Sunday, December 13, 2015

REVIEW: 'Homeland' - Carrie Has to Track Down Terrorists Before Their Deadly Attack in 'Our Man in Damascus'

Showtime's Homeland - Episode 5.11 "Our Man in Damascus"

Carrie follows a lead.

The urgency and tension on Homeland right now has been appropriately amped up given the current threat against Berlin. The CIA and BND are working together to find these terrorists and the sarin gas before thousands of innocents are killed. It's not the story that the main narrative of the season had been building towards. In fact, it only came about halfway through the year once Quinn needed a doctor to save his life the first time it was in peril. And now, it has completely taken over the show. It allows the various characters to make mistakes in their treatment of the things they cared about at the start of the season. Carrie is still working in some kind of capacity for these legal entities even though she fully believes the target on her has disappeared. She hasn't gone back to Otto or Jonas in weeks. That's a good thing because those characters really aren't that interesting. But it still leads to a lot of fumbling with the Allison side of things. It was just two weeks ago when the show did that fantastic episode with Saul and Carrie catching her working against the United States. And now, the ambiguity of that situation is forcing even more chaos and death. It's all rather meaningless because the audience knows much more than the main characters. So even though they are following the correct instincts, it's not as engaging as the show wants because it was bending over backwards to keep Allison a vital part of the show while keeping her big secret ambiguous enough until the season finale.

The show didn't do a great job in explaining why Allison needed to remain in the field once this terrorist threat emerged. Her co-workers don't really think she's guilty of these crimes but Carrie, Saul and Dar have enough suspicion to detain her. And then, Dar just lets her out in the field with a completely bias bodyguard who is really terrible at his job of being with her at all times. She argued for her release in order to help with this situation. And yet, she really doesn't have any valuable information that only she can provide that can help with this investigation. She does one thing. She tracks down a professor who helped program the detonation device to release the sarin gas. She only got that lead because a Russian representative reaches out to her. Her uncertainty over whether or not to go through with executing this man really isn't that engaging of a storyline. She only has a brief moment to talk about how incredibly daunting this task actually is. But it doesn't take her much convincing in order to go through with it - even with the knowledge that this will be her final mission.

It's even more frustrating once Allison stages a scene to make it seem as if the professor shot her and her bodyguard before one of them made a fatal hit. It's the perfect way for her to tell the German officials a lie about what the target is in the terrorist attacks. The Russians want this attack to happen in order to get more support in their wars in the Middle East. But again, why does anyone take this information seriously? It's understandable that resources do have to be redirected to the airport just in case Allison turns out to be telling the truth. But there are one too many holes in this story to make it seem as if this is the whole story. It's chaos which is enough to distract everyone for a moment. But it only makes the CIA and BND look stupid for trusting her so completely. It makes the Russian officials look smart as a result which really shouldn't be happening at this part in the story. They realize that any information Allison brings them has the potential to be completely wrong and nothing more than a trap. They know that they should end this operation as soon as possible despite Allison's quick thinking that got her released. It's just incredibly disappointing that the Americans and Germans haven't made the same assumption given the severity of the situation.

Carrie actually does track down the real target of the terrorist attack. She and Saul aren't able to get Quinn conscious enough for him to talk. But his body provides plenty of clues for them to track down where he has been all of this time. Sure, it pointlessly forces Carrie to confront the man who wanted to kill her early in the season because she got his son killed during her time at the CIA. That was largely just a way to connect the first part of the season with what's happening now. Carrie easily could have found another way to find the doctor who treated Quinn's wounds. She knew the area where he was. That could have presented a couple of other avenues for her to explore. But nevertheless, she found the doctor who led her to the apartment where this attack was planned. Given all the evidence that surrounds her that points to the train station, it's a little weird that she only contacts Saul. She has found so much credible evidence that could contradict Allison's story. She learns of the information that Allison found out. That's enough for her to question this lead even though she's completely right. That largely just sets the stage where Carrie is in the train station all alone searching for the terrorists. Against all the odds, she is successful because the terrorists really aren't being all that covert. They chain the doors shut with relative ease. One jumps onto the tracks to activate the gas and it doesn't appear as if any official has gone after him. It sets things up for it to be a one-on-one fight between Carrie and the terrorist. It's just way too manipulative in order to create such a circumstance for it to be all that interesting. With Carrie at the station, it's very unlikely that the gas will be released.

Of course, Carrie and Saul both have to grapple with the emotions that come from their recent actions. They are determined to stop these terrorists before this attack happens. That has always meant that they will do whatever it takes in order to get the information. The people at the Düring Foundation make sure that they can't just forget the morality they are suppose to have as human beings. It's not really all that interesting. It largely just presents an opportunity for Saul to get distracted long enough for the man in custody to kill himself. But all of the severity of this situation does start to weigh down on Carrie and Saul. Everyone else is largely just moving along according to the plot needs. Carrie and Saul actually have moments where they get to react in horror to all the damage they've done in the pursuit of stopping this attack. One man is dead. They may have just killed Quinn because they needed to bring him out of his coma. And lastly, Allison may be dead as well because she has been abducted from the hospital. It's largely setting up one big final confrontation for the finale. But it's much more compelling when the audience gets to see these emotional reactions from Carrie and Saul. The plot really isn't doing a whole lot to demand intrigue and interest so the character work needs to be on point. There are hints of it but not enough to make "Our Man in Damascus" all that interesting.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Our Man in Damascus" was written by David Fury and directed by Seith Mann.
  • Why wasn't a new agent watching Allison in the hospital? The one keeping tabs on her was killed. So why wasn't there a replacement. The CIA is just doing a very sloppy job right now handling the Allison situation.
  • Also, the odds of Allison surviving this season are incredibly low. She's already been shot and the Russians have admitted that this will be her final mission. That doesn't leave her a whole lot to go. She's basically just a loose end that needs tying up. 
  • Still very tired of Quinn's being in a life-or-death predicament. Just commit to one way or another and let the ramifications inform the story for Carrie and Saul.
  • Did Numan seriously just stop sweeping Achmed's computer for information once Carrie noticed his screen saver? Was he too busy stealing all the classified documents again from Carrie's computer for Laura?
  • Laura is a rogue agent throughout this episode acting outside of Otto's direct order. It's a direction that's a bit too little too late. What she's saying is important. It's just not being told in a compelling way that informs the character. It largely just played as another plot device. One that was complicated by her client's suicide but not one the show was interesting in showing play out after that happened.