Homeland: “13 Hours in Islamabad” Season 4 Episode 10 Review

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This week’s Homeland is a relentless massacre…at least for the first half.

I’m going to confess something slightly embarrassing to all of you. I’ve seen every episode of Desperate Housewives. Yup, every single one. For all the prestige television I like to watch, I just couldn’t get enough of the crazy antics that all conveniently happened on one specific street to one specific group of women. The thing that I found so enjoyable about it is that it never tried to be something it’s not. Yes, the show declined greatly in its later seasons, but I never got the sense that a once great drama had suddenly jumped the shark. It was just less fun.

Almost every year during its run, the show had a “disaster episode.” Some big traumatic event would happen that would shake the entire suburb to it’s very core. Over the course of seven seasons, the same street was rocked by a jilted wife taking people hostage in a grocery store, a massive tornado, a wildfire, a plane crash, and a town riot. Hard to believe? Absolutely. Exciting to watch? Of course!

You might be wondering why I’ve chosen to bring up this show when Homeland exists in a universe that’s miles and miles away from anything Desperate Housewives has ever attempted. Well, “13 Hours in Islamabad” is perhaps the most exhilarating hour of the season, and that’s really saying something. The episode centers around Haqqani’s invasion of the US embassy, and boy, do things get brutal. It was, in a word, an event.

Today’s television landscape is no stranger to event-based shows, with series like How to Get Away with Murder and Scandal dominating the ratings—and Twitter—every time they air. These shows thrive on the unexpected, constantly keeping viewers guessing as to what could possibly come next. It’s no secret that Homeland is the nuanced, more mature cousin of 24, a show that’s pretty much the definition of “event TV.” The writers on Homeland are well-versed in twists, turns, and one-two punches. Yet, at least in this season, they’re usually so much smarter about they way they have them play out.

That’s what I think what bothered me most about “13 Hours in Islamabad.” Homeland is not one of these stunt-filled shows. True, it has a history of caving into the gimmicks. At its worst it pretty much becomes a carbon copy of 24, but for all the good work this season has done to bring back a sense of realism and intimacy, the first half of this episode seems intent on undoing it. One of things I liked so much about “There’s Something Else Going On” is how deliberately slow it was. The big reveals worked because the tension was so carefully built-up that it felt like anything really could happen. This week, everything happens, and it’s almost numbing.

The one surprisingly effective moment during the whole invasion ended up being Fara’s death. I saw it coming from a mile away, especially after Saul was revealed to be alive and relatively unharmed (there goes my whole theory on him…). Someone relatively important was going to die, and she seemed like a logical choice. Still, her character has always been so determined and pure of heart, which was a breath of fresh air in a show filled with cynical government agents. Her relationship with her co-workers—particularly Max—has been shown in brief, but very lived-in moments. Watching him stare listlessly at her corpse, along with watching Carrie tearfully call her father, provided some of the show’s most decidedly human moments. In an episode full of inhumane acts, these scenes were very welcome, and something 24 would never have been able to pull off.

Things return to a more subdued pacing after Haqqani escapes. Carrie shares an important moment with Saul where she tries to make him see how he’s not at fault for any of this. All season long, Carrie’s struggled with the decisions she’s had to make, and now it seems like she’s finally stopped second-guessing herself.

Even more interesting is an intense moment between Dennis and the Ambassador where he convinces her to let him hang himself so his family can have some sort of fractured salvation. It’s disturbing, but it feels authentic after such a harrowing situation. Of course, because Dennis is a spineless bastard, he can’t go through with it. The Ambassador’s face as she sees him in the car the next day speaks volumes about their relationship. This is the kind of fascinating, character-driven work I expect from Homeland.

I didn’t like how unnecessarily angry Quinn gets with Saul, during his debriefing. Quinn was the first one to stop Carrie from firing a drone when Saul was in the field with Haqqani, but now he’s laser-focused on the mission? It’s annoying, but it fuels Quinn’s late night sneak out to find Haqqani’s main ISI contact, who I’m assuming will drive the season home.

So, what exactly is going to happen now? Carrie is staying in Islamabad to find Quinn and the two have no CIA protection. The stakes are higher than ever. Homeland went buck wild this week before slowly reigning itself in, and I hope it realizes that things are so much better in a slow burn. This is a show that will always be eventful just because of its subject matter. There’s no need for extra theatrics. Grade: B

 

By Mike Papirmeister

 

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