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Homeland: “From A To Be And Back Again”

Illustration for article titled iHomeland/i: “From A To Be And Back Again”
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Saul would’ve wanted her to take the shot, right? He’s deep in enemy territory, without his glasses and in the hands of a wanted terrorist. He’s 99.9 percent going to die anyway, so the pragmatic part of him probably would’ve told Carrie—if he could somehow communicate with her via blinking or something—to do exactly what she wanted to do in a moment of passion. Take the shot. Kill the terrorist and the top-level guys all around him, and let that be an old friend’s legacy. So why all the hand-wringing intensity from Peter, and a uniformed grunt disobeying a direct order from the Station Chief? Dramatic effect?

There’s no real reason other than that it would’ve ended the season prematurely, since we’re only halfway done at this point. Now we’ve gotta get Saul back and kill the bad guy we thought died in the first episode of Homeland: The Pakistani Reboot.


But other than that big final scene, there wasn’t much at all to “From A To Be And Back Again,” though that may be an apt title for the first half of the season. At the beginning, we knew that Haqqani was alive and wanted, but that the CIA didn’t know where he was. Now we know that Haqqani is alive and wanted, and that the CIA probably doesn’t know where he is. (Were we supposed to think that everybody in the ops room just turned their backs on the monitors and didn’t know which of the matching trucks took Saul or the big bad guy away? Don’t they have rewind functionality on their drone videos?)

I guess the only difference now is that Carrie and her team know that the ISI is somehow working with the terrorists, and Saul is kidnapped. He’s the ticking time bomb for the rest of the season, though presumably there will be some sort of actual ticking time bomb for Carrie to defuse between now and the end of this run. All told, this has been a pretty low-stakes season. Even the theoretically shocking death of Aayan.

But for the whole Aayan story to have essentially been a runaround—taking us from A to B and back again—seems like a bit of a cheat. Sure, we learned that Carrie will do absolutely anything to protect America, up to and including fucking and/or sacrificing an asset. But it feels like we’re back at square one, and we haven’t even got much in the way of great spy action out of it.

Which isn’t to say this was a terrible episode or that I’m not enjoying the season at all—I am. Claire Danes is continually great, and it was nice to see her finally push back at both Fara and Quinn for being the most pantywaisted spooks in the history of the Agency. But we’ve just spent six hours watching Carrie work around and then with Aayan, only to have him executed by a Vincent Gallo-looking terrorist that we know next to nothing about. We don’t even know his alleged crimes, other than possibly the murder of the former Station Chief, who we barely knew. Haqqani is less than one-dimensional. He even looks like a cartoon villain.


Meanwhile, in the primetime soap starring Duck Phillips as an amateur spy—I’m still calling it Homeland: Islamabad Nights—the husband of the ambassador has somehow gotten better at spying than the CIA, and he’s now willingly sharing information with the ISI agent that’s working him. Will she take a lesson from Carrie Mathison and sleep with the ambassador’s husband in order to get the information she needs? (Answer: Nothing nearly that exciting will ever happen with that sub-plot.)

I wish there were more to say at this point, but the entirety of the first six episodes could probably be covered in a two-minute “previously on Homeland” intro reel, and we could catch right up. Let’s hope the next six are free of personal dramas, whiny medical students, and personality crises, and instead are filled with cat-and-mouse games featuring smart mice and slightly smarter cats.


Stray observations

  • All that said, R.I.P. Aayan. I’m glad you found true love before your beloved uncle shot you in the brain.
  • The fake-out raid that sent Aayan running to his uncle was fun, but awfully predictable.
  • The scene between Aayan and his girlfriend was like the Brody’s daughter scenes from last year. Painful.
  • “You think you could work a Hefty bag?”
  • “Take the shot. Wipe that fucker out!”
  • Carrie sure was mad at that desk. Probably because she knows Saul would’ve wanted her to take the shot, too.

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