Never before has a season of “Homeland” ended with such silence. From the moment the bomb was diffused, “A Faint Glimmer” bounced around with a modest degree of grace, but not the pulse-pounding energy typical for Showtime’s high-rated drama. While deciding the fate of Laura Sutton (put on such a short leash hopefully we’ll never hear from her again), putting any hopes for Allison’s multi-season arc to an end and finally explaining Otto’s secret agenda, the central question of these final 60 minutes seemed to be, “Can Carrie save herself from herself?”
To some degree, the question forces us to ask if Carrie can save herself from what made “Homeland” great. Over what felt like a lengthy Season 5, we’ve put forth the theory that Alex Gansa’s drama is best when its main character is pushed to her limits. That was certainly the case throughout the first two seasons, with nearly every episode finding new challenges for our hard-drinking, pill-popping protagonist to endure. Season 3 featured much of the same, ending with a death that effectively changed Carrie forever. She came to terms with that change in Season 4, as The Drone Queen very nearly lost her last shred of humanity.
Looking back on Season 5, it appears as though she found it again. She found it with her daughter and with Jonas, which made their breakup all the more taxing on Carrie. She seemed headed in the right direction — or what she thinks is the right direction — until the sins of her past, both internal and external, caught up with her. “I’m not crazy, Jonas! I went off my meds for a reason,” Carrie screamed at her ex-boyfriend as he tried to explain why they couldn’t get back together, without realizing that the reason she’s alluding to is the same one Jonas is citing for their needed separation.
It’s a fine idea: that Carrie is torn between two sides of herself. Part of her is the teammate Saul helped train, but she’s also learned there’s more to her than just that — there’s a mother, a lover and a do-gooder who wants to live in a black-and-white world for a while, even if her other half knows it’s not wholly true. Whether Carrie can break free of that person and become the person she wants to be — and the one Quinn pleaded for with his final words — is interesting, but Season 5 failed to make it as engaging as the person we’ve come to know over the past four seasons. Watching our flawed protagonist strive for perfection only works when the fight is as gripping as her previous quests.
Classic “Homeland” Twist
Honestly, I didn’t expect Quinn to die (assuming Carrie finished the job she started after taking off his heart monitor). Realizing they’ve been building up to it for a few weeks now, his death still feels somewhat cheapened by how he met his end. Yes, Quinn describing how he invited his fate upon himself in his letter to Carrie helped drive home the point: that without a reason to live, Carrie’s self-described “luck” will run out, too. Because it’s not luck — it’s the choices they both make in relation to the life they live.
Still, Quinn will be missed, and in large part because Rupert Friend had become such an enjoyable, commanding and vital part to this cast. Rather than become the Carrie and Saul show in Season 4, “Homeland” had a trio of leads. That felt very much the same thoughout Season 5, and I frankly have no idea as to what to expect in Season 6. Otto certainly isn’t a viable replacement, and, if Carrie heeds her ex-lover’s last words, she won’t be accepting Saul’s offer, either. A major shakeup may be in store, and after a largely lifeless year, that’s more than fine with us.
Crazy Carrie Level: 4/10
Aside from one key scene, Carrie kept a pretty level head throughout “A False Glimmer.” We’ve already touched on Carrie and Jonas’ official breakup, so let’s instead shift to a scene that should have sent Carrie screaming for the hills — or at least into a fit of laughter. After remaining shrouded in mystery throughout the year, first appearing the good-hearted boss trying to make up for his family’s past secrets, then turning two-faced as he bad-mouthed Carrie to her co-worker/boyfriend, Jonas, we never really knew what Otto During was up to in Season 5. Was he merely representative of the life Carrie wants but can’t have? Was he somehow involved with the terrorist attacks or cyber-thievery? Was he an innocent bystander soon to be targeted because of his associations with Carrie?
It turned out to be none of the above. The reason Otto described Carrie as “unstable” to Jonas — going so far as to say they should’ve never hired her — was because he wanted her for himself. Otto needed Jonas to think Carrie was too dangerous for a man like him — for a father like him — and thus pushed the perception of her as volatile to push Jonas away from a woman he wanted. His “proposal” to Carrie in Episode 12 certainly caught Carrie off guard, but her consideration of it, even under shock, seems ludicrous. There has never been a hint of romance between them, which may be what Carrie thinks she wants after being hurt by Jonas, but it’s clearly not in her best interest. The fact she’s considering it is perhaps the craziest thing Carrie has done all season.
Yet the most telling action Carrie took in the episode was right after her fight with Jonas. Where did she go? To Quinn, of course. She went to be with the man she never stopped looking for, even after she’d shacked up with a step-baby daddy for Franny. Had she taken him up on his offer at the end of last season, neither of them would be where they are now. That’s the memory that should haunt Carrie. Not being dumped for being too dangerous.
MVP (Most Valuable Performer)
Mandy Patinkin was given two scenes to flex his acting muscles, and both helped outline his character’s return to form as a top-tier CIA spy. One lesson we should all know by now: Don’t fuck with Saul. First, we were impressed at how assuredly he flipped Ivan (Mark Ivanir). It wasn’t quick, and it wasn’t easy. The length of the scene nicely outlined the former while Patinkin and Ivanir’s rapport handled the rest. Then, after he found out when and how Allison would be trying to escape to Russia, Saul unleashed an excessive amount of machine gun fire to finish the job once and for all. No one debated with him over whether or not they should bring her back in, try to flip her or even question what information she’d passed to the Ruskies over her lengthy time as a double agent. Saul just killed her and then looked coldly down at her bullet-ridden body to make sure she was done. As much as we liked Allison this year — as a character — we totally get where you’re coming from Saul, and we won’t soon forget what you’re capable of when properly motivated.
Quote of the Night
I wanted the darkness. I fucking asked for it.” – Quinn
I often don’t take kindly to dialogue that’s meant more for the audience than for the story, but I feel the above line works well enough either way. For we, the viewers, it’s saying we need to accept Quinn’s fate; that dying slowly in a hospital bed and having Carrie pull the plug is a satisfying and fitting end for this character. But for Carrie, Quinn is telling her that this will be her fate, too, if she keeps living the life of a go-for-broke spy; a person who can’t separate her devotion to the state and her devotion to herself.
I’m not entirely sold on Quinn’s most relevant purpose being a “light […] steering [Carrie] clear of the rocks,” but I am utterly fascinated by how Quinn will drive the story going forward. If Carrie were to abide by his wishes, we wouldn’t have much of a show. She would take Otto up on his offer — or, better yet, get an even less dangerous job not reliant on being a man’s partner — and we’d never see Saul again. That certainly sounds like a healthy ending for Carrie, but it’s not what I want to spend 12 weeks watching next year. Season 5 struggled enough balancing the new Carrie with the old. Hopefully by Season 6, they’ll have it figured out.