Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Homeland S04E06 - "From A to B and back again"


Episode rating – 8/10

Episode 6 was a cracker, ratcheting up the tension that’s been building all season with a fitting mid-season finale. Despite some weak characterisation, this episode showcases Homeland at its best by focusing sharply on the intrigue and ignoring the Quinn and Carrie “forced love story”. Dive in for a recap and review.

There was a tragic feel to Aayan’s story this episode, with both of the women in his life longing for him and wanting to help him. The happy pictures of him with his friends seemed ominously portentous and sure enough, he was shot at the hands of his infamous uncle Hassam Haqqani. And as the identical 4x4s branched off in three separate directions, leaving the CIA Reaper three choices to follow, Quinn’s (Rupert Friend) expression said it all: confusion, embarrassment and anger. So often do these emotions go together, they might as well have a word for the collective noun. Confusion as to how Haqqani flushed out Carrie’s plan (Fara should be able to help on this), embarrassment at a multibillion dollar operation being outwitted by a medieval warlord and anger at missing out on their target and suddenly being at the target’s mercy. All in all, this episode helped Homeland gallop forward in terms of plot, but how did we get there?

The episode starts off with Carrie and Aayaan being cosy in bed, with the latter practising his new identity. It’s hard to square Carrie’s new crush (and this clearly is way more than just “softening” the target) with her previous crush, the bad boy Nick Brody. Brody was seven shades of trouble, whilst Aayan wouldn’t say boo to a goose. But the counter-terrorism world is an odd beast and stranger things have happened, so ok. Carrie likes being with a much younger, less complicated man (boy). It’s extremely irresponsible, but you understand her emotional fragility.

Then Carrie asks Quinn for support, which is not forthcoming due to aforementioned shacking up with a teenager. “I’ll try somebody actually willing to do their job”, Carrie says. Suddenly Agent Redmond appears. Hmm.

Cut to Aayaan at university, picking up his last few things, only to be ‘caught’ by Kiran. Now these two were clearly ‘involved’ and as Kiran learns that some female journalist is whisking Aayan away to Britain, you can feel the quiet anger in her voice. They were obviously close (“when I will I SEE you again”, as Kiran said a couple of episodes ago). However, in a rushed scene, Aayaan just tries to make a quick getaway, almost as though he never cared about her anyway. Aayaan has put all his trust in Carrie and seems to think he needs nobody else. Bizarrely, Kiran then asks him to take her with him but Aayaan leaves anyway, only to find that he’s being followed. Fortunately, he loses his tail fairly easily and returns to Carrie.

“Not loveable eccentric…like hardcore chemical”
Then we get an odd scene with Quinn and traitor Alan Hensleigh, who as you’ll remember has been selling secrets to the ISI (Pakistani Intel) in exchange for, um, them to not publicly humiliate him? He’s a strange character, since he doesn’t have anything to trade for – all he gets in return is his life and dignity intact. Anyway, he bumbles into the CIA office (!) pretending to leave a note for Redmond but really just came to grill Quinn on Carrie. Unfortunately, Hensleigh is the Ambassador’s husband and also the Embassy’s local drunk, so nobody pays him much mind. Somehow, Hensleigh manages to find Carrie’s safe house location. This will become relevant later.

Alongside all the Carrie and Hensleigh stuff, there is a quiet panic building up about the fact that Saul can’t be found, although this stays in the background for most of this episode. As we already know, Saul’s been kidnapped by Ghazi, the local hoodlum employed by the ISI. This will also become relevant later.

Then we get probably the second-best scene of the episode, when Aayan tells Carrie about being followed. What follows is Carrie in near-hysterics about the whole thing, except she wasn’t quite pulling it off. At this point, for me the other shoe fell: she had arranged the whole thing. This is the bonkers Carrie Mathison, the woman who goes around sleeping with intel targets…why would she worry so much about a tail? There was a fake quality to her alarm, which, it should be mentioned, was superbly played by Claire Danes. Danes had to play somebody pretending to be alarmed, which can’t be easy.

