Claire Danes, Rupert Friend

Half of Homeland’s third season went by before Carrie Mathison and Nicholas Brody found themselves in the same room, but when it happened, it was kind of magical even if most of what led up to it in that muddled season was not. Claire Danes and Damien Lewis have phenomenal chemistry, but that wasn’t the only reason Carrie and Brody became a recipe for instantly engrossing television. Getting to the first season’s endgame required building a capacity for doomed love into Carrie from the earliest moments of the show, and that’s why there’s something equally intoxicated about the reunion of Carrie and Quinn in “Why Is This Night Different?,” the Homeland episode in which season five really begins to lock into place.

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Quinn is an intriguing character to whom I’ve grown fond over the years, but by no stretch of the imagination is he a worthy replacement for Brody. Quinn existed on Homeland’s periphery when he was introduced as the fulfillment of David Estes’ promise to “send a guy” to assist Saul’s operation to nab Brody early in season two. He remained sidelined through season three, which spent too much time with the Brody family to give him the attention the character needed. Not until season four did Quinn start to feel like an essential component of the story, after the writers fleshed him out and he became more of a human being rather than merely being Dar Adal’s attack dog. But as soon as Quinn came into his own, he also discovered the romantic feelings he had been suppressing, and that felt like too tidy a direction to go in. Quinn’s unspoken love for Carrie felt overly convenient following Brody’s death and it also felt abrupt, just as it felt abrupt when Carrie and Quinn shared a brief, emotionally fraught kiss in “Long Time Coming.”

Because that foundation was laid in season four, however bumpy that process might have been, Carrie is now part of another doomed romance, and that’s when Homeland truly comes to life. You could argue that Carrie was already in a doomed romance from the beginning of the season, which took the form of her domestic bliss with Jonas, a character Carrie could never realistically end up with. Carrie gravitates toward people who understand her brokenness because they’re broken in the same places, and Quinn can certainly understand, since he’s been even more damaged by years of psychically grueling counter-terrorism work. Carrie and Quinn aren’t ideally compatible, and these aren’t the ideal circumstances for their long-awaited reunion, but as soon as they appear on screen together, Homeland makes more sense than it has all season.

There’s a heaviness in the room when Carrie awakens zip-tied in a poorly lit room while a glowering Quinn paces around without acknowledging her. Going back to season three, Homeland doesn’t always play fair with its misdirects, as when Carrie privately scoffed when Saul sold her out at a congressional hearing only to later reveal her involvement in the covert operation that depended on Saul’s testimony. “Why Is This Night Different?” features a more elegantly executed misdirect. This season has done a fine job of establishing Quinn as an unyielding, comfortably numb killing machine, so when Carrie shows up bound to a while a taciturn Quinn sterilizes a blade with a blowtorch, it can’t be taken for granted that he doesn’t intend to carry out his orders. Instead of killing Carrie, Quinn slices into his hand and smears his blood on her face in the most oddly beautiful gesture in the show’s history. If I wasn’t fully on board with a Carrie and Quinn pairing before, that scene brought me around.

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On a functional level, Carrie and Quinn’s story was an inventory of the mysteries season five has introduced thus far. Who ordered the hit on Carrie at the refugee camp? Who put her name onto Quinn’s kill list? Could Saul be involved? And if he isn’t, who has compromised their investigation? Most of those questions remain unanswered, though the final reveal begins to shade in the threat a bit more. But Carrie and Quinn’s reunion packed an emotional wallop, from their stony exchange about their missed connection after returning home from Islamabad to Carrie struggling to record a video explaining her absence to future Franny after reluctantly accepting Quinn’s advice to disappear completely. Scenes like the recording of the video serve as a potent reminder of why Danes has been so widely celebrated for her performance.

Rupert Friend is also excellent here, and Carrie and Quinn truly feel like professional equals at all times. Like Carrie, Quinn is emotionally closed off until he suddenly isn’t, and Carrie is his soft spot. She wants to talk to Saul, refusing to believe her mentor could authorize a hit on her, but Quinn won’t budge on his insistence that she get hidden and stay hidden. It’s sound practical advice in a general sense, but it’s fueled more by his love for Carrie than his instincts or his training. If seeking out Saul means putting whoever wants her dead back onto her scent, he doesn’t want her to do it. But Carrie pushes back, convincing Quinn to take her to the dropbox from which he receives his assignments. Quinn checks the box as a disguised Carrie observes from nearby, and a hitman is activated to kill Quinn, only to be thwarted by Carrie. Back at their hideout, Carrie makes a call to the most recently dialed number on the hit man’s phone, and Allison answers in Russian.

The Allison twist works if for no other reason that it was evident that there was a larger plan in place for the character, but it wasn’t clear what that plan was. Putting Allison in the middle of the plot to kill Carrie and Quinn activates the character and pulls her into the middle of the action, so much like the cliffhanger in which Quinn reveals Carrie’s name as his next target, the Allison reveal is exhilarating because the momentum of the story feels good whether or not it winds up in a good place. Even better, it comes at the end of an entertaining operation in which Saul and Allison work to convince the head of Syria’s military to fill the void after the al-Assad regime is toppled. Moments after loading General Youssef onto a plane with $10 million and an offer he literally can’t refuse, the plane explodes in midair. Saul is gobsmacked. Allison isn’t. The core message of Homeland comes through loud and clear: Never trust a ginger.

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Stray observations:

  • As much as I loved the scene with the making of Carrie’s video, I didn’t love the way it was edited. I would have been happy with only the camera’s POV, and there’s no doubt Danes could get it all in one take. I didn’t mind the other shots of Carrie, but the cuts to Quinn didn’t add anything and took away some of the intimacy of that moment.
  • I gotta say, there’s something disorienting about featuring the actual sitting Syrian president in the show. It should make the show feel more authentic, but it has the opposite effect. Hearing al-Assad’s name snaps me right out of the show and into reality.
  • Laura is on the hunt for her document source, with begrudging assistance from Jonas and his old client, a fellow cyber anarchist named Sabine.
  • So long Korzenik.
  • Etai: “You used to be a good friend to Israel.” Saul: “I’m still a good friend.” Etai: “You used to be a better one.”
  • Jonas, about Carrie: “Who lives like this?” Otto: “She does.”
  • I want to see Carrie listening to jazz at some point this season. I’ve always found Carrie’s love of jazz to be an interesting character trait, and I’d love to know more about what she’s been listening to in Berlin.

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