tense confrontation, and bold maneuvering from multiple parties.
First, I have to get this out of the way. The treatment of the right has been pathetic this season. The problem isn't with the portrayal of the Alt-Right, using Brett O'Keefe as Stephen K. Bannon, but with just a pinch of Alex Jones thrown in for disgusting flavor. That group is very real, and is willing to say or do virtually anything to achieve goals it deems worthy, which many others would call warped and dangerous. But, there are no true conservatives on the show. This is the Donald J. Trump vs. Hillary Clinton show, but with a much more likable, less liberal woman as President-Elect.
Actually, it's not even Trump. It's the worst of his supporters and the most underhanded and opportunistic of his handlers and advisers. Where is the moderate republican, or even the constitutional conservative? That person doesn't exist, or if he or she does, we haven't met the individual and haven't been given any reason to care about that side of the equation. As polarizing as politics has become in today's society, Homeland has chosen to display the extreme right against a rather moderate left. That's their decision to make, but it must be acknowledged for what it is. The "evil" quadrant is not representative of much of the country, or even 15 percent of it, but it's highly representative of the left's view of how the ideologies exist and propagate themselves within the nation.
Even the faceless reporter in the White House press corps asking if the revelations about her son will lead to her resignation is pretty standard fare these days, and fits tightly into a Daily Show or Samantha Bee mold.
Brett O'Keefe is a manipulative provocateur, and we see this week what his future plans include. He's ready to use Peter Quinn's identity as part of the disinformation campaign geared to take down the Keane administration before it ever begins. Hopefully that's all, just another manufactured voice, because the fake Quinn seems more than just irritated with the President-Elect. He's planning to make Peter into some kind of Alt-Right folk hero, one with a website and everything. For some reason, this gets to Dar Adal, and it leads to Max finding the key card underneath his milk. As dastardly as Adal has acted this season, up to and including that nasty neck move he pulled as Max was detained, he appears to have loyalty to Quinn. Does he not know about Astrid? Is that a reality?
Originally, I thought the key card came from O'Keefe, who looked more than just mildly uncomfortable watching Dar torture Max to obtain information. But, it turns out to be Adal, and while he may go to jail next week, he was working on the RIGHT side in the final minutes on Sunday night.
All the protests, the lies, the Andrew Keane video, the flood of bots and sock puppets all had a purpose. For Homeland, it's for Saul to explain to the President-Elect that the people behind this plot are following the United States playbook from Nicaragua, Chile, Congo, Iran, and many others. Well, that's the goal in addition to making a statement about today's politics. It's about toppling an oppressive or undesirable regime, by force if necessary. As Berenson states, Elizabeth and her administration are fighting for their lives, and thus must reply in direct fashion.
It leads to the powerful, if absurd Real Truth with Brett O'Keefe show with Keane as his guest. She stays on offense, and never allows him to score points, but anything can be spun to fit a narrative. O'Keefe uses her words to paint her as an authoritarian tyrant, daring to say her government holds no place for him or his organization. The "random caller" portion was very true to form, especially with the black box as the backdrop for every move O'Keefe makes.
What doesn't entirely jibe for me is how this story can possibly be tied up next week in the finale. It's not tied up in actual life, so how does Hollywood find the pathway to the exit? Maybe it won't be concluded, as it's unlikely Keane, Carrie, Saul, Quinn, or anyone else could shut Brett down quickly and actually succeed in stopping the flood of fake news. Add to it the explosion at the Queens flag house, which will send everything into even further disarray, plus the incident with the protester and Keane's motorcade, and you tell me how the season can close all the open wounds it's currently attempting to treat. There's just too much going on here, especially with Dar playing both sides of the fence.
I see no way the conclusion is satisfactory next week, at least as it relates to being anything that feels like an end. Perhaps that's not the idea, but a season needs some kind of resolution, even if there's one open road to keep the show moving in a congruent fashion. They have so much to do, so much to handle, and nowhere near enough time to do it adequately. I pray it isn't all "over" next week, because if it is, it's probably going to be a sub par episode. While everything is related, and the writers could play the domino effect, the explosion alone should put everything on pause long enough to stop the show from finding its proper finish line.
Quinn and Carrie had it out, with Peter screaming and bouncing around after calling himself a monkey and blaming Mathison for his current condition. Later, he says he was always this way, rejecting the very idea he had a heart. The work he did, which he relates to the murder he committed to save Carrie's life, is all he's good at and all he knows. He realizes how empty, how bleak, and how destructive it has been, and he shows a sense of stoic coldness as he claims to know he's a damaged, irreparably destroyed human being.
Carrie tries to help him, but she does come clean about Berlin, and also intimates she has feelings for him that extend past friendship. He says she has to let him go, although we remember many times he was more than just mildly infatuated with her in the past. The bigger point is that he was right about the van, and when the visor reveals the photo of Sekou, his mother, and his sister, the switch and swap theory is also proven entirely correct. This could mean immunity, but then comes the bolt cutters, the haphazard search, and the bomb. I counted four men down in the wide shot at the end of the episode, but we never saw the inside of the home after the fact.
Multiple casualties, perhaps multiple fatalities, and there's your penultimate ending. Of course it is. What else could it be? This is how it's done. It's how it should be done on shows like Homeland. The idea that Quinn and Carrie figured out the letter "R" meant they could be in immediate danger was another classic next-to-last episode moment, because as soon as they discovered the problem, you knew shit was about to get nasty with an Usain Bolt-like quickness.
Elizabeth Keane still hasn't met Peter Quinn, but I still believe it's coming. I am perplexed at Dar's behavior, and not sure what his primary motivation is for the time being. He's still the villain, but did the show pull back on him as the ultimate baddie in favor of a more reasoned approach, where he actually did have a purpose behind his actions that wasn't based solely on his own power. He doesn't care for "Toxic Soldier" and what it could mean for a man he knows so well, and one he also knows performed with honor, giving away much of his sanity to execute his duty.
It was a bit odd, but here's Dar asking Max to help him hack into O'Keefe's computer through a daily backup, presumably to try and stop Brett from dragging Peter's name through the most unclean and permanent of mud and slime. He likes Peter, which we've known for quite some time. He's put himself in peril to assist Quinn, including now focusing more on him far more than his own freedom.
Basically, Carrie and Quinn are both in a miserable place and now are attempting to check on potentially dead agents and officials at the flag house, Dar and Max are looking into "Toxic Soldier," Brett O'Keefe appears to be in prime position to dominate his sphere, Keane, Rob, and Saul are amidst a lion's den, and one bad guy is dead after having his face smashed in with the butt of a gun. Next week, we'll see how the writers handle the various threads they've removed from the spool. If they pull on the right string, maybe the domino concept can work. I feel like they've put too much up for grabs to actually deliver on all of it next week.
The key may be Max' video, but that also brings down Dar Adal. That felt like the idea last week, so he may be at the point of no return. We're five days away from answers. Right now, we have many questions. That's par for the course, but again, how many can be addressed in one episode? The back half of this season has been very entertaining, if implausible and overly simplified. We'll certainly find out how it culminates on Sunday.
I'm @JMartOutkick. You made me a fucking monkey!