Raza Jaffrey, Claire Danes
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In “Blind Spot,” which stands among season one’s highlights, Carrie challenges Saul in an especially pointed fashion when he doesn’t think she has ample proof to prove Brody is a double agent. “When did you become such a pussy, Saul?” Carrie asks, failing to see the practical issues with her proposition. Carrie has evolved in more ways than one since the first season, but the most dramatic shift is how she’s adapted to the reality of the decision-making process as she’s moved up the food chain. Carrie has always been willing to make unorthodox, even reckless moves if doing so will serve the mission, but in “Krieg Nicht Lieb,” she’s the one trying to act as Quinn’s voice of reason.

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“If you’ve lost your way, or your nerve, fine,” Quinn says, as Carrie tries in vain to talk him out of his solo mission to assassinate Haqqani. “What you need to do now is get out of my way.” Then, Carrie simplifies her message: “Quinn… we lost.” The challenge Carrie and her colleagues face, to borrow recovery parlance, is the serenity to accept the things they cannot change and the courage to change the things they can. Carrie can obliterate a village just by giving a verbal order, but sometimes, when it counts most, the circumstances are too unfavorable to surmount, even for The Drone Queen.

But while her stint as station chief has been sobering and illuminating, Carrie is still a maverick at heart. She implores Quinn to abandon his suicide mission and tries to prevent him from executing his plan, but when Carrie sees Haqqani feet away from her, being applauded after murdering Aayan and Fara and hanging a Taliban flag on the American embassy, she can’t help but try to take him out herself. Before Carrie can get a shot off, Khan stops her long enough to point out the latest complication—Dar Adal is among Haqqani’s entourage.

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The final sequence with the dueling demonstrations at Haqqani’s compound is tense and thrilling, especially given how sure I was Quinn’s bomb was going to go off long before Haqqani even came out of the compound, killing multiple civilians without taking out its intended target. Once Carrie mingles into the crowd, it’s clear Quinn’s bomb isn’t going off, but the stakes don’t feel lower as a result. When Carrie pulls out her gun and works up her nerve, it feels entirely possible that she’ll shoot a wanted terrorist in the middle of the street, surrounded by soldiers.

But while the Dar Adal reveal is fun and intriguing, getting to it is a mild chore. Writers Alexander Cary and Chip Johannessen have the difficult task of bridging the gap between the bloodbath of “13 Hours In Islamabad” and whatever insanity is being reserved for the finale, and the strain shows in “Krieg,” which finds Carrie treading water until the final 10 minutes or so. The episode is lumpy and awkward, with a lackadaisical pace that makes it feel at least twice as long as it is.

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The bigger issue with “Krieg” is that it doesn’t always make emotional sense. On the one hand, the episode deepens and muddles Carrie’s relationship with Quinn, which still seems destined for a romantic destination, even if the audience has to be dragged there against its will. But “Krieg” finally presents a logical concept for their potentially budding romance, which is that Carrie and Quinn have gotten into the habit of pulling each other from the brink, and developed deeper feelings as a result.

Carrie and Quinn are both passionate, instinctual, and capricious, but fortunately for the CIA, they have managed to avoid getting carried away at the same time. One always has the presence of mind and understanding of the other’s thought process to steer them back onto the road. It wouldn’t be surprising for a relationship this complementary, in a professional setting with stakes as high as these, to evolve into yet another one of Carrie’s ill-fated office relationships.

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What isn’t clear is why Carrie is fixated on Aayan’s murder as she’s approaching Haqqani with her weapon drawn. Why wouldn’t Fara’s murder be the catalyst for Carrie’s bold move? Or at the very least, why wouldn’t she be driven to rage by the death of her father, knowing Haqqani is the reason she’s forced to be away from her family during such a crucial moment? If the idea here is that Carrie developed deeper feelings for Aayan than she let on, I find that hard to believe.

That’s not to say I think Carrie’s relationship with Aayan was cleanly drawn, given one of Homeland’s central themes from its inception is that intimacy can’t be faked, at least not for long. But while it makes sense for Quinn to enlist Kiran to help foment protest around Aayan’s death to smoke Haqqani out of his compound, what starts out as the CIA using Aayan in death to get to his uncle (the same way they used him in life) becomes Carrie genuinely wanting vengeance for an asset she barely knew beyond her manipulation of him. That’s difficult to reconcile, and demonstrates the difficulty in portraying a character who is known, above all else, for being unpredictable. The writers will occasionally take too many liberties with Carrie’s impulsiveness, and this is one of those cases.

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“Krieg” could be trying to say something else about Carrie though, which is that she has strong maternal instincts, but ones that are inextricable from her professional ambitions and desire to serve her country. Carrie couldn’t wait to escape Frannie, but is staying in Islamabad solely to protect Quinn. She steered Saul back into enemy hands to keep him alive, even with the consequence of a prisoner exchange everyone seems to agree is a terrible idea. She has also apparently been carrying more guilt over Aayan’s death than she initially let on. Perhaps what seems like Carrie’s relative indifference to Fara’s death is actually her attempt to deflect the guilt of knowing she couldn’t do anything to prevent it, nor had she done much to affirm her while she was alive.

In any case, “Krieg” leaves Carrie and Quinn neutered, this time because of Dar Adal’s involvement with Haqqani, and hopefully the object is to set the stage for a finale in which they can reclaim their agency. It’s great to see Carrie finally grasp that not everything is within her control, but Homeland is more satisfying to watch when she’s in control.

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Stray observations:

  • I’d wondered how the writers would handle the death of James Rebhorn, and this seems like a reasonable way to do it.
  • I don’t remotely understand Max anymore. Wasn’t he pretty socially awkward at some point? Whatever he’s doing to increase his confidence and assertiveness, it’s totally working.
  • Tasneem didn’t make me as uncomfortable this week, and it isn’t because she was being less sinister, given that she told Khan she was holding him personally accountable for ensuring Haqqani remains alive. It’s because she wasn’t doing the smirky mustache twirling she’s been doing all season. I’m not sure how much of that is due to Nimrat Kaur’s choices or if it’s just how the character was conceived, but we never see Carrie taking personal pleasure in the tough, bloody decisions she has to make. In the scene at ISI headquarters, Tasneem and Khan look less like stock villains and more like people who make tough decisions because of a patriotism that burns as hot as Carrie’s and Quinn’s.
  • Is this the beginning of the end for Lockhart? I’ve really come around on the dude this season, but I can’t imagine an attack like this one blows over without major management shake-ups.

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