F. Murray Abraham and Rupert Friend

To my great joy and dismay, I’ve continued my Homeland rewatch, and it occurs to me about six episodes too late that it makes no sense to watch this episode that prominently features a lake house as if it’s this one. Or even this one. Alex Gansa said in a pre-premiere interview that his team was telling “a different kind of thriller this year,” by which he apparently meant one that Carrie is not a part of. In “Imminent Risk,” as with the rest of the season, if anything suspenseful or intriguing is happening, it’s happening around Carrie more than with, or because of her.

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So far, the men are having all the fun. Peter Quinn, even in his relatively feeble state, is ambushing police officers. Saul is skulking around the Green Line in the dark of night to meet with a covert ally and exchanging intel with another contact on an opposite-facing pier bench. Dar Adal is pulling more strings than a marionettist with control bars clenched in both hands, both feet, and another one in his mouth. What’s Carrie doing? Drunk-dialing the nation’s first female president. And listen, don’t feel obligated to barrel through to the next sentence. Let that marinate for a minute. The feared and esteemed Carrie Mathison, who is still occasionally referred to as “The Drone Queen,” called Keane tipsy on white wine and asked for help with her custody battle.

The most frustrating thing is that no matter how irritating that scene is in principle, it sort of works in practice. Claire Danes and Elizabeth Marvel are phenomenal actresses, and their exchange feels like an actual phone call because of their performances, not just because of the editing. And Homeland has always devoted a significant amount of time to its character study of Carrie Mathison and her chicken-egg confusion about whether she’s paranoid because she’s an intelligence agent or she became an intelligent agent because she’s so paranoid. That paranoia is an extension of her mental health challenges, but also its own thing. Carrie’s alcoholism has also been a component of the show from its premiere, so her return to the bottle in “Imminent Risk” is no small matter, inasmuch as you think about Homeland as a character study.

That aspect of the story is well-served by the exploration of how Carrie deals with Franny being taken away from her by the Department of Child Services. Carrie has always been an ends-justify-the-means type of woman, and there’s an echo of that with Max installing cameras at Carrie’s place just as he once helped set up an illegal surveillance package to monitor Brody. To her, it makes perfect sense why she would leave Franny under Quinn’s care, why she would take Franny back to the scene of the ordeal just one day later, and why she would sleep in Franny’s room with a loaded gun in an effort to “protect” her. But none of this makes the slightest ounce of sense objectively, and credit is due to the writers for holding Carrie accountable for her understandable yet indefensible decisions.

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All that said, I’ll never stop being irritated by how distant Carrie feels from the most interesting parts of the story. At this point, Homeland has to decide whether it’s a terrorism thriller or a character study of a former intelligence agent as she tries to acclimate to motherhood and life outside of the agency. Jamming the two together just hasn’t been working, which is why seven episodes into the season, it feels like literally nothing has happened. And stuff has happened. Sekou Bah was imprisoned, freed, and incinerated. Carrie ran afoul of an FBI agent, then teamed up with him and later discovered his dead body. The long-absent Majid Javadi is now collaborating with Saul on U.S. soil. But all of it feels in service of a story that simply refuses to come together.

Am I suggesting the characters won’t continue to close ranks, thereby accelerating the plot? Certainly not, and there’s already evidence of that, with Javadi withholding his assistance from Saul unless Saul helps him access millions of dollars in a frozen account. Saul immediately thinks to contact Keane, and while Saul has direct access to Keane, he assumes he can use Carrie’s closer proximity to his advantage in brokering a deal with Javadi. So at least there’s a Carrie and Saul scene, and those have been in awfully short supply since season four. But all season long, Homeland has dangled the potential of intriguing directions only for those to end up nowhere. There’s simply too much television out there right now for Homeland to be the “it gets really good around episode eight” show.

There are two more seasons of this show, and it’s possible that season six is a rebuilding year that will put the show back on track for its final episodes. But I can only hope that all this is building toward Carrie’s decision to go back, somehow, into what she does best. While the idea of a post-agency Carrie is an intriguing one, the show now strains to involve a character so important, she alone is pictured in the key art. And all Carrie’s efforts to get away from the intelligence world are kind of pointless if the show is so desperate to put her back in harm’s way the writers will literally put the bad guy in an apartment across the street. Maybe now that Franny’s been put in a safer environment, Carrie can get back to chasing the danger rather than letting it come to her.

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Stray observations

  • The reappearance of Astrid fizzles, as she’s basically just a glorified day nurse for Quinn, who has been whisked away by Dar Adal after being declared a national security asset.
  • Speaking of Dar Adal and Quinn, there’s a heavy implication that there was some sort of sexual component to their relationship early on in his career. I’m not even sure what to do with that, if true. It’s an odd time to drop in that bit of mythology.
  • The scene between them is fascinating, but it emphasizes Peter Quinn’s devolution from a fully-formed character to a physical manifestation of Carrie’s bad karma.
  • Carrie’s relapse and the phone call with Keane make for an interesting twist on Homeland’s standard “Carrie goes off her meds” idea. Because she alternates between self-medicating with alcohol, using prescription drugs under supervision, or some combination of the two, this is the rare example of Carrie losing it and doing something stupid because she was on her “meds.”
  • The DCS agent broke who knows how many laws reporting back to Dar Adal about the result of his tip. Basically everything involving the DCS agent felt weird and phony. During the trial, I was half-expecting her to say, “Also, there’s one more thing. Franny told me she has an uncommonly early semantic memory of her mother trying to drown her in the bathtub, then thinking better of it.”

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