Stick To The Damn Spy Drama, Homeland
As she’s proven time and again, Carrie doesn’t need (or want, really) a love interest.
This article deals with specific plot points from last night’s episode of Homeland. Spoilers ahead.
Last week’s double-episode premiere of Homeland alternated between kinda-cool action (the CIA head being killed), “holy shit” moments (Carrie almost drowning her Brody baby), and a lot of table setting that didn’t really bring the usual Homeland opening-episode fireworks.
Last night’s episode ‘Shalwar Kameez’ ploughed a similarly frustrating furrow in the life and times of Carrie Mathison: Spy Mom.
In the season premiere, Carrie put Senator Lockhart — CIA director and embodiment of all things bad-guy — in a patented Mathison death-lock (coercive operational blackmail with googly eyes), to agree to give her the CIA’s Islamabad station. Carrie passed along her baby to the care of her sister — which, all things considered, is probably the best for the baby, but also an ineffably boring ‘why bother?’ story diversion.
So, What’s Happening?
Carrie is now in Islamabad, Pakistan, heading up the CIA office and butting heads with the US ambassador and her new staff, in typical Carrie Mathison fashion (i.e. dealing with problems with all the people-managing skills of Damir Dokic).
Capturing the foreign, alien feel of the backstreets of various locales like Islamabad is one of the things Homeland excels at. ‘Shalwar Kameez’ was a welcome return to the dusty golden textures of Pakistan, offering stark relief from the functional upper-middle class Modern Family drabbery of the Mathison’s D.C. house, and the mind-numbing tedium of Langley’s boardroom-and-corridors.
Carrie is trying to figure out what state secrets the late CIA head Bachman was selling, while trying to outwit and outmaneuvre Pakistan’s intelligence agency (ISI). Which makes for lots of furtive looks, and ducking into back alleys.
And welcome back Fara and Max (but no Virgil, sadly): Carrie’s secret secondary field office, who are dealing with potential asset/bombing survivor Aayar. The tug between various people trying to use Aayar’s story for different reasons, while ignoring the fact that he’s simply a boy who wants to be left alone, is fascinating. As is Max’s uncomfortable crush on Fara.
After Fara failed to convince Ayar of the CIA’s cover story, Carrie pulled out the big guns, faking ‘women’s problems’ in order to get him alone, and then enticing him with promises of Royal College of Physicians — before throwing in an intensely intimate moment for good measure.
It was Carrie in her element — after all, she’d told Fara earlier that intelligence was “a seduction” — and an excellent scene.
Saul casually drops by to Islamabad to remind us that he not only possess one of TV’s great beards, but that he can quickly sort out Embassy lockdowns in Pakistan and give Carrie rousing advice when needed; he’s only one short flight away!
But his obvious pride in Carrie (for setting up that secret field office), and her obvious delight at pleasing her mentor, made for one of the best scenes of the episode, adding a humanising touch to Carrie we don’t often see.
You almost expected Carrie to drop a casual Darth Vader “Now I am the master” joke.
Meanwhile, Quinn is going off the rails. And it’s awesome.
Back in the US, he spends most of the episode without a shirt on, lounging by a pool, putting his donut-toting former boss (Dar Adal) in a choke-hold, and languishing in a self-medicating haze of schnapps, cheap beer and sex with his landlady.
Meanwhile, his obsessive watching of the YouTube video of his former boss being killed reveals an essential clue.
What’s Love Got To Do With It?
This was a ‘the mystery deepens’ episode, with all the game’s pieces moving into position around the board. More prominent, though, is the issue of love.
Not Carrie’s mooning over the departed Brody (her ‘moment’ with a Marine who reminded her of Brody was a nice, subtle touch), which has been kept to a happy minimum. Nope, instead, Homeland seems to be obsessed with gibing Carrie a new love interest – and is now seemingly lining up black-ops arse-kicker Quinn to fill that Brody void.
What’s more likely: Audiences tuning into Homeland to watch Carrie Mathison fall in love again? Or watching the show to witness as she kicks arse and takes names? The latter would have to be a resounding winner.
Left behind in Washington DC, Quinn’s struggle with PTSD, and the moral quandary of being a “scalp taker”, has proven to be one of Homeland’s most interesting story lines. He’s haunted by the memory of his first kill, and of killing a child; he’s a lone wolf struggling with the concept of not just being a wolf, but what he’s done in that wolf guise.
Carrie, meanwhile, is happiest either hitting a bottle of chardonnay or the streets of Islamabad — as long as it’s alone. Homeland excels at examining the broken people the West entrust with safe-guarding a society that’s increasingly built around information and surveillance. That stuff’s really interesting. You know what’s not interesting? Quinn as Brody 2.0.
As she’s proven time and again, Carrie doesn’t need (or want, really) a love interest. It serves no purpose for the story or her character, yet the writers continue to hammer home the idea that she’s somehow lacking if she isn’t making moon eyes over some stoic, emotionally-retarded, ‘complicated’ man.
Plus, Quinn is way more fun as a burnt out killer and phone thrower, rather than as Carrie’s love interest. And when he’s not putting Dar Adal in a headlock, it seems like any unrequited love he holds for Carrie is news to him too.
Perhaps the showrunners are simply happy to retrace their Brody steps — or at least make us think they are — with moments like the end of ‘Shalwar Kameez’, where Quinn calls Carrie about his lead and she responds by chummily exhorting, “God, I fucking love you Quinn, you know that don’t you.” Quinn’s slow sigh of “Yeah…” coupled with a thousand-yard stare is hopefully answer enough; he’s as wary of his feelings for Carrie as we are.
Best case scenario? The writers are pushing the Carrie/Quinn relationship as a breaking point for Quinn, to demonstrate the physical and metaphysical consequences of being a black-ops killer. Alternatively, they could be using it to show just how far Carrie will go — not caring who she uses, or how — to close a case.
But to believe Homeland can pull either off takes a lot of faith. More, perhaps, than the show has earned.
Homeland airs on Monday nights at 9.30pm, fast-tracked to Channel TEN.
Jaymz is a New York-based writer. He tweets from @jaymzclements.