Homeland: “Halfway to a Donut” Season 4 Episode 8 Review

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“Nothing good can happen in this f*cked-up world that we’ve made for ourselves.”

Homeland is perhaps one of the only shows on TV that could have a character end exactly where he started, and still provide one of the most compelling hours of drama in its entire run so far. Saul makes a daring escape from Haqqani’s compound, only to be led right back into the arms of the Taliban by Carrie in order to stop him from taking his own life. It would seem as though nothing has changed, but “Halfway to a Donut” makes you feel like you’re on a whole new playing field by the end.

It goes without saying that the episode’s best scene arrives during the heated chase when Saul sits at a fountain, ready to give up. He’s already told Carrie that he’d rather die than be recaptured, and he puts a gun to his chin as she pleads with him to keep going. Despite all Homeland‘s faults, its handling of Carrie and Saul’s relationship has always been pitch-perfect. At this point in the series, we’re so familiar with how much they care for each other, that everything they do carries a great emotional weight.

This scene is especially potent, given Carrie’s recent track record with her assets in the field. Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin play so well-off each other, that every sentence makes you catch your breath. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that I felt like I was right alongside Carrie, completely unsure of what Saul was going to do, and hoping he’d choose life over death.

What’s really jarring about this interaction is the reveal that it was all just another manipulation. Carrie knew Saul wouldn’t be able to be rescued, and so she made the call to lead him back to his captors instead. He’s naturally shocked and upset, and what’ll be interesting to see is how their relationship will change now that she’s betrayed him. Sure, her intentions were pure, but as she says to Quinn in the aftermath, she only had wrong decisions to choose from.

Homeland dropped nearly all of its subplots this week and turned its efforts completely on Saul, proving just how exhilarating this show can be when it’s singularly focused. Everything from the tense control room tactics to the icy negotiation meetings with the ISI held a sense of urgency that arises when a central character is in peril. There really wasn’t a “stop and take a breather” moment throughout the entire hour, which is something that’s been missing from Homeland for a long time. The first season of the show built up its characters slowly, and then forced them through a nonstop thrill-ride until the finale. That seems to be happening with this season as well, meaning I have nothing but anticipation for the final four episodes.

The only semblance of a B-story this week occurred in a few brief scenes as Carrie tries to figure out who poisoned her, and whether or not she can trust Khan. What’s engrossing about their relationship is that she waits to tell him she does indeed remember the end of her night, as if to test where his loyalties lie. He appears to be an important ally, as he’s more frustrated at being undermined by The Snake than anything else. The episode’s final scene saw him reveal Dennis Boyd as the culprit, meaning he’ll have some serious ‘splainin to do to his wife next week.

There are still so many things I’m curious about going forward. We have yet to discover why the ISI is working with the Taliban and, more importantly, how the CIA is going to get out of releasing their prisoners back to Haqqani. Carrie’s vague “we’ll find another way” isn’t particularly helpful, but whatever happens I’m sure it will be exciting. One thing is certain: for anyone who, like me, has stuck with Homeland through it’s highs and lows, this season has been incredibly rewarding. Keep up the good work, guys. I can’t wait to see what’s next. Grade: A

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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