Homeland: “Our Man in Damascus” Season 5 Episode 11 Review

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In the penultimate episode of the season, Homeland kicks itself back into high gear.

Is there any other series on TV right now that’s able to turn on a dime as quickly as Homeland? Season 5 has been middling at best, but there’s no denying the fact that this show can go from boorish to thrilling in almost no time.

After the disappointing “New Normal,” this week’s “Our Man in Damascus” is a captivating change of pace, focusing all of the narrative around stopping the Sarin gas attack in Berlin. The shift works well for the show, ensuring that no moment is wasted in setting up the pieces for a truly unmissable finale. Yet, the episode doesn’t just exist as a placeholder for what’s to come. “Our Man in Damascus” is totally engrossing from start to finish.

The show’s Quinn problem is dealt with rather quickly, as the episode chooses to use him as an emotional pawn rather than an asset to stopping the attack. The most interesting thing about his presence, or lack thereof, is Carrie’s subdued reaction to his comatose state. Claire Danes delivers a wonderful performance as someone who’s clearly affected by the grim diagnosis of her friend, but who puts on a brave front regardless. Her decision to try and wake him, despite the doctor’s insistence on the dangers of doing so, is initially unsettling, but her facial expressions make it clear that putting the mission first is the only way she knows how to process this sort of situation. It’s Carrie Mathison at her absolute best; making a painful personal decision for the greater good.

The real ace in the hole, however, is Allison, who manages to take a completely ludicrous plotline and make it totally compelling. Her final orders from the SVR are to ensure that the Sarin gas attack isn’t thwarted by the CIA, and so the show puts her into a tight corner that she has to literally shoot her way out of. Yes, you could easily argue that Allison would never be able to even receive these orders from the SVR while under such heavy surveillance from the CIA, but that’s besides the point. She is clearly someone who does her best thinking under pressure, and every scene she appears in this week has a breathless quality to it that kept my eyes glued to the screen.

What’s so intriguing about Allison’s actions is that she’s initially hesitant to go through with them. She seems genuinely shocked that the SVR hasn’t tried to prevent this attack, and is nervous about having such a direct involvement with it herself. Allison has never been a thoroughly coldhearted traitor—in fact, she’s only working with the SVR because she was tricked into it—so there is a possibility she’ll have a last-minute moment of redemption. Still, if one thing has become abundantly clear, it’s that this is a woman who puts herself first, and so whatever her plan is for the finale, it will likely only be in her own best interest.

“Our Man in Damascus” ends in terrific fashion, with Carrie chasing Qasim down a tunnel and into the unknown, and Allison making a desperate escape from the hospital. The stage is set for what will hopefully be an epic finale, but, truthfully, it’s just nice to see Homeland back in its element. Season 5 has been woefully inconsistent, but when this show makes good, it really nails it. Grade: A-

 

Some Other Notes:

  • Laura Sutton continues to be the worst this week as an “unexpected guest” on her favorite German talk show, threatening to release the rest of the classified documents she has. If there are going to be any casualties next week, please let one of them be her.
  • One annoying nitpick about this episode: two of the biggest plot points rest on Saul leaving people alone in a room. Wouldn’t he have at least learned from the first time not to do that again?
  • Also, there’s just the whole concept of Allison escaping from a hospital full of people, but I’m not going to complain too much about that because it’s exciting to wonder about her fate.

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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