Homeland: “About A Boy” Season 4 Episode 5 Review

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“You’re in it now…and guess what? You’re good at it.”

So says Quinn to Fara after she worries that her mission is already requiring more of her than she had originally thought. Really, though, it could be used to describe just about anyone in this week’s Homeland, as the story moved forward in an incredibly thrilling way. Everyone is delving deeper into their respective situations, and some people might already be in over their heads.

Quinn and Fara are “in it,” in more ways than one. Not only are they tracking one of the men who was seen with Hakkani, but they’re dealing with some emotional crises as well. Fara has taken some brave steps forward this season, but the more action she takes, the more she fears for her safety. Quinn, meanwhile, seems to have started regretting his return to Pakistan.

What I liked so much about this plotline is that it was able to put his budding romance with Carrie in the backseat while he dealt with some more urgent espionage issues. Sure, his feelings for her were very implicit throughout, but they never got in the way of the central objective at hand. There’s a moment where he berates Carrie for “f*cking a small child,” and she asks him why it matters so much to him. You can tell from the look on his face—Rupert Friend gave an excellently restrained performance this week—that it’s because he’s a little jealous, but he quickly squashes his reaction and walks away. This is the kind of pace that their relationship needs to move at, and I’m glad to see the show handling this relatively slow development so well.

Speaking of Carrie and her various actions with a “small child,” our favorite full-throttle CIA agent further toyed with Aayan’s emotions—and libido—this week in order to get him to admit his uncle is still alive. She’s successful, but what’s fascinating is the episode’s enigmatic handling of her seduction. Carrie’s arc this season seems to revolve around rediscovering her humanity amongst her frenzied ambition and need to throw herself into her work.

There are moments where you’re not exactly sure what kind of game she’s playing, or if she’s playing one at all. When she cries during sex with Aayan, is she actually upset at herself for what she’s doing? Is she thinking about the story of Brody she told earlier? Or is this all just another ploy to get him to open up to her? Right now there’s no way to tell, and this is thanks in no small part to Claire Danes’ phenomenal delivery this week. There’s a decent person in there somewhere, but she probably won’t come out for a while.

Additionally, I really appreciated the show’s effort to once again—on a smaller level, of course—try to make us question our notions of a terrorist. Just like how we were strangely drawn to Brody in season 1, Aayan paints a favorable picture of his uncle that begins to humanize him. Sure, this sympathetic description is coming from a member of his family and is therefore biased, but it’s still interesting to hear another side of the story. Haqqani, at least for now, is season’s main villain, and so to hear about his more tender nature only adds to his complexity.

Even Homeland‘s subplot involving Dennis and “The Snake” gained some traction this week, and was able to tie itself to the main narrative. “The Snake” is actually an ISI agent, and she’s been working to track Carrie’s movements since she took over as Station Chief. Dennis is now being used to spy on Carrie, which means the two will likely have a confrontation at some point down the road. I’m not sure if the scenes with his wife bemoaning their failed marriage were totally necessary, but they certainly acted as a motivator to get him into Carrie’s apartment to snoop around. At any rate, I applaud the show’s attempt to make every storyline feel multifaceted.

Of all the characters in “About A Boy” who fall further down the rabbit hole, the one who has it the worst is Saul. In some ways, his plotline troubled me because it made it clear that the writers are willing to forgo plausibility in order to keep him around. A man as smart and careful as Saul should have known something was up when the man who coordinated Sandy’s murder just so happened to show up at the same airport as him. Still, I’m willing to forgive—for now—because of the sheer excitement these scenes provided.

Saul trails his target slowly, so the speed at which he’s injected with a tranquilizer and wheeled out of the airport is conversely shocking. Even more eerie is what comes next. I’m not really sure what’s worse. The fact that the guards at the checkpoint see Saul bound and gagged in the trunk of a car and do nothing about it, or the fact that Quinn and Fara are mere feet away and have no idea. This is a character who’s always been more behind-the-scenes during the show’s spy games, and so the fact that he’s now in on the action is both exhilarating and terrifying. There’s no telling what’ll happen next.

That’s probably the best thing about this episode: the uncertainty. It’s not the kind of uncertainty that makes you wonder about the quality of writing going on, but the kind that’s filled with possibility. As Carrie, Quinn, Saul, and even Dennis move forward with their plans, they’re bound to get into some serious trouble. Luckily for us, trouble makes for great television. Grade: A-

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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