A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Alternative realities and truths are a bedrock of espionage thrillers but in order for them to be effective, they have to be rooted in logic and not coincidence. “alt.truth” espouses the latter on an almost consistent basis, causing the audience to not gasp at the end of the hour from thrill but instead wonder if it’s possible for the final third of this season to bring the narrative back to some semblance of cohesion. These past two episodes have seemed reminiscent not of the sharpness this season displayed earlier but of the narrative lack of confidence that was so ubiquitous in season three. Homeland has a plethora of strengths but few of them are on display in this tepid installment that seems sure that the final twists would pull in the audience for that aforementioned gasp, that edge of the seat turn that will keep them coming back next week. The character moments for our protagonists land quite strongly and that’s primarily because Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin can really do no wrong in their respective roles. Other character moments largely fall completely flat and the two dramatic shifts in allegiances arrive without earned emotional weight and both of them feel disappointing because of the directions it seemed like they were going to go instead. The twists in and of themselves don’t work and it’s primarily because “alt.truth” relies far too much on coincidence to substitute for the logic of where the narrative is going to stick in a fashion that is both germane and riveting. The twists as a consequence feel empty and desperate.
The first twist that fails to land is one of the two character moments, the one where President-elect Keane tells Carrie to essentially fuck off, noting that it was a major mistake that she had listened to her in the first place. That Keane at some point or another would turn into Dar Adal’s direction was expected but I expected more of a substantial character turning point than whatever ended up happening here. As of last week, Keane seemed to have a surprisingly resolute head on her shoulders and while her irritation at her covert meeting with Javadi is understandable, her abrupt “fuck you” to Carrie was not. Somehow the domino pieces for Keane’s turn were placed in a logical manner and instead of being knocked over just went flying everywhere. A similar problem results when Javadi meets with Keane and instead of sticking to the script went completely in the other direction, deciding to save his own skin and in the worst fashion possible. In one sense it makes character sense for Javadi to ensure his own personal safety over the safety of the Iran deal, but it ends up falling flat because the set-up lacked any sort of tension in regards to what Javadi would do. It just abruptly happened and the only good to come of it is that Carrie and Saul are back together, firmly on the same page and that’s when Homeland works its best magic.
The third twist is more based on the plot rather than character work, but it fails to work on any level other than blunt irritation from the audience. Nina Hoss is an amazing actress (anyone somehow in doubt of that fact ought to watch Phoenix immediately) and her turn as Astrid was a bright spot in the show’s great fourth and fifth seasons. Her final episodes in season five turned her into a much darker character but she was no less fascinating for it. Her return in season six was a point of excitement, perhaps pointing to the German intelligence services becoming intertwined in the current season’s affairs of Iran and Israel. That was not the case, alas, but it always remained a decent possibility. This episode put an end to that and it put an end to Astrid’s life in the most ridiculous fashion possible. Quinn taking out the bullets from her gun was in hindsight a great, dark piece of foreshadowing. Nevertheless, the circumstances around the safe house were executed so poorly that it came across as an almost comedic joke designed to jolt the episode with a real shock value, not the tense and suspenseful sequence this show is normally good at executing. The moment Astrid decides to go grab her gun, the smarter move would have been for Quinn to blurt out “no bullets” or something like that, for Astrid to smack him in response, and then for the two of them to somehow escape using their intelligence training skills. Astrid dying is not only the waste of a perfectly complex and fascinating character, but it exemplifies this episode’s modus operandi of setting up shocking moments but somehow providing nothing for those moments to truly land, or land at all.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+I cannot say enough words about how damn good Claire Danes is in this role
+“I need some decent coffee.”
+Carrie seeing Franny was genuinely heartbreaking
+“I’m your friend, goddamnit.”
+“People died for it, in case you don’t remember.”
Episode Title: alt.truth
Written by: Charlotte Stoudt
Directed by: Lesli Linka Glatter
Image Courtesy: EW
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