A show like Homeland, which dramatizes current geopolitical issues, can’t just tell a story inspired by its of-the-moment themes. Whether or not the writers mean to make a statement or present the show as an argument about counterterrorism, the show comes across that way, which is why it becomes a target for people who take issue with the statement it’s making. With new subject matter comes new grand pronouncements about the state of the world, and “Better Call Saul” solidifies the ideas that the earlier episodes of the season only hinted at. The argument of season five appears to be that the Edward Snowdens and Chelsea Mannings of the world are doing more harm than good, and good men and women are dying as a result.

Advertisement

Following the stunning conclusion of “Why Is This Night Different?,” Carrie starts to search for the hitman who badly wounded Quinn, which leads her to enlist Jonas’ help under false pretenses. She invites Jonas to Quinn’s hideout by claiming she need sof antibiotics, and only later does Jonas discover he’s actually brought medication to Quinn, who he quickly surmises is a little more to Carrie than just a friend from work. With Jonas taking care of Quinn, Carrie can meet with Astrid to enlist her help in identifying the hitman and figuring out who he might be working for. Astrid pulls a few strings and reveals the culprit is Vasilly Kovas, a Russian national with connections to the SVR, and suddenly it all makes sense to Carrie. The Russians are behind the attempt on her life, and they came after her in order to prevent her from seeing something hidden deeper in the documents that were partially given to Laura Sutton. Carrie and Saul have spent the season saying that the release of these classified documents will result in the loss of human lives, and indeed, the release nearly cost Carrie her life.

Homeland always strives to show the perspectives of the enemies of the state in order to, if not make them more sympathetic, at least show they have reasons for the choices they make that are as valid as Carrie’s desire to protect innocent Americans. As villainous as Tasneem was in season four, the show didn’t condemn her outright, and it made clear she wasn’t an evil person, just a true believer who didn’t want to see her country capitulate to Western interests. The open government and privacy rights freedom fighters of season five aren’t rendered as sympathetically. Numan is the most well-intentioned among them, but he’s really just a troublemaker in over his head. At least he’s not willfully ignorant of the havoc and danger he creates by exposing information that’s classified for good reason. Korzy fell victim to his greed (along with poor Katya), while Laura seems destined to be done in by her hubris. The Islamic terrorists Carrie chased down in earlier seasons were fueled by their fervent beliefs about God and the world, but the cyber-warriors of Berlin are fueled by pride, greed, and a mischievous streak that wasn’t nipped during childhood.

But what’s fueling Allison’s double dealings? The answer remains to be seen, but “Better Call Saul” makes clear where her loyalties lie. The cool, efficient woman we’ve seen earlier in the season unravels almost immediately after realizing Vasilly wasn’t on the other end of the line when she got that call on the tarmac. She doesn’t know quite how close she is to being revealed, but she thinks it’s only a matter of time until someone links her to Ivan, her secret SVR lover, and the kill list she had Carrie’s name added to without Saul’s knowledge. Ivan tells her to calm down and advises her to manipulate Dar Adal when he starts poking around into Saul’s relationship with Etai, thereby throwing the scent off her. What makes these scenes interesting is the ambiguity in the way Miranda Otto is playing Allison. She isn’t twirling a mustache, and she seems genuinely conflicted about a path she can’t easily divert from now that she’s so deep into it. Allison is horrified when she sees Carrie’s proof of death photo, and when she asks Saul why he’s barely spoken since they left Geneva, she sounds equally driven by concern for Saul’s emotional well-being as the need to cover her tracks.

Advertisement

This season has felt off-kilter rhythmically because it started with the core characters mostly doing their own thing as the story slowly pulls them back together. So while “Saul” feels a bit slow to be the follow-up to the tense, suspenseful “Why Is This Night Different?” it serves the important purpose of reuniting Carrie and Saul. Unfortunately the reunion may not be complete for some time, as Quinn hobbled out of the hideout to prevent Jonas from calling an ambulance and endangering Carrie in the process. He’s accosted by a good samaritan who’s a bit too creepy and insistent not to have an ulterior motive. Never let it be said that Vasilly Kovas doesn’t get his man.

Stray observations:

  • The protest scene was just the silliest thing ever. I can’t not laugh at “Je suis gabehcuod.”
  • Is there anyone who is #TeamJonas over #TeamQuinn? If so, make a case. I’d love to hear it.
  • Am I the only one who doesn’t think Carrie’s proof of death photo looks all that convincing?
  • Allison: “Someone betrayed us.” Dar: “Ya think?”
  • Apparently Mira left Saul, so he’s not having an affair with Allison. It’s too bad about Mira, I wanted those two to iron things out.

Advertisement