Clearly she wanted to delay his plans, although I didn’t fully appreciate there was more to it than that. I also didn’t realise that the full extent of her plan involved her getting assaulted (her underlings no doubt taking advantage of the hurly burly of the “assault” to get one over on Carrie) and carted off. It was a risky plan – what if Aayaan seriously injured himself? I think Claire tried to scare him using the tail, but when he persisted, she signalled for the “break-in”. Of course, there’s the obligatory “reveal” scene in the CIA van afterwards, in case not everybody had realised what was happening.

“I am not the enemy”
Carrie seems to have finally had it with Quinn and Fara, and unloads entirely onto Fara. For her part, Fara explains that Carrie only knows about Haqqani because of her, but for Carrie, there is almost a performance issue at stake: Fara and Quim just aren’t doing their jobs, even if it requires them to be ruthless and cold-blooded. To be fair, if you join the CIA, you can’t accuse colleagues of being too cynical – it’s in the job description, particularly after 9/11. “I am not the enemy”, Fara says. But then anyone who gets in Carrie’s way is the enemy.

So Fara cleans up the teen sex den, I mean CIA safe house, while Carrie gets some kip and Aaayan takes a bus. However, Hensleigh, remember him, has found the house (I think he was tailing Fara) and manages to rummage through the bags to find pictures of Aayan, later showing them to the foxy lady from ISI (Tasleem Qureshi, played by Indian actress Nimrat Kaur). Unbelievably, Fara thinks nothing of the spilled bags AND the cardboard on the window having been moved. Somehow I don’t think she’s cut out for this work.

As if the good guys weren’t already in trouble, Aayaan gets into a snafu with border Police/random soldiers, paying them off with the 1,000 Pounds Sterling Carrie had given him. Somehow, a soldier going to a forex shop to convert £1,000 into Pakistani Rupees seems odd. Carrie becomes filled with hope at Aayan’s success in negotiating this. However, we know how this ends.

For the first time in a while, I was becoming quite confident that Homeland will treat a grown up subject in a grown-up way. And so it did – Aayaan’s death was Carrie’s biggest nightmare come true: she vested the time, effort and most significantly emotional energy into this “boy”, only to see him executed at point blank range. The final sequence brings together so much of what happened in this season that it is worth looking at this more forensically:

if Carrie had not been so involved with Aayan, they MIGHT have nabbed Haqqani the first time Fara saw him.
Then going further back, if Sandy Bachman had not been killed, [ISI agent] would not have turned the screws on Hensleigh, who wouldn’t have trailed Fara and would not have put Carrie and Aayan together for the ISI.
If Quinn had responded to Saul’s disappearance more quickly, they might have found Saul before Haqqani whisked him away.

The finale was a great bit of TV – it was so superbly shot that I honestly wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between this and a Hollywood movie (although the movie would probably have ended in the drone strike). The appearance of Saul surprised me at the time but now I’m not sure why! It’s quite bold for the terrorists to kidnap a former head of the CIA, although I think the show dropped the ball by not showing him with some armed protection. I mean, if the CIA ex-Director is that important, wouldn’t he get protection the way former Presidents get?

So what to expect for the next episode? I shudder to think what will happen to Saul once they find out he’s a Jew, on top of the danger he’s in anyway. Carrie needs to find a way to salvage this op, although given the dirt she has on Lockhart, I suspect she’s ok for now. Quinn et al gave Carrie’s odd behaviour the benefit of the doubt but this was an unmitigated disaster: Carrie lost the asset, didn’t take out the target AND lost the ex-Director of the CIA in the process. Catastrophe. This episode's storyline isn’t so much "from A to B and back again" but two steps forward, three steps back.


P.S. As an aside: why do I have the feeling that Sandy and Hensleigh were having an affair? I just get the odd feeling that putting together the terrible Hensleigh marriage and the way Sandy was texting his contact (assuming it was Hensleigh) puts it in the semi-romantic category.


Anonymous said...

Alan Hensleigh is the name of one of the loyal CIA operatives. The traitor is Dennis Boyd. The Ambassador is Martha Boyd. Check your facts!

LoneCrapShooter said...

Yes, I realised that subsequently and I THOUGHT I'd amended. Will correct. Thanks.