Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Homeland S04E07 - Redux

 “You have taught an entire generation to live with one foot in the afterlife.”

After last week’s hi-jinks, Homeland doesn’t let up, delivering an episode with high stakes, more intrigue, mistrust between the Americans and Pakistanis and a reappearance of an old friend. Also, the grown-ups have a meeting. Dive in for a recap and review. Episode rating – 7/10.

This episode was called “Redux”, for several reasons: the obvious reason being that it brings back Brody, and Carrie relapses into her health problems (not through her own mistakes though). Then there’s the constant spectre of the Bin Laden raid in Abbotabad hanging over the Haqqani situation, all of which together just feels like 2011 all over again. Redux indeed.

But actually, what this episode reminded me of more was of breaking bread with the ‘enemy’, near and far. As you can see in the image below, we saw three instances of our ‘heroes’ meeting with the ‘enemy’: Lockhart and Hensleigh with the Pakistani intelligence establishment, Carrie and the Pakistani soldier and most obviously Saul, the Jewish former CIA Director and Hassam Haqqani, Islamist, terrorist and American-killer extraordinaire. The first and last of those led to interesting discussions, while Carrie’s encounter was seeped in psychological breadcrumbs (more below).

This was yet another episode heavy with mistrust, particularly as the Pakistanis and Americans have high-level dialogue for the first time, but the meeting was filled with pleasantries and subterfuge, until Lockhart does a Carrie Mathison and says what his side is actually thinking. It was nice seeing Homeland finally capitalise on Lockhart’s position in the CIA, since he is the one who has to make the hardest choices.

In other news, the show has decided to focus on Carrie’s illness again, in case we’d forgotten about it. If you’d asked me a couple of seasons ago, I would’ve said I don’t like Homeland with Carrie sidelined, but now I’m not sure. Claire Danes is an excellent actress and does an amazing job in this episode, but I’m increasingly enjoying watching Lockhart, Quinn et al “take care of business”. Quinn is the perfect military wet blanket to every zany idea Carrie has, while Lockhart is somewhere in the middle.

Sausage fest
There is the small matter of ISI agents using the Ambassador's husband to spike Carrie's medication with hallucinogenics and then abducting her and causing her to have a bizarre dreamlike visitation by Nicholas Brodie. I assumed that she was just seeing things, although the scene went on for so long that I started to doubt myself. All told, this was a proper "wtf" moment, with drugs having an unexpected effect on Carrie and the show's direction.

Anyway, it’ll be interesting to note what they do with this, since the dialogue implied that Aasar Khan (Raza Jaffrey) was ‘playing along’. Are we going to see Carrie again romantically involved with one of the only two eligible men on the show? Surely the show can allow Carrie to have some agency and health problems WITHOUT involving a man?

Anyway, let’s look at some specific storylines:

Carrie and her drugs – Mr. Hensleigh and his foxy CIA lady (Tasneem, played by Nimrat Kaur) are plotting to take down Carrie, although I’m not sure why exactly. Obviously, there is a lot of antagonism between the US and Pakistan, given the support Pakistan has allegedly provided to terrorists over the years, culminating in the discovery of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan (almost certainly not known to the Pakistanis). However, for the Pakistanis to actually target a CIA station chief seems a little overt, unless there is a larger game afoot. Well, of course there is! But it seems unrealistic, nonetheless.

Carrie and her lost Aayan – we don’t really see her grieve for Aayan in this episode, except for some pained looks and comments about taking him to his grave. This episode, Fara seems to exist just to absolve Carrie of her guilt (“we all did”). There is a sense to Carrie that sometimes she wishes the world went back to what made sense – if 9/11 didn’t happen, if Brodie didn’t die, and so on. But then there she is, dealing with the world the way it really is.
Lockhart and Ambassador Hensleigh – I found these the most interesting exchanges this week. As the highest-ranking female character on the show (in fact, probably the highest ranking person whether male or female), until today we had only a broad outline of her failing marriage to chew on. 

But we now have more layers, such as her disillusionment with her job and somewhat miraculous turnaround. It was interesting to see Alan find a way to inspire his wife (even if it is to save his own hide), getting his wife to not only not resign (implied), but to come up with a strategy to get more info on Saul’s kidnap (to be revealed).

In the meantime, Lockhart is smashing up the china shop like a raging bull, spraying threats all over the place, making the revelation that the President has vested financial authority in him too. If you cast your mind back to Saul and Dar Adal’s meeting back in episode 3, it was said that Lockhart may be removed soon. I’m going to guess not.

Saul and terrorist – Saul gets the best lines, as usual – he gets to act as the show’s conscience, putting in words the debates the show wants to have but can’t directly create via the other storylines. And so we get a political and philosophical discussion between Saul and the new Abu Nazir: Hassam Haqqani (Numan Acar). They chew over familiar ground: Haqqani wants to know why the Americans thought it would be a good idea to invade Afghanistan, Saul thinks it’s 9/11, Haqqani says they should’ve invaded Saudi instead, etc.
What is interesting is that Haqqani hasn’t been shown cynically, but as a gentlemanly type of terrorist (!) who genuinely believes Islam has the answers. In this way, Homeland treads a careful tightrope when dealing with controversial characters – Haqqani is shown as oddly sympathetic, as though his motivations are entirely on a par with those of Saul and others. He is allowed to make the point, however, that both sides are doing whatever they can in order to make their children safe. Saul has no answer to that. In other news, now everybody knows Saul is a Jew. Uh oh.

Everybody else: Quinn has suddenly become un-disillusioned (illusioned?) with being an assassin, possibly because it allows the show to concentrate on Lockhart, Carrie and Haqqani. How nice of him. Max and Fara are pointless in this episode. That is all.


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