“13 Hours in Islamabad” may forever be remembered as the episode that kept Alex Gansa & Howard Gordon’s ship from going under. (It’s notable that both were credited with writing tonight’s episode.) Though last week’s twist-heavy episode found the series at its most shocking and least manipulative (aka, its best), the assault on the embassy did offer the opportunity for “Homeland” to cross from grounded thriller to utterly outrageous.
Thankfully, the invasion was as swift as it was devastating. Lockhart’s predictable cowardice—we all knew Haqqani was getting that book as soon as the CIA director’s escort Henley was shown dead on the table—combined with Fara’s unexpected death opened up plenty of drama for the last two episodes of the season. That’s what I found myself thinking about at the end of these “13 Hours.” With the season finale still to come, “What’s going to happen next?” is always a good thought to be left pondering.
Best Classic “Homeland” Twist:
Fara’s death probably deserves to be mentioned here. The would-be Carrie replacement wasn’t set up as a sacrificial lamb, but we knew either she or Max was going to go as soon as the hostages were rounded up. I couldn’t decide who I wanted to live between the two—obviously rooting against my instincts they both would somehow survive—but Fara never really found her footing in the ensemble after Season 3. Not that she needed to. Her arc may have been the one perfect story in a messy third season, and while I was glad to see her again this year, I wasn’t devastated by her death.
Surprisingly, the biggest twist in my mind ended up being Dennis Boyd’s survival. I was kicking my inner self for being surprised that such a coward couldn’t follow through with his own suicide, but part of me wanted to believe even the despicable Dennis could do something right at the end. Nope. Guess not.
Crazy Carrie Level: 1/10
Carrie is staying behind. That means she’s at least a little crazy, even if she’s remaining for the right reasons.. “I’m not there yet,” Carrie said, as she told Saul goodbye. It was a brief, but heartfelt moment, but more importantly one that showed a clear-headed Carrie. It took a drugging, almost losing her mentor, and an RPG to her SUV, but she’s back to thinking clearly. She’s staying to protect Quinn because she’s owes him that much. (Thankfully, there wasn’t a hint of her being in love with him or vice versa, too!)
MVP (Most Valuable Performer):
Max, Carrie’s regular surveillance assistant who came to her aide in Pakistan on the drop of a dime, largely goes unnoticed. He’s always there in the background. He’s always eager to help. He’s quick. He’s saved Carrie’s ass a number of times, but we—or at least I—never really knew the man until tonight.
As played by Maury Sterling, Max stepped up on multiple occasions like no one else has before. First, he volunteered to be killed to save Fara. He threw himself—literally—at the man wielding a gun that had already gone off three times. That takes more than instinctual kindness or learned chivalry. It took incredible courage. Then, after guns started going off and Fara had been stabbed, Max didn’t cower in a corner. He grabbed a pistol and took out the last terrorist in the hallway.
Finally, he gave Carrie a talking-to that perhaps she didn’t need to hear, but he needed to say. Carrie seems to have snapped out of her business-first approach to her job, but Max nonetheless needed to nail home a nail into her old self’s coffin. It mattered to Max, and it does matter to Fara. A lesson, any lesson—let alone one that could save Carrie’s life as well as countless others—is what she would’ve wanted.
Quote of the Night:
“You brought me here because you said what we’re doing is important. Well, guess what? Now it is!” – Quinn
Only now do I feel I’m starting to truly appreciate the beauty of “Homeland” Season 4. In its early episodes, things were moving rather slowly and many of the same stories were being repeated. Carrie was going off the rails. She was sleeping with an asset. She was ignoring protocols and digging into a mystery that, early on, didn’t seem to have much of a hook.
Yet the questions presented in the first three episodes of the season became bigger and bigger as the season progressed. In essence, they boiled down to, “What are we doing here?” Carrie would blindly answer “protecting our country” or, even more simply, “our job,” back at the beginning of Season 4. Now, though, she sees the full board. She’s wrestling with the same demons that haunted Quinn when he was stateside. And she was forced to face these issues even when she appeared so far past returning to them. Remember when she almost drowned her own baby? Or, much later, when she ordered the death of Saul? At both of these crucial junctures, I nearly wrote off Carrie. Yet now it’s clear she needed the kind of stakes generated by Saul’s time in captivity to reset her moral judgment.
Just when it seemed Showtime’s dramatic thriller was leaning too hard on the discussion, it amped up the action. Then, after last week, when it seemed the action couldn’t get any more intense, it brought us back to even. Howard Gordon has seen the whole board all along. I’m glad he’s finally letting us sneak a peak.