Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin
Photo: Antony Platt (Showtime)

By the end of “Clarity,” a sense of relief has taken root in the homeland. True, the president appears unhinged, is firing people left and right, and is about to precipitate a constitutional crisis, but that hardly raises an eyebrow these days. The important thing is that Carrie Mathison has relinquished custody of her daughter Franny, who now has a chance at some semblance of a normal childhood. The only lingering question is, “What took so long?”

There’s no reason this couldn’t have happened a season ago, in the aftermath of the Quinn fiasco. The Dante incident this year was just the icing on an already excessively frosted cake. In the aftermath of last week’s “complete psychotic break” (to use Carrie’s own words), “Clarity” finds Carrie adjusting to a new medication protocol and undergoing the last in a series of ECT treatments. She’s as serene as we’ve seen her in a while, but the custody battle for Franny is still looming, and she knows she needs an edge. She recruits Anson to break into Maggie’s office to find the file proving that she treated Carrie unofficially, exposure of which could threaten her medical license. That’s cold.

The interesting thing about the way the custody hearing plays out is finding out exactly what it takes for Carrie to come to her senses. It’s not the litany of terrible parenting decisions that gets rehashed for the record, the sheer tonnage of which should be enough to convince anyone that childcare just isn’t their thing. (The list doesn’t even include the fact that Carrie almost ran Franny over with her car, the incident that tipped off her mental break in the first place. That’s the cherry on top that only she knows about, but if it crosses her mind here, we don’t find out about it.) It’s not the testimony about how her behavior is adversely affecting her child, including Josie’s observation that Franny has grown quiet, and crawls into her bed at night to cry herself to sleep. It’s not even Maggie’s speech stating the obvious: that she and her husband offer Franny the kind of safe and stable environment Carrie will never be able to provide.

Beau Bridges, Dylan Baker
Photo: Antony Platt (Showtime)

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No, what finally gets Carrie to the point where she’s ready to settle for visitation rights every other weekend is the realization that she can’t give up the game. Saul has come calling again, and their scene together in the hospital is the most tender one between these two characters I can recall. Still, Saul hasn’t come just to drop off flowers: Simone and Yevgeny are in hiding, and he needs Carrie to run the exfiltration op that will bring Simone back to the United States and prove the existence of the Russian conspiracy. Carrie refuses at first and says she’s giving it all up, but Saul doesn’t believe that, neither does Maggie, and by episode’s end, Carrie has accepted it, too. She has no time for mothering. Her country is calling.

The timing is critical because the presidency is on the brink. It’s a real “chicken and the egg” situation: was Keane really this paranoid, unstable, and authoritarian all along, as her enemies claimed, or have her enemies turned her into that person? I think the real answer is that the writers of Homeland turned her into that person once Donald Trump became the president in an effort to stay relevant, and so far it’s working. Trump is beyond satire, so having Keane fire four cabinet members at once to avoid a vote to have her declared unfit and removed from office doesn’t come off as farfetched at all. Despite obtaining the support of her vice president, Keane can’t hang onto it after refusing to rescind the mass firing.

With no witness available to say otherwise, Senator Paley is free to dismiss the Russia plot as fake news. His connection to it all is still hazy, but Keane certainly sees him as a willing participant. Members of congress willing to overlook Russian interference if it helps them advance their agenda? What will they think of next! With only two episodes remaining in the season, Carrie’s domestic distractions have finally been cleared off the board (and here’s hoping all those weekend Franny visitations happen offscreen). It’s time for Carrie Mathison to save the world again.

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Stray observations

  • “Let’s get into character,” Keane says before admitting the press to the cabinet meeting. Maybe it’s just me, but the Pulp Fiction reference feels like a shot at a neighboring Sunday night Showtime series, the relentlessly guy-movie quoting Billions.
  • I’ll grudgingly admit that Carrie’s last scene with Franny was affecting. I just hope it really was their last scene, at least until grown-up Franny takes over the show in 2032.

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