And so after three episodes dealing with the depressing repercussions of the Langley bombing, finally, a twist: Instead of being at odds, Carrie and Saul are really in cahoots. There are so many things that I like about this development—what it does for pace, future plot, character, my interest level—that I don’t really care that it may not make sense. After all, we saw Carrie, all alone in her house, react with shock and pain to Saul selling her out to the congressional committee. Everything that happened immediately thereafter—Carrie’s decision to go the press, her conversation with the intake doctor, her freak-out at her hearing—is really hard for me to interpret as strategic. She was off her meds then, incapable of being manic, paranoid, and scheming. Going to the press with a true story, however loopily she told it, on the off chance that some law firm might approach her about going double agent seems like an unacceptable risk. Most likely, during her month in the madhouse, after the lawyer made contact, Carrie was able to get in touch with Saul and, together, they cooked up a plan. (Update! According to Homeland’s showrunner Alex Gansa, Carrie and Saul hatched this plot right after the Langley bombing, before this season began. So it really doesn’t make sense. It requires us to excuse dozens of head-scratching plot elements and makes everything we’ve seen this season— namely Carrie’s inner-turmoil— mean much less. This is one of those cases where knowing more about the writer’s intentions is just a burden: I will continue to pretend Saul and Carrie concocted this scheme much more recently.)
And it’s a good one, for the health of Homeland itself. Carrie and Saul’s agenda finally gives this season some momentum. Thus far the show has been almost purposefully stagnant: The first half of this episode—with Carrie still in the hospital, still dealing with a vast, unfair bureaucracy and people telling her when she has to cut her fingernails—was as well-acted as ever, but getting pretty repetitive. Carrie being on the run in Washington, D.C. was the most engaging plot Homeland has had in weeks. With one deft move, Carrie now has a mission, one she’s going to have to pull off in her still-fragile state. As for that mission: I know Carrie’s on a no-fly list, but odds are, what—10 million to one, 10 billion to one, a googolplex to one?—that her face-to-face with the Iranian client will, at some point, be taking place in Venezuela, near a slum high-rise that’s home to a suspected terrorist/heroin addict.
What I admire most about the twist is that it makes sense of Carrie and Saul’s behavior. When Carrie agreed to let Leland Bennett’s client “pick her brain” about the CIA’s strategy, I wrote in my notes, “WOULD SHE DO THIS????? NO!!!” (My notes are, obviously, highly analytical documents.) Bennett made a good case: Carrie really is in a dire jam, a prison without walls, no cash, no car, no credit cards, no passport, about to be returned to the loony bin. She is being hunted by the CIA; Dar Adal is going after her for real. And yet, conspiring with the Iranians who were involved in Langley? No way. No matter how calamitous her circumstance, Carrie would never do that. She would, as she said last week, rather die in the asylum. Even more so, at the moment Carrie agreed to work with Bennett, to our knowledge, she still had one move left: She still hadn’t spoken with Saul. I don’t believe Carrie Mathison would ever become a traitor, but she certainly wouldn’t do so without exhausting all of her options, including begging her mentor and the head of the CIA to grasp that she’s not crazy anymore.
Along similar lines, Carrie and Saul’s scheme means that Saul has not, suddenly, become a complete, heartless asshole. When he told Dar Adal to continue going after Carrie, I started reconsidering that extremely un-Saul-like scene from two episodes ago when he yelled at Farah for wearing a headscarf: Maybe that scene felt so off because it was supposed to indicate just how fundamentally Saul had changed. The Saul we knew for two seasons would never be so merciless toward Carrie, but maybe Saul had become a different kind of man. Maybe the Langley attack had turned him into a black-and-white thinker—if you are not with the CIA, he will grind you down. So I am relieved that Saul did not just develop a whole new personality, but is still, in fact, Saul, even if it means the headscarf speech really was just terrible.
Another thing to like about the twist is that it doesn’t entirely obviate what came before. Carrie is still a wreck. Her relationship with Saul is still damaged. She may let him hug her, but her tearful admonition—“You should have gotten me out of the hospital Saul, you shouldn’t have left me in there”—is real. When she’s less tattered it will come up again, even as the pair are working together to find out more. And another bonus: finding out more just got way more interesting. The extremely explicatory conversations between Farah and Saul about the new big bad guy have been beyond dry and hard to follow. Homeland tried to dramatize the money-laundering scene by showing us the money moving around, like in a heist movie. Homeland has never done cuts like that before, but I appreciate the effort to show us something, anything, and not just give us more dull talk. Now, at least, Carrie will be dealing with the bad guys directly, and I’ll maybe be able to remember the mastermind’s name without looking it up. (It’s Majid Javadi, to save you the trouble.)
While on the subject of things I liked, there was only one thing to enjoy about the episode’s other storyline, Dana and Leo’s Teen Tour of Darkness: Mike! Hi, Mike! I knew you wouldn’t have abandoned Jessica in her time of need, and I’m glad to see you’re still here, being more reliable and decent than everyone else. That compliment dispatched, on to the awful stuff. Based on Dana’s last conversation with her mother, I am not convinced Dana would be so much of an jerk as to not even take her mom’s call. (Though I did laugh that her mom shows up in her phone as “Jessica,” which seems like the perfectly pill-ish Dana detail.) I am even less convinced that two rich kids from the suburbs of D.C. on an impulsive road trip would be flipping cars.
But, obviously, this is just nit-picking compared with the big doozy, the melodramatic revelation that Leo is not just seriously troubled, but “killed his brother in a maybe failed murder-suicide pact and got away without being prosecuted” troubled. This is the most unnecessarily over-the-top thing to happen on this show since Dana and Finn ran someone over. Insofar as Dana is interesting, it is as a normal teenager with a very complicated father, not as a normal teenager in a bunch of outlandish soap opera plots. To make matters more alarming, this storyline is only going to get worse: Remember, nice-for-now-but-crazy-for-later Leo still has Dana’s topless photos.
TODAY IN SLATE
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The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.