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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Homeland: “Iron In The Fire”

Illustration for article titled Homeland: “Iron In The Fire”
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Carrie Mathison notably paused twice in the final scene of “Iron In The Fire.” First she looked in the mirror and steeled herself for the seduction of a young, possibly innocent asset, and then she seemed to reconsider, just for a second, after confirming with Aayan that he’d “never done this before.” There’s a glimmer of morality behind her eyes—nicely, subtly played by Claire Danes—that’s at odds with how season four has wanted us to increasingly view her.

Homeland needs to color Carrie with those shades of grey early, presumably so that she can find her way back to humanity later, after doing whatever it takes to stop the still-unknown terrorist plot. So far this season we’ve seen her celebrate drone strikes (and not object to the nickname “drone queen”), contemplate drowning her baby (maybe), and now have sex with a kid who she’s also lying to about who she is and what she can do to save his very endangered life. “Carrie will stop at nothing!” the show is practically yelling at us, while also having Fara and Quinn, for some odd reason, as moral barometers, asking Carrie, incredulously, whether she’s going to keep her promise to get Aayan to London. Since when are motherfucking spies supposed to keep their promises to assets?

Since Quinn killed that kid in Caracas and fell in love with Carrie, apparently. (Who knows what Fara’s excuse is.) And I’ll say this now, so you’ll know where I’m coming from: I don’t feel great about the Quinn-falls-in-love stuff, and I’m bummed that it’s being set up to factor so heavily in the plot. I’m assuming—perhaps wrongly—that Quinn is going to find out that Carrie had sex with Aayan, and that it’s going to send him into some jealous rage and further compromise his fragile psyche. He’s already trying to control Carrie by refusing to go along with her plan and snag the ISI assassin who orchestrated Sandy Bachman’s murder—even grabbing her arm. I like that it’s a complex relationship, but it doesn’t need to be motivated by romantic love. Quinn’s crazy, sure, but he’s being driven by his morals, not his penis; his contempt for Carrie’s methods wouldn’t let him remain enamored for this long. It rings a little false, and I hope it stays backgrounded, along with Carrie’s sister and kid. (One Skype session for the rest of the season, that’s all I’ll allow.)

Which isn’t to say this wasn’t a solid episode or that this is somehow a bad season—if we could live through Dana Brody’s runaway trysts, we can deal with this. And beyond that, we’re getting into the meat of the spy game now, which is what Homeland should always concentrate on, because it does it so well. The plot has thickened now that Carrie and her side squad understand the depth of Sandy’s murder: He was killed—or at least his killing was sanctioned—by the official Pakistani intelligence service, ISI. He was a target, but Carrie and Quinn weren’t. (Neat trick, I guess, faking a street mob but giving them specific instructions only to kill the bald guy.)

Saul is still in the picture, thankfully, even if he doesn’t have a ton to do at the moment. This goes without saying at this point, but Mandy Patinkin is so damn good in this role that they could just have him chat for a few minutes with just about anybody, and it’d be welcome. This week, he confirms Carrie’s suspicions with two great conversations—one with a former general named Bunny who believes that 9/11 was an Israeli-perpetrated hoax, and the next with a young buck from ISI who’s immediately rattled by Saul’s questions. (Kind of a shitty spy, if you think about it, but the way his security detail cleared the room was pretty cool.)

And now we’ve met the leaker, too: Sandy’s source for U.S. intelligence is Professor Dennis Boyd, a.k.a. Mad Men’s Duck Phillips. He’s conveniently married to Saul’s former flame, the totally together Ambassador Martha Boyd. Their marriage is on the rocks, and when a sexy Pakistani agent—is she ISI or a terrorist or both?—starts to blackmail him, it all feels a little bit 24. Here’s hoping we don’t get too far down the rabbit hole with that relationship.


John Redmond—the Caddyshack kid from here on out—meanwhile has Carrie under surveillance. I have a feeling he’s going to end up helping her out of a jam down the road. And now he’s alerted her to the secret tunnel leading out of the Embassy, because that seems like a real thing, doesn’t it?

And finally we’re back to poor Aayad, who just wanted to go to medical school, and who’s probably smuggling medicine to help sick children or something. His mystery medicine drop leads Fara and the team to the startling revelation that Uncle Haqqani was not, in fact, killed in Carrie’s season-opening drone strike, but that he’s alive but wants people to think he’s dead. And that the ISI is helping him. Enemies are everywhere, and their motivations are unclear. The pieces are falling nicely into place for some excellent, twisty spy games. Now who does Carrie Mathison have to screw to get some answers and keep the plot moving? Oh right, Aayad.


Stray observations:

  • Carrie is really incredible cagey when dealing with her assets. Her urgency in making Aayad feel in danger was subtle and effective. She does still have it.
  • “Accountability isn’t in the job description, Carrie.”
  • I want to download Quinn’s sweet clone-a-phone app. It’s so quick!
  • “Anything for you, Carrie.” Sarcasm? Insanity? Either way, we’re bound to find out what “anything” actually means before too long.
  • Here’s where I stand on the theme song: pro. Now you know. Thanks to Sonia for covering the season up until this point. I’ll be with you until Carrie and Quinn start knocking boots, and beyond.