Vestiges of Salvation
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The Homeland of now is significantly different from the Homeland that began and that can either be a terrific or terrible thing depending on your point of view. That was going to happen naturally, considering that once the whole “whose side is Brody on?” gig was up, the show would have to reinvent itself. They dragged that storyline out for a season longer than necessary, but last season was the reset button that took the show into the most morally damaging arena it had tackled at that point. The gambit succeeded tremendously and this season looks to be more of the same approach, but in a quieter fashion that is reminiscent of John le Carré’s A Most Wanted Man. There’s an explosion in the previews for next week, so that quiet is effectively gone already, but even amidst the carnage there appears a more methodical, calculating approach than ever before. The same is true for Carrie Mathison, who is more stable than she has been at any point of her existence in the show and has undoubtedly worked beyond normal human capacity to achieve that normalcy. Yet that separation anxiety of the episode’s title never completely leaves her. That ache in some fashion or another for the life she had led, the one that broke out her infamous smile in Beirut, still exists. It doesn’t matter how far she’s pushed it, the fear on her face when her new boss Otto Düring mentions the word “Lebanon” is indicative of its existence and the power it holds when unleashed. It’s a cycle of perpetual tragedy on full display and I sincerely hope that by the end of it all, Carrie has something to keep for her own. She has earned that much.
Whether or not she wants to admit it to her former mentor, the guilt of her past actions weighs heavily upon her conscience like a boulder, crushing her ability to breathe. The episode opens up to a Carrie in church, her eyes straining for some sense of absolution, of a salvation whose chances of validation seem slim at best. Carrie has crafted a decent life for herself in Berlin. She has a doting boyfriend, a seemingly stable job, and her relationship with Frannie as a mother has never been stronger. She bikes to work, she has a smile on her face, but all of that goes downhill when a coworker journalist brings her potential proof on an illegal German surveillance program being conducted through the CIA. Immediately Carrie’s existence is thrown into turmoil, twisted even further by her boss deciding that it wasn’t enough to simply fund a refugee camp for Syrians fleeing ISIS. To ensure everything went smoothly, he had to go in person to Lebanon with a security detail firmly attached. Carrie is notably ballistic at the mere prospect of taking a billionaire philanthropist into a war zone with a security detail more primed for security at Geneva conferences. Otto remains defiant, however, and Carrie reluctantly acquiesces. Her former Baghdad associate Allison, now the chief of station in Berlin, shuts her out on information and her other option is resorting to an underground Hezbollah cell in the German capital.
Carrie has always been largely adept at her job (the season three parking lot run notwithstanding), with the caveat of her completely being devoid of authoritative respect and utter recklessness in regards to her health. Three seasons of what most people would consider enough psychological damage to last a lifetime and she was still in somewhat of a functioning mode. Brody’s death turned Carrie into a much harder, much more morally rigid character, perfect for her work yet increasingly damaging to who she was an individual. Aayan’s death and her orders to have Saul be bombed cracked that rigid façade and the following disaster of her tenure in Islamabad finally broke the rigidity entirely. There was always a purpose with Carrie’s character, something she was striving for, something she truly believed in and at the end of last season, she lost even that. Her mother giving her the truth of her bipolarity and its relation to her love life was undercut in a fashion by Quinn departing for Syria. And Saul, Saul was the anchor for Carrie with whom she had always had a relationship of trust, no matter how untenable it had become at times. And he sold out in Carrie’s eyes for a deal with a man who had just slaughtered so much of her staff. Two years later, Carrie had the option of running away from him, but she runs purposefully into him. It’s difficult not to ache for Carrie as Saul shuts her down angrily and Danes’s face twitches ever so slightly as if she is mere moments away from bursting into tears. Instead she’s temporarily kidnapped and comes face to face with a Hezbollah operative whose son was killed in her operation to take out Abu Nazir in season two’s seminal episode Beirut is Back.
