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In the future, in case you’re wondering, this moment – right now – is when I decided to put your ass in jail. – President-Elect Keane
If you didn’t already realize it, you can tell the season is drawing to its end. Two episodes remain, and now we’ve put almost all players together. A few things remain to be done on that front, with the most important being Keane meeting Peter Quinn.
I’m not going to ask for a mea culpa on Quinn’s character, because from the get-go I’ve said Rupert Friend is very good. Much of this season, his character has been boring to watch, but it’s improved, which I also predicted would happen. There’s no reason for him to still be alive if he weren’t going to become a major player in the conclusion of this story. Thus, as he’s played a little Jack Bauer and a little John McClane, it’s grown on me. That leads us to last night’s episode, where he was the most cogent he’s been since before he was captured and gassed.
Here, we see Peter use a trace to track the bomber, which takes him to a familiar area, leading to the reunion with the waitress at the diner. He finds a specific house in a neighborhood he knows well, and after breaking in, remembers meeting with fellow black ops members and being given orders. Moments later, he has to hide as men arrive at the house. In the garage is the Medina Medley van, and all the threads begin to spin together.
It had to be this way. Homeland couldn’t justify his screen time without it, but the writers have done enough at this stage to make me turn my opinion. I’m not surprised it’s happened, but Peter’s scenes have gone from uninteresting to silently spellbinding. The intensity in the second-by-second unfurling of his portion of the overall story has ramped up to such a degree that it’s impossible not to find it compelling.
I still think the show would have been better with his exit, because it would have driven Carrie and Saul to avenge what happened to him and look for answers in both domestic and foreign intelligence operations, but with him alive, this is the best the show could have done. The front half of the season, no, but the back half has been relatively solid, and at times excellent.
Peter Quinn’s rendezvous with Carrie Mathison at the renovated home across the street from “The Flag House,” in quotes because it’s the name of the episode, is the culmination of a season of futility for both characters. Or so we thought. More amazing than maybe anything we’ve seen all season is what we learn when Saul Berenson breaks into Carrie’s house. While the show has focused our attention on Franny, and also on Carrie working with Conlin and Reda Hashem, it all felt very unlike what we’ve come to know of her over the past six years.
However, when Saul gets into the locked room and flips on the lights, we see the yarn, we see the connections, we see the articles, we see the obsessions dismissed as conspiracy theories that almost always were anything but. The series gave us one thing, but that moment reminded us why Homeland was at one time an all-time great drama. Carrie the detective, the sleuth, the truth-seeker, that’s what we signed up for when Nicholas Brody made it back to the United States. And that’s what we saw on Sunday night.
Patinkin didn’t act it in a way that gave much expression from Saul. He wasn’t upset, he wasn’t afraid. He was just taken aback by what was in front of him. It’s almost as if Saul realized his daughter was still his daughter, and she’s just as sharp as she ever was. I’m not sure enough people paid attention to this, because it came just before Saul saw Max’s video. As important as that was, the entirety of Homeland has been built around Carrie as the smartest person in the room, often acting like the dumbest or most out of control. Here, we see just how bright she truly is, without her around to ruin it.
Through everything she’s been going through, privately she’s been on all of this from the get-go. Just a sampling, a brief window into that room, included Sekou Bah, the explosion, Keane’s controversial election, questions about Dar Adal, Ray Conlin’s “suicide,” a hostage crisis, Iran, the NSA, Saul’s role, and Brett O’Keefe. We know as viewers all about every one of these topics, and it’s here the show wants us to know something else.
Carrie Mathison, despite all her flaws, quirks, and ugly cries, is a fucking brilliant intelligence agent. She sees what isn’t there, she doesn’t give up, and she never takes an answer at face value. It’s why her circle of friends or colleagues is always small. She trusts almost no one. Max, last seen taking the video that could bring Dar Adal to justice and expose Brett O’Keefe’s nefarious deeds, has always been there for her. Saul is basically a father to her. Quinn is her best friend, who she occasionally thinks she should be in a relationship with, even if she’s never really owned up to that fact. But, at worst, he’s a brother to her.
Then there’s her daughter, the one bargaining chip Dar Adal had to use to ensure her lack of cooperation in the deposition, or with anything involving Elizabeth Keane. When Franny got “sick,” Carrie verbalized what I surmised in last week’s review would be soon to come, now that we’re not killing time to fill episodes. “Tell Dar Adal he’s won. Now I want to see my daughter.” She doesn’t believe in coincidences, which is why she’s so rattled when the driver knows too much about her.
As for Dar, what an outstanding scene we got last night with F. Murray Abraham and Elizabeth Marvel. You can actually buy into the hatred those two people have for one another. From the three cabinet suggestions, one of whom penned a letter calling Keane unfit for office, down to the threat I chose to use as my lead quote, that sequence was as strong as the show has been in ages. Stunningly, Mira and Saul had a hell of a scene as well. The Berenson ex has never been a favorite of mine, and I rolled my eyes when the camera found her in the restaurant, but here she was the voice he needed to hear to stop him from running, and to put him back in the ring wearing gloves.
Marvel’s glassy, watery eyes watching the propaganda video was another example of her talent, which has increasingly been on full display down the home stretch of the season. Her reaction to the video, demanding a press conference, then falling to pieces with Rob as she blames herself for making Andrew a part of the narrative, were all good. When she shows up on Carrie’s doorstep and tries to pressure her into fulfilling her promise, it’s a different type of stern than the woman who went nose to nose with Dar a few minutes earlier.
Homeland still pushed “fake news,” even had Max use the term in a phone conversation, and has turned up the anti-Bannon heat to 100 with the Andrew Keane video, but now has tied him to Quinn and the work-in-progress Dar stumbles on in the black box office. There’s very much a political undertone here, with a point of view, but as I said last week, I honestly don’t care about that side of it. I’m content just watching the characters exist and maneuver in the world, and can instead pin my eyeballs on the alliances, the treachery, and the relationships that drive the drama.
Some will get caught up in the agenda, as I did earlier in the year, but I’m not concerned with what writers think politically, provided their opinions are accompanied by good television. While Homeland shouldn’t win any non-acting awards anytime soon, the season has continued to grow on me. I still don’t know if much of the actual plot has worked on any lasting level, but I am invested in the futures and results for the characters.
Carrie still hasn’t heard Quinn’s story about Astrid or the lake, and certainly Dar’s involvement in that situation. Saul doesn’t know any of it either. When they do, they’ll bring it to Keane in a secret meeting, and then it will be time for the new tenants of “The Flag House” to come to justice. Will it involve Adal and O’Keefe?
Don’t forget, the penultimate episode is almost always the most negative of any drama series and the one that packs the biggest emotional punch. Expect next week to feature something somber, and to place the heroes in an extremely dire scenario. You’re never supposed to feel particularly good the week BEFORE the finale. You’re supposed to get the relief as a reward for tuning in and sticking it out. The design has always worked, thus it will never change.
Sunday will probably be tough, and we may see someone take a final bow, but there are now legitimate stakes to consider. The Iranian nuclear deal and all of the specifics mean nothing to Homeland at this point, but what happens to these people does. Plenty of resolution is left to execute in these last two weeks, or more accurately, in the final week. Conflict and pain is to come first, however. We’ll talk about it in seven days.
I’m @JMartOutkick. I do NOT look like a pussy.