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Claire Danes, Andrea Deck
Photo: Sifeddine Elamine (Showtime)
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It’s been almost two years since we’ve seen Carrie Mathison, although not nearly as much time has passed for her. It’s understandable if you need to refresh your memory before plunging into this final season of Homeland, but in short: Carrie was captured in Russia and spent six months undergoing enhanced interrogation, most of the time without her meds. When Saul finally negotiated her release, she emerged wild-eyed and crazy-haired, unable to even recognize her longtime boss and co-conspirator.

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In my review of the seventh season finale, I expressed my hope that we wouldn’t be spending too much time with this incarnation of Carrie, and “Deception Indicated” obliges by skipping most of her recovery. It served its purpose as season-ending shock value, but that’s not to say Homeland is ignoring the repercussions of Carrie’s Russian imprisonment. The episode title comes from the verdict of the polygraph test Carrie is given during her recovery on a German military base. Is Carrie lying about collaborating with the enemy and giving up intelligence assets, or is the test delivering faulty results because she can’t remember some 180 days of her stay in Russia?

Previous seasons might have devoted several episodes to Carrie’s efforts to regain her security clearance, but the clock is ticking, so it’s Saul to the rescue. Now the National Security Advisor to President Warner, Saul is in Qatar with an opportunity to bring the Taliban to the negotiation table and finally reach a settlement that will get U.S. troops out of Afghanistan. That country’s president is on board, but his veep Abdul G’ulom, who is evidently the true power, disagrees. Since Carrie is an “old friend” of G’ulom, Saul is quickly off the Germany to pick her up and put her back in the field. Nobody else thinks this is a good idea except Carrie, ever devoted to the job and ready for action.

The Homeland status quo is thus quickly reinstated: no matter how much Carrie loves the job, it will never love her back. No matter how many times she saves the world, almost no one she works with will ever trust her. Of course, she’s not entirely blameless in this one-way love affair, having behaved erratically often enough over the years that she’ll probably never be entirely above suspicion. It’s Carrie’s longest running dysfunctional relationship, and it will be interesting to see if this final season turns out to be the story of how she finally gets out of it.

Maury Sterling
Photo: Warrick Page (Showtime)
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In Kabul, Carrie meets up with her replacement as station chief, Mike Dunne (Cliff Chamberlain) and newbie agent Jenna Bragg (Andrea Deck). Dunne has already been given a heads-up that Carrie may be compromised, but there’s not much he can do given that she’s working for the National Security Advisor. Elsewhere in Afghanistan, Max has been enlisted in a nerd-out-of-the-office mission to replace a listening device close to the Pakistan border. Homeland ratchets up to its tense, suspenseful best under series veteran Leslie Linka Glatter’s direction as the story cuts between Carrie’s attempt to secretly meet with an old asset and Max accompanied by troops into Taliban territory to carry out his mission.

What’s curious about all this is how much of it ties back to the fourth season, not one of the more memorable in the series’ run. Although Saul never addresses her by name, the woman representing Pakistan at the peace talks is Tasneem Qureshi, and if she and Saul appear to have history, it’s because she was behind Saul’s kidnapping by Taliban leader Haissam Haqqani. That name may ring a bell because he led the attack on the embassy in Islamabad that both Saul and Max reference in this episode. The listening device Max is planting is intended to pick up Haqqani’s communications from within Pakistan, which may alert them to the Taliban’s true plans for the peace talks.

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Still, it’s hardly necessary to be steeped in all the back story in order to get swept back up in Homeland’s propulsive currents. Max wins the respect of his military escorts by volunteering to stay behind alone to complete the mission and by letting them in on the stakes, including the fact that he was at the Islamabad embassy when everything went to hell. Carrie, as usual, is not so lucky. Her secret meeting with an asset known only to her goes awry when it turns out he’s been murdered by the Taliban for working with the Americans, and her ride abandons her, leaving her to hide with civilians. Things don’t improve much when she returns to the station and learns her meeting with G’ulom has been moved up to the next morning.

The worst is saved for last as Carrie waits for G’ulom to finish up another meeting only to spot her Russian captor Yevgeny Gromov (Costa Ronin) leaving G’ulom’s office. Since Carrie is haunted by memories of clinging to Yevgeny and begging him not to leave her, we are left to ponder whether a severe case of Stockholm Syndrome caused Carrie to betray her country (almost certainly not) or if she’s being gaslighted once again (probable Bingo). Whatever the twist turns out to be, “Deception Indicated” finds Homeland on solid if familiar ground as it heads into its final stretch.

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Stray observations

  • Wouldn’t it be weird if the show ends with Carrie and Saul bringing about the end of a war that’s still going on in real life? Not that it would be the first serious deviation from our reality in series history, but somehow I don’t see Homeland going the feel-good route.
  • Given Carrie’s fragmented memories of her time in captivity, I would be a little shocked if we don’t get one more Brody hallucination before all is said and done.
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My debut novel Charlesgate Confidential is now available from Hard Case Crime.

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