A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The Abrahamic Covenant is most famed for the promise God made to Abraham that his descendants would be granted all of the land from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates. The Promised Land, the Land of Israel, was thusly born and is the covenant that has in part given rise to the contentious issue of Israel and Palestinian sovereignty. A crux of that contention is the establishment and expansion of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian land. Proponents argue that the covenant gives them the right to expand in Holy Land that is their own. Opponents argue that the settlements are inhumane, an object of oppression and genocide devised by a colonial state. Homeland has treated the Israeli side of the War on Terror, a critical side, as a largely touch and go perspective, bringing it into the greater picture in a more meaningful way last season. Here, the Israeli and Palestinian conflict forms a greater degree of narrative tension, even if the show is as of yet still largely concerned with Israeli intelligence and how it operates in relationship to the neighboring countries in the Middle East, in particular Iran. If season three did present Homeland at its weakest, Saul was nevertheless able to achieve a peace deal with Iran in regards to its nuclear ambitions at the end of it. That deal is now under scrutiny, with Israeli intelligence and Dar Adal asserting that Iran is cheating on the deal. It serves the interests of both players to do so. Carrie and Saul, however, have much greater reservations about the accusations and the respective harshness of the response that would be meted out in those circumstances. For Saul, however, it’s also deeply personal. The Iran deal is the one golden marker on so much of his recent history, the one bright spot amidst the darkening sea of hopelessness and betrayal. That it itself has now come under scrutiny is a reality that Saul is scrambling, calmly, but scrambling nevertheless to ensure doesn’t spiral out of his control.
“The Covenant” is not a particularly thrilling hour of Homeland, a show that has, for better and worse, become known for its action set pieces and frequent explosions. But it is arguably one of the finest hours of the show from an intelligence perspective. It has the quiet, thoughtful nuance that the best of the show has to offer and personally I found this hour to be thoroughly enthralling from that perspective. It was arresting if you look upon it through the lens of the inevitable clash between the personal and the professional in spite of the staunch judgments made against the existence of that clash in the first place. Intelligence work is often noted as being a job in which the delineation between the professional and the personal is particularly vital, but a key tenant of espionage is related to trust. The abilities to form, maintain, and strengthen trust are critical to the pursuit of intelligence efforts and it is simply impossible for emotions to be removed from that calculation. Even Dar Adal, whose allegiance has always been far more tied to the agency’s pursuit of dominance than any singular individual, can’t escape the emotional ties to the agency, the emotions that keep him within the mindset of keeping Saul in the dark. It isn’t simply the desires to ensure that the agency continues to take a hard line on Iran and that Keane keeps her administration’s allegiance to Israel above everything else. A part of it, as I read it, is to ensure that Saul’s vision of the agency, the one that resulted in the Iranian deal, is the vision that is crushed. A part of that desire perhaps, arises out of Dar Adal’s envy that the approach of Saul may work in any instance. The use of the word “conclusive” is a possible indicator to that effect. It’s quite the contrast with Carrie, a character Homeland has never been afraid of making outright unlikeable or a character the show is unwilling to have the consequences of her actions simply because she is the primary protagonist. She may yet save Sekou, but the journey towards her redeeming her placing his plea deal in journey is likely to be far more complicated.
Saul’s journey in “The Covenant” is fascinating. A key fixture of Homeland, Saul’s odyssey through the intelligence apparatus has been interesting on its own, illumining a different set of difficulties, trials, errors, and outright cruelties at times. For him, his covenant was that deal, proof that his tactics brought about a major international moment of reconciliation. Now it was under threat. The best scene in the episode by far, however, is perhaps the most surprising in that regard because it speaks not to the complexities of the deal but how fraught Saul’s emotional context in regards to it is becoming. Saul visits his estranged sister in the West Bank after what seems like years and he has a fascinating conversation about his Jewish identity. Saul’s relationship with his Jewish heritage is a complex one, one that always seems to factor more in terms of how others perceive him than he perceives in himself. That’s true in a larger context of identity, certainly, especially when Saul calls his sister Dorit out for how she became influenced by an extremist Israeli. Dorit lives in a settlement town in the West Bank and she’s proud of how her settlement community has grown three times the size of what it used to be when she first began to live there. She noted with pride how her fanatic husband had chosen a specific location for their settlement home because he had “wanted the Arabs to see” a rising Israeli settlement in a land that was theirs. Dorit espoused the Covenant of Abraham with a feverish devotion, ignoring each and every single moment where Saul noted that she had built her home upon land that wasn’t hers. She had built her home by uprooting dozens of homes belonging to people she saw as “the other.” Dorit, as fanatics often do, ignored her brother’s arguments of sanity while focusing instead on what she had in her life that Saul didn’t. She had fulfillment through her family and through her, as Saul calls it, belief in the Covenant of Insanity. Saul’s covenant was his belief in that he was doing was work that would help protect the world. His greatest fear is that he may have nothing to show for it, to the world, to himself.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+Quinn’s PTSD episode in the shower was beautifully directed
+“There’s a better view from the bedroom window.”
+I appreciate the complexity of writing around the Iranian nuclear deal. Considering the political circumstances, to endorse that unfounded theory carte blanche would be irresponsible.
+So Dar Adal is Dick Cheney?
+“When did we start punishing people for the crime they didn’t commit?”
+That old Carrie Mathison smile
+“Haven’t you driven enough people from their homes already?”
+“How can you live knowing that your very presence here makes peace less possible?:
+Even Quinn’s storyline didn’t have me rolling my eyes
Episode Title: The Covenant
Written by: Rob Nyswaner
Directed by: Lesli Linka Glatter
Image Courtesy: Showtime
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