[This is a review of Homeland season 4, episode 11. There will be SPOILERS.]
It was inevitable that before Homeland brought season 4 to a close, it would have (at least) one last surprising twist up its sleeve. Oddly, that should come as no surprise to anyone who’s been watching the series from its first (or any) season, really. When it comes to delivering narrative bombshells – especially in its penultimate episodes – the series is, if nothing else, consistent. The world of international intelligence has so many limbs writhing about it’s almost impossible for the head to know exactly what they’re all doing, much less an analyst/field agent like Carrie Mathison. All of which lends itself nicely to the sort of late twist as seen in the closing moments of ‘Krieg Nicht Lieb’.
What’s interesting about the expectation that there will be a surprise when a surprise is most expected is that, along with a tendency to make its characters’ moods and rationales fit the needs of the plot at hand, it is the most reliable aspect of Homeland. The audience can count on an image like that of Dar Adal riding in Hassaim Haqqani’s SUV far more than they can count on Carrie, Quinn, or even someone like Lockhart to remain consistent from episode to episode. It is seen in here with Quinn going AWOL, and again with Lockhart confiding in Carrie via a conveniently timed and somewhat paranoid phone call that his short-lived term as director of the CIA is all but over.
And while that may be a familiar issue with the series, it can be hard to argue with the results. For what is basically 43 minutes of build-up to the moment that Peter Quinn either detonates a large bomb underneath Haqqani’s vehicle in a crowd of people or doesn’t, the reveal that Quinn’s longtime mentor/wrangler, Dar Adal, is somehow involved in the “coup” happening within the Pakistani government makes next week’s finale far more enticing than it otherwise would have been.
But where does that leave ‘Krieg Nicht Lieb’ as an episode? Looking at it (and much of season 4 in hindsight) it’s really the same implementation of bait and switch that was used with Aayan in ‘From A to B and Back Again‘, Carrie and Brody in ‘Redux‘, and, to a lesser degree, with Carrie’s tumultuous home life all the way back in ‘Trylon and Perisphere‘. The series has taken one step forward, only to take two steps back so many times this season it’s hard to tell what’s been actual progress and what’s been part of the smokescreen.
And to a certain degree, the same is true of Peter Quinn and his plot throughout the episode here. Quinn’s always had the potential to be an exciting facet of the series, but his continuous desire to leave the agency behind occasionally felt like it was doing a disservice to the character. After all, how many times has the morally conflicted agent-at-the-end-of-his-rope card been played in popular culture? One of the most interesting aspects about Carrie is that she’s always been desperate to get in deeper with the CIA, to be a part of everything from finding sleeper agents to orchestrating catastrophic bombing runs. It’s easy to see how Quinn might be viewed as a contrast to Carrie’s pathological professionalism, but the conventional way in which he’s often depicted has left the character feeling underutilized at best.
To the episode’s credit, the writers do their best to fill that particular hole by applying some narrative Spackle in the form of a German embassy worker who doesn’t bat an eye when Quinn breaks into her apartment as his way of saying, “hello.” There’s history there, and Homeland explains it by letting the woman offer her two cents when it comes to Peter: he’s always looking for a way out, but even he knows he’s never going to leave the CIA. In a way, this makes Quinn’s arc this season incredibly sad, as it puts an air of tragic recursive certainty into what little is actually known about him. And on the other hand, it’s a little bit of a cop out.
The “Oh, that’s just Peter being Peter” explanation certainly helps to justify his efforts to assassinate Haqqani, but it undermines a lot of what’s come before. What looked like the road to some sort of change, with regard to his brief relationship with his landlord and his confrontation with Dar Adal, is reduced to a habitual performance he puts on every so often as a way of self-regulating. There’s something interesting (and again, slightly tragic and sad) about the idea of Quinn being stuck in such a moral quandary, but was writing over his entire arc for the season worth it, so he could not go through with killing Haqqani?
The answer to that will likely have to wait until next week’s season finale, in which perhaps we’ll learn why Carrie thought she should do away with Haqqani after spending the entire episode trying to prevent Quinn from doing exactly the same. Chances are, neither character flip will be addressed much, since the mystery of Dar Adal, plus the emotional ramifications of the sudden death of Carrie’s father, will likely take center stage.
At any rate, the penultimate episode adds up to tensely watching someone tread water for nearly an hour, only to realize they could have touched the bottom the whole time. It’s not a bad way to spend time with these characters, but let’s hope the finale has something a little more definitive in mind.
Homeland will air the season 4 finale, ‘Long Time Coming’ next Sunday @9pm on Showtime. Check out a preview below (but be warned, it contains some NSFW language):