Mirages of Hope
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
There are few things that are more cruel than mirages. They give one moment of hope, sometimes in the most dire of circumstances before snatching it all the way and elevating the despair to heights that had been deemed impossible. Homeland’s fifth season ends upon an hour that is ubiquitous with mirages, false glimmers that appear and then suddenly are snatched away with a despairing sense of resignation. In hindsight, the structure of Homeland’s fifth season comes more into hindsight and certain storylines end more favorably than I would have expected, but it also exposes the flaws that run through simultaneously. Season five was not as thrilling as the first nor as nail biting as the fourth, but it was certainly more connected and aware than the third (the show’s nadir) and more consistent than the second (solid first three-fourths before sliding off the rails in its climax). It was also perhaps the show’s most intelligent season since the first, the graffiti controversy included, prying at vital issues facing today’s world from multiple perspectives and giving the audience the opportunity to reach their own conclusions. Not all of those issues quite stuck, however, but the conversations they inspired are worthy in their own right. What set the fifth season of Homeland so distinctly apart from its peers, however, is how prescient it became as it went along. Even as the material within the season was lacking, that prescience made it seem more vital and the season struck unfortunately real reality there to its benefit. I don’t expect that to change, although one certainly hopes the morbid connections to reality no longer exist in such a quantity. That hope is understandably thin, however, and one hopes that Homeland continues to tackle those vital issues with the complexity it has proven itself to be capable of.
For all of the flack that Long Time Coming received as a season finale, A False Glimmer is essentially following a similar format. For all of the talk about this as an “action-packed” finale, it really isn’t and that’s a good thing. Homeland often taps into what people call its “24” roots when it comes to action sequences and that is fine in modicum amounts, but I don’t need to see Carrie in some sort of shootout sequences to find myself riveted. Carrie reciting # over Qasim’s body in the tunnel is as effective a moment as any where she has a gun in her hand. Glimmer is ubiquitous with such moments, where the handful of quiet feeds into another handful of quiet, small bits of hope floating about a virtual sea of uneasiness and despair. Those glimmers are not all composed of hope, however. Several of them arrive in the foreboding of terror, such as the opening sequence that is essentially a direct continuation of last week’s cliffhanger. That the sarin attack would be resolved within about five minutes of screen time was unexpected, but a welcome development from a series that at its best moments doesn’t waste time in getting into the thick of things. She immediately finds Qasim, who tries to corner her but his humanity almost immediately takes over as it did when he couldn’t close the gate any longer. His confrontation with Bibi is less of a confrontation than it is a plea to appeal to the minute portion of his cousin that had spared his life but it is in vain. Qasim gets shot but takes Bibi down with him in a scuffle where Carrie gets her several shots through his body. Carrie leans over Qasim’s dying body, recognizing that this was the man who had given Quinn atropine and the slightest chance at life. She tearfully thanks him, reciting a prayer as Qasim’s eyes close forever.
That quiet moment is the best in an episode that’s is full of them (outside of one sequence that defies logic), solidifying an extremely cynical world view that Homeland has become far more in tuned to in its past two seasons. Not that the first three weren’t, but this season even unturned the most positive success from Saul’s point of view, which was installing Javadi in Tehran. He earned the nickname “The Maestro” for it, but in this season Carrie discovers in the documents that even that has turned increasingly sour as Javadi is losing control in the Iranian capital. To anyone with a decent understanding of interventionist foreign policy, that isn’t surprising, but it’s a profoundly cynical note for the show to hit and also a profoundly true one. Qasim sacrificed himself to protect the Hauptbahnhof and Carrie recognizes the importance of reaching out with humanity, a significant change from the Drone Queen we had met at the beginning of the previous season. The importance of depicting a Muslim man stopping a terrorist attack on screen is unfortunately vital, especially in the midst of the refugee crisis that has given ethnocentric bigotry a heightened platform from which to spill its nonsense out. It’s unlikely to pan out that way and the suggestion that Qasim’s sacrifice will simply melt away is another cynical note that unfortunately rings quite true. The espousal of empathy in Carrie’s tackling with Qasim is a vital understanding of the aspects of American foreign policy that unfortunately melt away in favor of drone warfare, whose “collateral damage” in turn creates even more extremists. And that was the happy note in this hour.
Allison’s story’s end was the most anticlimactic beat, getting shot throughout as she lay in the trunk of an SVR car. It’s the most indignant moment in the hour, on the note alone that Saul and co. openly firing on SVR agents gives them license to go after American operatives (certainly a fair number would be known due to Allison’s subterfuge. Outside of that logical leap, for a character to be taken out this quickly only speaks to the limited amount of time the episode had to deal with her and frankly, it would have added a much more intricate layer of cynicism for her to have escaped. The thread with Laura reached a much more sobering conclusion than I would have ever expected. Mirroring more closely than ever before the gobsmacking ending to John le Carré’s A Most Wanted Man, Astrid presents Laura with an option to save Numan’s life, whose refugee status would be revoked and his execution in Turkey certain if she did not cooperate. Laura’s renouncing of Faisal Marwan as a terrorist who plotted the sarin gas attacks was the most sobering moment of the hour, as the camera turned back towards a sneering Astrid cloaked in a shroud of darkness. This doesn’t redeem the generally shrilling writing Laura received, but her sequence here felt a lot more like a rebuke against the actions of the BND than anything else. Quinn, in the episode’s last twist of the knife, lies comatose from a brain hemorrhage. Dar Adal gives Carrie the letter Quinn had signed when he had left for Syria two years before. Quinn’s voice resonates throughout Carrie’s mind, his words of him being okay with dying in the line of duty and his worst nightmare lying in between life and death. He had, in his own words, embraced the darkness and the glimmer of hope perhaps was Carrie leaning in towards the plug. The killing machine who had become the moral center of the show appears certainly to be dead, his suffering an ironic product of the work he had come to embody. Perhaps it was that realization that pushed Carrie to reject Saul’s offer of an autonomous job within the CIA. “I’m not that person anymore,” she notes somberly and largely for the better, neither is Homeland the same.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“No, not really.”
+“This charade is over.” To be fair, Ivan really doesn’t have a lot of incentive to agree to what Saul is selling. Considering his success with Allison (regardless of how it ended), he should be fine within the SVR structure.
+“You’re playing a bad hand.”
+“The last illusion of the illusionless man.”
+“I am important.”
+Carrie and Jonas. What a kind glimmer of hope it was for her.
+“Did we do this to him?”
+I sincerely appreciate the depth of the writing that left so many protagonists unable to say they haven’t morally compromised themselves.
+/- Was Otto’s proposal awkward or what?
Episode Title: A False Glimmer
Written by: Liz Flahive & Alex Gansa & Ron Nyswaner
Directed by: Lesli Linka Glatter
Image Courtesy: Showtime