Homeland: “From A to B and Back Again” Season 4 Episode 6 Review

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This is the spy drama that I fell in love with.

We here at The Filtered Lens refrain from giving shows or movies an A+ grade because we believe it perpetuates the idea that there is a perfect film or a perfect series out there. There’s no room for perfection in this very subjective art form, and from a critical standpoint it’s important to analyze what does and doesn’t work in a specific piece—even if the story as a whole is excellent. I’m sure that, if I really think about it, even my most favorite films and shows have their share of flaws. Humans are flawed, so it makes sense that the work we produce would be too.

That being said, I was very tempted to break our grading rule and slap a plus sign on the end of this review. It’s not so much that this week’s Homeland was perfect, but it was easily one of the series’ best episodes in years. Not only is it the most exciting entry in the season so far, but it reminded me of why I got hooked on this show in the first place. Homeland has constantly struggled with recapturing the majesty of its first season, and with “From A to B and Back Again” they’ve finally done it. That, in and of itself, is a real triumph, and something that deserves some extra recognition.

One of my first thoughts after the episode’s shocking conclusion was, “oh my god, I think Saul might die.” Homeland has certainly had it’s share of surprising deaths, but let’s be real, it’s no Game of Thrones. After taking the better half of two seasons to kill off Brody, I had pretty much assumed that the rest of the core cast was safe. Well, consider me proven wrong. Safe is the last word I would use to describe this new season, which makes things incredibly exhilarating.

The ending is certainly the episode’s water cooler moment, but there’s a lot of clever buildup that happens beforehand—which, in turn, makes it all the more of a bombshell finish. The most fascinating thing about this episode is Carrie’s twisted morality, which becomes the focus of the hour after she tricks Aayan into leading her straight to Haqqani.

Carrie has already proven that she’ll do whatever it takes to succeed in her mission, but that doesn’t mean her decisions don’t affect her. When she snaps at Fara for questioning Aayan’s whereabouts, it comes off as desperately offensive. It’s as if she’s saying, “I know I’m doing the right thing…right?” Later, when Aayan proves his resourcefulness after getting stopped by border patrol guards, she beams with pride. Claire Danes uses her facial muscles with expert subtlety; allowing herself to feel proud and then catching herself when she realizes she’s beginning to smile. Though the actress is often lauded for her complete commitment to more emotional scenes, these smaller, understated moments are equally as compelling.

Yes, Carrie is willing to do whatever it takes when it comes to her work, but this episode made clear that her conscious has slowly been creeping up on her. When she says “I love you” over the phone to Aayan, it sounds partially sincere. Sure, she probably doesn’t have full-on romantic feelings for him, but she certainly has begun to know him as more than just an asset. This complex ebb and flow between maintaining as sense of duty and allowing normal, human feelings to seep through reminded me so much of the early days of season one. I’m so glad that the series seems to have found its emotional core again, and I have a feeling it will help steer it in the right direction in the following weeks.

The connection that Aayan has with Carrie becomes incredibly potent in the episode’s final minutes. As the boy finally reunites with his uncle, several dramatic moments happen one after the other. First, Saul is revealed to have been in the truck with Haqqani. Next, Haqqani shoots Aayan square in the forehead.

It’s something that no one saw coming, least of all Carrie, who lets her anger take hold of her. “Take the shot! Take that f*cker down,” she screams. Quinn has to remind her that Saul Berenson, her mentor and friend, is down there. She rushes back to her office, pacing, and aggressively clears the stuff off her desk. It’s a cliché drama show move, of course, but Danes nails her beats, and Carrie’s got every right to be upset. Another innocent person has inadvertently died during her mission. And it’s a person that she’s really grown to care about.

There’s a subplot involving Dennis and The Snake that normally would’ve annoyed me against everything else going on, but I actually found it to be quite intriguing. If Saul was kidnapped at the airport by a man who’s supposed to be working for the ISI, and now he’s in the hands of Haqqani, does that mean that the ISI is working with a known terrorist? Dennis himself wrote Quinn a note that Saul never boarded his plane. How would he know that unless The Snake told him? The mystery of this season is progressing, and I’m anxious to see how everything’s tied together.

Here’s why I think Saul might die: Haqqani mentions to Aayan that he’s like a father to Carrie. Yet, this season they’ve hardly spent any time together. In fact, most of their joint scenes involve her telling him to go home. Carrie has been through the worst of herself, and seems to have grown up—somewhat—in the process. Though she’s still got her weaknesses, she doesn’t need Saul as much as she used to. If he died, it would be devastating, but she’d learn how to soldier on.

That’s why I think there’s a duality to her freakout after Aayan’s death. Sure, she regrets putting him in that situation, but she also wants to continue on with her mission. Saul would’ve wanted her to take the shot, and I wonder if a small part of Carrie knows that, in Haqqani’s hands, he’s already as good as dead. These are bleak thoughts to consider, but they’ve got me more excited for next Sunday than ever before. Homeland is officially back. Grade: A (but A+ in my heart)

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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