Not Flying Away
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Homeland has an issue with abductions being used as such a prevalent plot point, but when it’s Saul being kidnapped from an airport and being taken into the tribal mountain regions of Pakistan, all is forgiven, My mouth was agape at that twist after I recovered from the initial shock of Saul getting stabbed in the neck with a tranquilizer. About a Boy was more of a slow burner of an episode, but that’s fine, considering the massive amount of place-setting that’s inherently required for all of these plot twists to work. The criticisms of some more outlandish plot twists and illogical steps seem to have taken root in the minds of the creative team as the set pieces for this espionage war have been carefully placed throughout every single frame.
Aayan as expected feels tremendously guilty about having sex with Carrie. Not only is it against his conservative bringing, but he feels guilty about feeling happy over the act. It’s a sin in his mind, but one that he has no guilt over committing again and again. “It’s a bit overwhelming,” she says quietly in a moment that will go down as one of the greatest understatements in this show’s history. While seeing Carrie sleep with Aayan again is just as cringe-inducing as it was last week, the time frame of trying to turn him within three days isn’t helping anything. But it’s not as if Carrie is totally enjoying helping Aayan lose his virginity. In comparison to the previous four episodes, About a Boy does a great job of humanizing Carrie again, something she was in dire need of. The humanization begins when she confesses to Aayan that yes, she does have a baby (he notices the Caesarian scar). She’s a girl, named Frances for Carrie’s father. “What does your husband do?” Aayan asks innocently, completely unaware of Frannie’s father being hanged from a crane in a Tehran square. “He died,” Carrie notes quietly, her voice nearly at the precipice of completely breaking apart. “He was on an assignment that was too dangerous,” she confesses, her eyes gazing over as she reminisces about Brody in Tehran. “I pushed him to go there,” she adds quietly.
And even though the third season of Homeland was uneven and there’s little to debate on that front, at its closing moments it left behind that tortured Carrie, one who so admonished by her own feelings that she decided to shut herself off completely. Not even an F15 bombing that went so terribly wrong could faze her. But this, the seducing of a young man after everything that she’s gone through has shredded that shield apart completely. It is one thing to be in a room as remote controlled bombs hit the ground. It is another thing entirely to take someone into your confidence by using your sexuality, knowing full well that you will betray them within a moment’s notice if necessary. If Brody and Carrie’s stories hadn’t gotten so entangled together, there’s a highly probably chance that Carrie wouldn’t think twice about everything that she is doing. But that relationship, that part of her reality that exists in her baby changed her no matter how hard she tries to deny it. And the painful memories it must bring back. She cries when she’s sleeping with Aayan, feeling crushing guilt over what she was doing. She pulls herself together as the job requires, but I don’t know if she bring herself to use her sexuality one more time. She does feel terrible about using Aayan in that manner, and it’s palpably evident. But as always with Carrie, the job is paramount. And it pays off. As troubling as it is, she does get the intel she wanted. He confesses that Haqqani is indeed alive and is incredibly sick, hence him smuggling the medicines out of the medical school. From his perspective his uncle is a hero, a brave Taliban man who drove out the Soviet Union. And America? “He knows to how to beat you, too,” he replies to Carrie without a trace of menace. It’s all a matter of perspectives sometimes, isn’t it?
Quinn and Fara have a great little sojourn as she’s quickly proving to be adept at the spy game. It’s amusing to note that she felt that Quinn and Carrie had known each other for a long time considering how they interact. Carrie has been giving great notes on how to manage one’s self in the world of espionage, beginning with the great tip on she needs to become a professional liar. “You’re learning from the best,” Quinn replies wryly as they both set up shop from where Fara has a direct line to where she had seen the cleric with Aayan and Haqqani. They quietly wait and suddenly there he is. Fara spots the cleric on the move and without Quinn having to shoot anybody, they’re on his tail. Their chase, which is largely off-screen (that’s alright with me), ends up with the two near the border of the Taliban-controlled area. Fara tries to get close enough to a cleric’s car to put a tracking device but she is unable to do so. I’m glad they added this part in as a reminder that no, just because Fara isn’t a fully trained operative and that one more success would have been a little ridiculous. But the heartbreaking realization is that they missed Saul by just a couple of steps.
In this great groundwork episode, Ambassador Boyd’s husband comes back in and I must admit I have a gripe here. Mark Moses is a great actor, but the notes with his character here are so reminiscent of Duck Phillips that it’s a little overwhelming. And his character here, as I’m sure the writers have intended, is so utterly pathetic it’s a bit difficult not to grind your teeth with annoyance every time his visage pops up on screen. Which I guess is a job well done to the actor and writers, but still. Anyhow, he breaks into Carrie’s apartment after a fairly vapid entrance on his part, taking pictures of her pictures with Frannie and her medication. It’s truly thrilling as layers upon layers of intrigue keep on piling on top of one another. But perhaps the most chilling and sharp moment was when Aayan asks her if she’s going to tell Frannie about her father’s demise because she must tell the truth. Carrie’s entire body seizes up in catharsis as her eyes widen in grief, guilt, and above all else fear as she realizes that the truth is the thing that she can never reveal. The spy work is amazing, but when Homeland hits those character beats as well as it did in that one scene alone, it’s almost unparalleled.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“I’m a spy. I know shit.”
+ “I can do that to people sometimes.”
+ “It’s hard to talk about some things.”
+ “That video made you a target!”
+Quinn’s righteous anger at Carrie not picking up her phone was something to behold. He has a point and so does she. Ah, those tricky perspectives once again.
+ “Is there no line?” No Quinn, no there isn’t.
+Fara on the Taliban border with Quinn: “I’m not into suicide.”
+The CIA fighting the ISI is a brilliant
+Carrie on Brody being her husband: “I would have liked that.”
Title: About a Boy
Written By: Meredith Stiehm
Directed By: Charlotte Sieling
Image Courtesy: Hypable