A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The heart of “Sock Puppets” is the idea that at times one can commit even larger mistakes in the process of trying to escape previous ones. It is more true in a narrative clearly designed to give organic birth to dramatic poetry and parallelism, but it rings a bell of reality outside of the world of Homeland. The bell of reality itself, unfortunately, is a bit off in “Sock Puppets” as this uneven season of Showtime’s flagship drama begins to draw in its various story threads together in earnest. The episode is a considerable improvement over the two previous installments, but Chip Johannessen’s & Evan Wright’s script jumps through too many holes to quality itself as a worthy installment of a show that, in spite of several near-fatal mistakes, has consistently found ways to keep its story relevant to the real world. Those loopholes are particularly glaring in how easily they could have been solved. At a brisk forty-five minutes with the “Previously On” segment, there certainly was plenty of room to add the connective tissue that would have created a semblance of cohesion in a script that at times often lacks it. A prime example is the sequence where Carrie and Saul present the evidence left behind by an assumedly doomed Javadi to President-elect Keane. The sequence works just fine on its own, but it certainly is overshadowed at its onset as to how the meeting itself took place, considering just how hostile Keane had become at the end of their last meeting. A similar lapse of judgment arrives in a sequence where Quinn steals guns and ammunitions out of a store because the concept of one person remaining behind in the store while the others put out a suspiciously timed fire had not been invented yet.
The opening of “Sock Puppets” is excellent, however, concretely focusing on Carrie’s aching, tired face. She has an understandable exhaustion etched throughout her visage as she sits in a therapy session, trying to keep herself intact while she opens up emotionally and becomes vulnerable. It’s a difficult balance to strike, but the sequence is riveting, providing a germane window into Carrie’s character, how she feels about the decisions that have shaped her existence up until that point and what her future looks like. Homeland’s most impressive trait continues to be not its pulse on the real world geopolitical machination, but the character of Carrie Mathison and how phenomenally complex she has become. Carrie confesses that her relationship with Brody was “unusually intense,” which might win the award for greatest understatement in the show’s history and that the relationship “didn’t end well”, which actually might tie for that award. Carrie confesses that at first she did not want to have Franny and that when at first she would look at her daughter, she would see not that Brody was not there, but the exact opposite. Franny’s existence reminded Carrie that Brody no longer existed, adding constant pangs of guilt as to how she had been complicit in his grisly demise. She couldn’t bear to lose Quinn, either, she confessed quietly. It’s a moment of quiet recognition by Carrie followed by one in which she understands that she had put herself before Franny in those circumstances and the reversal was just as necessary.
The second-most riveting aspect of “Sock Puppets” was the unveiling of the Fake-Alex Jones’s war room of the titular sock puppets, keyboard warriors doing the bidding of right-wing ideologues to spread mass propaganda with the assumption of several different identities. Max looks upon in an equivalence of awe and horror at the absolutely massive complex of trolls feeding the alternate fake news that has caused a massive shift in the American political paradigm. The camerawork from director Dan Attias in this sequence is particularly terrific, successfully latching onto the pulse of the real world instantaneously. It was chilling. Carrie has another massive conundrum on her plate, however, and the episode cleverly reverses a scene right out of the pilot with her and Saul on a bench. This time it’s Carrie sitting in Saul’s position, making the difficult case for their most viable option to take out Dar Adal and save the Iranian nuclear deal. It fits within the dramatic irony the episode is aiming for and in this scenario it’s Saul realizing how much his dalliance with Allison truly hurt him. Dar Adal helped him cover up the consequences of that catastrophe but the only legal way to mitigate Dar Adal’s influence was to prosecute that cover up under the Espionage Act. The only way to truly salvage Saul’s accomplishment was to throw him under the bus. Carrie tries to make the case that Saul would receive a pardon down the road, but both of them know what the consequences are, regardless of the pardon, if it ever became politically expedient for Keane to issue the pardon in the first place. It is no secret that Homeland really crackles to life when Carrie and Saul are intricately involved in a storyline together and this particular narrative stroke is one of the most brilliant moves Homeland has ever pulled.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“You needed to be educated.”
+“That obsequious little shit.”
+“What is it with you people? ‘The intelligence community.’”
+Carrie saying “Framed” and Keane responding with “Murdered”
+The ghost of Fara
+“What can we do legally?
+Carrie and Saul’s exchange about their unfortunate sexual partners was fantastic.
Episode Title: Sock Puppets
Written by: Chip Johannessen & Evan Wright
Directed by: Dan Attias
Image Courtesy: Baltimore Sun
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