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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled iHomeland /ikills off two characters, setting the stage for the series endgame
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A process that began last week continues as Homeland heads into its home stretch: Carrie is coming face-to-face with her actions over the course of the series, and she doesn’t like what she sees. Last week’s episode took the airstrike she ordered on a wedding party out of the realm of the abstract when she was confronted with the result of her action: a mass grave in a ruined town. Now, as Max is coldly assassinated and left for dead on a desert floor, she must reckon with her closest work relationships and what they have really meant, if anything.

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A threnody is a song of lamentation for the dead, and as the conditional plural of the episode title indicates, Max isn’t the only one to be mourned this week, although the other major death is much more divisive. Sentenced to death at the end of the previous episode, Haqqani is led out of his cell in chains and lashed to a post in front of a firing squad. He receives a last-minute stay of execution when Hayes contacts G’ulom to tell him Haqqani’s son Jalal has taken an American hostage he will kill as soon as his father dies (although it is Wellington who has to step in and get G’ulom to agree to a 24-hour stay).

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As we learned last week, however, there are new voices on Afghanistan in the White House, notably Hayes advisor John Zabel. Perhaps due to his extremely unfortunate combination of haircut and beard, I did not realize during his first brief appearance that this was Hugh Dancy (Hannibal). He certainly disappears into the role of a Stephen Miller/Steve Bannon extremist outsider thrust into a high-level advisory capacity and bent on blowing up any notions of traditional diplomatic norms. When Hayes learns that the Special Ops plan for rescuing Max has only a 50/50 chance of being successful, Zabel has an easy time convincing him that it’s not worth trying. After all, who is Max? That’s a question that will come up again later, to devastating effect.

Hugh Dancy
Hugh Dancy
Photo: Sifeddine Elamine (Showtime)

Haqqani’s stay is short-lived and he goes down in a hail of bullets...but not for long. He adds to his legend by struggling back to his feet even while bleeding out, requiring a second round from the firing squad. Jalal uses this imagery in his speech to win over Haqqani’s former followers even as he rejects the peacemaking mission of his father’s last days. He urges them to remember the young fighter Haqqani had once been, and uses a prop to illustrate his claim to that legacy: an RPG he claims he used to shoot down both helicopters.

This is bullshit, as Jalal was nowhere near the crash location when it happened, but when a video of the meeting leaks, it becomes a useful tool for Zabel to win Hayes over to his way of thinking. The indecisive new president had been advocating a split-the-baby approach in which Wellington and Zabel would have to agree on the fine points of his address to the nation. With this new evidence, suspect as it is, Hayes fully embraces Zabel’s aggressive approach, demanding that Pakistan turn over Jalal or face America’s wrath.

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Carrie has less to do in this episode than most, but Claire Danes does get one terrific scene out of her limited time. The requested Special Ops mission never materializes, and once news of Haqqani’s death leaks, Jalal and his crew bug out, but not before putting a few bullets in Max. By the time Carrie reaches his side, he’s dead, and she spends much of the hour weeping by his side. Finally Yevgeny has to know: Who is this guy? As Carrie stumbles for an answer, she realizes her relationship with Max was like so many others in her work life: He was useful to her. He was good at what he did, and he did what she asked. Who was the real Max Piotrowski? Carrie doesn’t have a clue.

The way Danes plays it, this is a slowly dawning, horrific realization for Carrie, with implications that extend far beyond Max himself. There’s not much time for introspection, however, as Saul arrives with a team to pick her up. Unfortunately, he’s not on the same page with the troops who have orders to restrain her, as Dunne still suspects her of being a Russian collaborator. The fragile trust between Saul and Carrie dissolves once more as she makes a getaway with Yevgeny, intent on finding the flight recorder. The fact that Carrie’s one friend left in the world is her former Russian captor doesn’t bode well for a happy ending...not that anyone was expecting one.

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Stray observations

  • RIP Max Piotrowsky, and so long Maury Sterling. (Who maybe didn’t even appear in this episode? I’m not sure we got a good look at Max’s face.)
  • Despite all the upheaval in the television industry (and everywhere else), it looks like the Homeland schedule won’t be disrupted. (Those of you who follow my Flash reviews should note that the new episode scheduled for April 7 has been preempted by a rerun of Crisis On Infinite Earths.)
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My debut novel Charlesgate Confidential is now available from Hard Case Crime.

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