Sunday, November 23, 2014

REVIEW: 'Homeland' - Carrie and Saul Go Through With the Prisoner Exchange in 'There's Something Else Going On'

Showtime's Homeland - Episode 4.09 "There's Something Else Going On"

Carrie improvises to salvage her mission. The CIA closes in on their security leak.

I am pleasantly surprised and happy to give an A- grade to Homeland again. From late in the second season until this point, Homeland has made some pretty massive errors in regards to its characters and the story. After the third season was completely horrendous, I had no clue if the Showtime action thriller could win me back. I still gave the show the opportunity. And now, I'm glad they followed through on the potential again. Yes, there have been some bad moments in this season - Carrie almost drowning her baby, Carrie seducing Aayan, Carrie's hallucination of Brody, etc. However, the plot mechanics as a whole are coming together quite nicely - especially in the last two weeks. It's still a major problem that I don't know any of these characters' names (especially on the ISI side of things). But great character work is happening on the show right now. And it's strong and meaningful character work too that helps strengthen the core dynamics of the show. The show has rebounded so resounding in the last few weeks because it has opted to focus more on the spy thriller aspects of its DNA. That's where all the excitement is coming from right now and it's precisely why I'm proud to watch Homeland again.

Throughout the hour, Carrie and the audience are keenly aware that something else is about to happen. Saul's abduction and the prisoner exchange is something that happened after Haqqani put his plan into motion starting with the drone strike at the wedding. In fact, it has only made his plan to reconquer the country even stronger because now he has something to protect himself and leverage against the Americans. Haqqani is a successful big bad for the season because his motivation is very clear. Saul's conversation with Haqqani about morals a few episodes ago was greatly appreciated in making us understand why Haqqani is doing everything that he has done this season. He is more than just a face that Carrie and the team have to stop. He is a character with ambitions and has a network that makes this story feel more than just plot progression. Even though we know that something is going to happen, it is still very shocking once the convoy bringing Carrie and Saul back to the embassy is hit and Haqqani is making his way into the embassy because of the diversion. It's a very ominous way to end the episode. The threat of danger is looming more than ever before. Carrie has large chunks of the puzzle, but even she is unable to stop them from happening. She knows the prison exchange isn't Haqqani's plan. And yet, time isn't on her side. She has to go through with the prisoner exchange immediately even though she is very suspicious of what is happening across the way with the terrorists and the ISI. And she's right too. But she's also left very powerless.

The excitement of the ending and the looming threat of danger doesn't take away from the actual prisoner exchange through. The show is asking us to look at the bigger picture while also strongly presenting us a case for why we should be caring about this exchange right now. Saul's legacy as the CIA director has been much more meaningful than when he was actually the director. After the fact, we've learned more about his time in the position. When he was actually in the position last season, it didn't seem like he was doing the job effectively. The CIA team has been working around the clock to bring him home safely. And yet, Saul doesn't want them too. He understands that anyone in this profession can be expendable. If it means taking out a terrorist, he would want to die as well. That's why this whole prisoner exchange sickens him. He does not want to be a bargaining chip. He doesn't see himself as an asset for either side. He is an image to both factions. Haqqani uses Saul for protection and to help build up his cause. Carrie and Quinn see him as a respectable mentor. He has always been the voice of reason for them. It's a personal connection for them so that makes it that much harder for them to kill him off in order to protect the greater good. Yes, it didn't work a few episodes ago when it was first revealed Haqqani had Saul. Carrie was ready to give the kill order until Quinn intervened. But now, it works wonders because of the strong character dynamic between Carrie and Saul. Saul would rather die than let Haqqani get what he wants. It's up to Carrie to motivate him to be the better person. Saul is willing to give up. He has made his peace and knows that the kid wearing the bomb vest has as well. Carrie still sees Saul as a person worth fighting for and saving. She made a promise Mira and she desperately wants to honor it.

The prisoner exchange goes off without a hitch. And yet, that was never Haqqani's grand plan. Carrie tried getting the information out of the ambassador's husband but she is forced away. He doesn't give the CIA and his wife the information they need until it's too late. Haqqani is already making his way into the embassy. The convoy has already been attacked. There's very little they can do now to stop whatever Haqqani has planned for them. And that is incredibly exciting.

Some more thoughts:
  • "There's Something Else Going On" was written by Chip Johannessen & Patrick Harbinson and directed by Seith Mann.
  • Where are Fara and Max? The show promoted Nazanin Boniadi to series regular this season and she hasn't actually done a lot.
  • I figured the ambassador and Carrie were working together to get information out of the professor husband almost immediately. It was a smart strategy too. He just figured it out. The ambassador was pressing a little hard after all.
  • Will both Carrie and Saul survive the episode ending attack? I think so. It would be an anti-climatic death for Saul. He may still die this season but if he does I would expect a tad more build up.