Costa Ronin, Sandrine Holt
Photo: Antony Platt (Showtime)

Some hard-hearted viewers probably wished it was true—that Carrie really had run over Franny, putting an end to our long national nightmare. I won’t go that far, but I do hope this is the event that finally triggers the realization in Carrie that she is the most unfit parent on the planet. That would at least spare us any kind of long, drawn-out custody battle or attempt to have Carrie committed...although judging from her state of mind in the final moments of “Useful Idiot,” the latter may be close to happening anyway.

Surely this is a tipping point, because even one more scene of Carrie yelling at a family member or frantically racing to pick Franny up from school only to immediately abandon her for another crisis would be intolerable. Homeland has a bad habit of clinging to situations and characters long after they’ve outlived their usefulness—Brody and Quinn both stuck around a season too long—but this Franny situation can’t still be compelling to anyone at this point, the show’s writers included.

So when that horror movie moment arrives, with Franny chasing after her mother just as Carrie is backing out of her parking spot, it really feels like Homeland was going to go there for a second. Carrie’s mind does go there, and she embarks on a hallucinatory odyssey to the hospital, with images of a bloodied and battered Franny nearly causing her to have several accidents along the way. It’s maybe a little over the top, but nothing compared to the final scene wherein, after reliving the times she’s failed others through the course of the series, she comes face to face with herself, projecting her own head onto the nurse tending to Dante. Rarely has Homeland hit this pitch of hysteria.

Until that chain of events is kicked off by Carrie swinging by her sister’s house and being informed by her brother-in-law that Maggie is consulting with a lawyer regarding Franny’s custody, there is a sense of closure about the episode. After regaining consciousness in the hospital, Dante appears to buy into Carrie’s narrative that it was the Russians who poisoned him via the lawyer he’d never seen before. He decides to cooperate, giving Carrie a code phrase that will shut down Yevgeny’s entire network via a magic tweet. Yes, unlikely as it sounds, Twitter will save us all, but only if Saul gets the president to approve the NSA hacking into their servers so as to send the tweet from the designated account. She approves it, because she’s finally acknowledged that she’s turning into the sort of leader her enemies have painted her as being all along.

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With Dante still dangling as a loose end, Yevgeny decides not to fly back to Russia with Simone. He’s already in hot water with his superiors even before the network gets burned, but once that happens and his operatives in the US start getting rounded up, he stops taking calls from Mirov and goes rogue. (If you’re watching both this show and the final season of The Americans, they have a way of bleeding over into each other via Costa Ronin, especially now that Oleg is back in the USA on the latter show.) For the second time he is able to sneak into a hospital room past what we have been told is heavy security, although this time he has to shoot an accomplice in the stomach to do it. It’s hard to say exactly what motivates Dante in what are presumably his final moments of life; after Yevgeny tells him it had to have been Carrie who poisoned him, and a flustered Carrie on the phone does nothing to convince him otherwise, Dante blurts out that Yevgeny is there. Perhaps he reasons that he’ll be killed either way, so he might as well do one last thing for his country. As it plays out, though, he’s yet another guy who never should have gotten mixed up with Carrie Mathison.

That leaves the “Useful Idiot” of the title, Senator Paley, to be dealt with. Is that really what he is? Since there are three more episodes left in the season, I can’t help but feel there’s at least one more shoe to drop. He tells reporters that Simone was being held at an undisclosed location and that only US Marshals knew where she was, but we know that Paley did, too. When advising the president to bring Paley in on everything that’s developed, Saul mentions that he’s a 20-year veteran of the senate and a patriot. Here’s hoping there’s more to him than that, and more to the rest of the season than the fate of Franny’s custody.

Stray observations

  • “Darwin loves bitcoin” is a pretty funny self-destruct code.
  • Carrie’s brother-in-law is so insufferable, I kind of hope he turns out to be part of Yevgeny’s network, too.
  • Yes, the image at the top of this review is from last week’s episode, but for some reason no photos from “Useful Idiot” were posted on the Showtime press site this week.

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