Homeland: From A to B and Back Again

Posted on November 03, 2014

Homeland-Season4-Episode-6-Television-Review-Tom-Lorenzo-Site-TLOPinClaire Danes and Michael O’Keefe in Showtime’s “Homeland”


We’re not sure what the show wants us to think about Carrie anymore. Which is ironic, because the writers are clearly stacking the deck with some ridiculously heavy-handed scenes which seem designed to make us hate what she’s become. She orders a drone strike which results in the death of dozens of civilians, which she shrugs off. She briefly tries to drown her own baby. She sleeps with a potential asset, but it’s all depicted in such a way as to make it look like an act of rape. Oh, and everyone – everyone – is just so very appalled by Carrie’s intemperate ways and cold heart and can’t wait to tell her at every opportunity.

Funny thing about that. The more you demand that the audience see things a certain way, the higher the likelihood they’ll eventually turn on you. Or maybe that’s just stubborn old us. There comes a point when something gets hammered so hard in the scripts that our pendulums swing away from it automatically. We’ve been pretty appalled with Carrie’s behavior all season, while at the same time finding ourselves deeply annoyed by the moralizing coming from people like Quinn; people who not only have no business moralizing over Carrie’s acts, but who should, because of his professional history, be not all that particularly shocked by them. And we even said earlier this season that if a “Carrie is right again and everyone else just can’t see it” arc plays out, we’d find that pretty tiresome.

But dammit. Shut up, Quinn. Shut up, Farah. We get it. She’s harsh and she’s doing cruel things. She’s also delivering a major terrorist, one that no one else even believed was alive. Sack up, you wusses. You’re in the C.I.A. We’re thinking the scenes with Carrie all but biting each of their heads off in retaliation for their moralizing was meant to make her look like an unhinged bitch but we honestly thought she had a damn point. Sure, this is ugly, what they’re doing. But they all know the line of work they’re in and what it can sometimes entail. All the shit they’re flinging at Carrie strikes us singularly unfair.  Yes, she’s emotionally unstable and extremely unpleasant, and that becomes obvious very quickly to anyone who works with her. But she’s got one hell of a track record to stand on. And she’s clearly been in the right all along on this Aayan sting, so long as you define “in the right” in spy terms, which allows for a lot of moral leeway on the whole lying and even sexual exploitation questions. We guess what we’re trying to say is, it’s one thing for us, the audience to find Carrie’s actions so horrifying this season. But it’s a terrible cheat trying to make everyone in the CIA appalled by them as well.

The show has made subtle points about the sexism she constantly faces on the job; the ways in which she has to bark orders repeatedly before subordinates will respond to them; the thousands of different ways her decisions are questioned – and sometimes by people who have no business or role questioning them. The exhausting number of times she has to explain and defend herself to co-workers and people who should know better. There’s a feminist point of view built into the show’s very DNA, whether the creators are conscious of it or not. So we can’t help but wonder, as members of the audience, would we really feel all that appalled if we were watching James Bond do what Carrie’s been doing this season? Maybe we all don’t want to hear that kind of comparison because we all want to believe this is somehow a grittier or more realistic spy story than anything 007 appeared in. But let’s face it: it’s not. This show touches on a lot of real-world stuff and frames it all in ways that question the U.S.’s  current political and military approaches to foreign policy, which makes it easy to forget just how ludicrous and over the top the stories have been, practically from day one. Remember the Vice-President getting murdered by that terrorist congressman? Or half the CIA dying in an explosion? Or Carrie getting chased through an abandoned warehouse, like Jaime Lee Curtis in an ’80s slasher flick, except her assailant was essentially Osama bin Laden? Or hey, remember that episode where the former director of the CIA got kidnapped by terrorists and thrown in the trunk of a car?

Good times.

This show, despite its trappings, is and always has been a romanticized, exaggerated version of the modern anti-terrorist spy game. So it’s fair to ask: Why are we all supposed to be so appalled by what Carrie’s done when we’ve watched countless male spy heroes do the same or much worse – and we cheered them all on?

And look, we get it. You could easily come back with “What the hell are you talking about? She’s gone completely off the rails! She tried to get Saul killed!” But we have no doubt – and we’re sure Carrie wouldn’t either – that Saul would be the very first person to tell her to take the shot. Quinn’s horrified “It’s Saul!” to her, with soldiers openly and directly disobeying her orders – that was the moment when the script hammer came down a little too hard and we wound up yelling “Fuck Saul, Quinn! He screwed up a major operation by acting like a goddamn fool!”

But alas, we doubt that was the intention the writers had with that scene. We were meant to be horrified, we think. But we’re getting tired of no one ever allowing Carrie her victories or acknowledging the ways in which she’s brilliant. It’s true that she’s more than a bit twisted, but the show stacks the deck by making it seem as if that was somehow notable in the CIA. Again, we’re not defending the reckless way she played with Aayan’s life but this is not the first time she or anyone else in the story lost an asset. And by “lost” we mean “got them killed because you screwed up somehow.” It’s the game they’re in. It’s not pretty. But we sure wish the writers trusted us enough to come to that conclusion on our own.

In other news, someone needs to shoot Duck Phillips in the head, because he’s on an entirely different show and it bores the hell out of us.



[Photo Credit: David Bloomer/SHOWTIME]

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