If Carrie is openly confronted about the bloodshed she has caused at least twice in a single hour, Quinn on the other hand is veering off into the opposite direction. Homeland has never been shy about scrutinizing American foreign policy under its unforgiving lenses and the same holds true here. A notably bristling Quinn returns after spending a grueling twenty-eight months in Syria, looking at a room full of military bureaucrats, none of whom can tell him what strategy is being employed in Syria. There simply isn’t one, beyond killing and bombing in some sort of order, a haphazard puzzle at best. It’s a foreign policy that has yielded little positive results, with the hardcore conservatism now espoused so ardently by Saul and Quinn promising to yield even less. The CIA spying on behalf of the German government to conduct surveillance on German citizens is a tricky, tricky road to go down and not just on account of its sheer illegality. Saul stands by its effectiveness, but how effective is it when the option after German intelligence backs off is to simply have Quinn commit random assassinations without any backup? How is it any different from the kill list last season, where Quinn was the one trying to shake Carrie out of her frigid reverie? It’s tragic perhaps that as Carrie’s veil was lifted, it fell over heavier onto those whom she cared for so much. Carrie’s pleading of nihilism to the Hezbollah officer, of how she left the government because all of the suffering was leading to nothing, may or may not be genuine, but it does display an understanding it seems that Saul and Quinn are no longer capable of. That shaky pleading does yield an equally shaky dividend, despite all indications that it was for naught. Carrie gets her safe passage to Lebanon. But as she looks over at Jonas and Frannie sleeping so peacefully next to her, there’s a despondency over Carrie’s visage as she realizes that that safety may very well no longer exist.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+The shots of the church’s interior were astoundingly gorgeous
+“Don’t be sorry. Be on time. This is Germany.”
+I love how Homeland screws with people’s perceptions. As our hacker is going down the U-bahn, there’s sinister music and edgy camerawork that captures commuters looking at him suspiciously. The expectations are quite similar to when Brody was first seen praying, with the show cannily scrutinizing its audience to their own biases and perceptions. People assumed that he was an antagonist and would do something right there, in the train station. Instead, he goes to a sex shop, makes a gay-themed jihadist recruiting video and puts it up on their website. Way to go, Homeland. Way to go.
+“I honestly have no idea what it adds up to.”
+The entire Quinn conversation, regardless of where one falls on the political spectrum, was fascinating
+I do love Homeland’s craft at world building. Making Carrie and Allison friends from her season one Baghdad days was a perfect touch. And brining back Nina Hoss back from the previous season? Terrific.
+Saul’s directorship bid doomed in part by Carrie
+Düring atoning for his family’s past, their wealth having been built during World War II on the backs of slave labor
+“What are you atoning for? Keeping America safe?” The extremism espoused by Saul and Allison is downright terrifying, especially when the latter comments on “these new Germans” and Saul wrapping up her sentiment by rueing the Germans’ “lack of fighting stamina”.
+“You spent the last ten years killing people. It’s not enough just to stop. You have to do something.”
+“Every Muslim is a radical, is that what Düring thinks?”
+“All that suffering and nothing changes.”
+Carrie’s plea of the starvation and death that awaits the refugees if Hezbollah doesn’t cooperate was powerful
+“Our strength is our suffering and you provide us with a steady supply of it.”
+“You hunt us, you kill our families, you keep us from our homeland.”
+”I will fight you forever.”
+Carrie’s face when she is confronted with the revelation of the Beirut killing. Claire Danes continues to be phenomenal.
+“Two minutes to prepare yourself for paradise.”
+/-The new German characters so far haven’t gelled as well as their Pakistani counterparts from the previous season, but the setup is so far intriguing.
-Laura the reporter needs a serious reality check and smarter writing. She’s already grating and it’s the season opener. A more reasonable level-headedness from a crusading journalist would be appreciated.
Episode Title: Separation Anxiety
Written by: Chip Johannessen & Ted Mann
Directed by: Lesli Linka Glatter
Image Courtesy: The New York Post