Homeland: “Super Powers” Season 5 Episode 3 Review

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Homeland‘s latest episode is perhaps its most controversial, but also its most spellbinding.

There are a lot of facets in play that make “Super Powers” an absolutely stellar episode of Homeland. The layered, steadily-building script by Alex Gansa and Meredith Stiehm, Claire Danes’ mesmerizing performance, and the chilling cliffhanger of an ending are the most obvious ones that come to mind. Still, even the smaller nuances of the episode were expertly used.

Sean Callery’s thrilling score and Keith Gordon’s tight direction worked in tandem to give every scene a sense of urgency. Take, for example, the sequence in which Laura evades CIA agents and follows her hacker contact to a secret location. It’s a simple meetup that we’ve seen a thousand times before on this show, but here it feels fresh and exciting, like something big is about to happen. Probably because it is.

The majority of the episode deals with Carrie and Jonas working to go through her history with the CIA to find out who’s trying to kill her. The catch is, Carrie decides she needs to go off her meds in order to do this more efficiently. This is where the show will likely stir up some controversy—something Showtime doesn’t seem to be too worried about—as this plotline could be taken as saying that mentally disabled people are held back by their medication.

I, for one, don’t see any cause for alarm. I have often heard that, for people who take these sort of meds to stabilize themselves, they are extremely helpful, but they can also dull the senses. Consider how carefully worded Carrie’s scene with Jonas is where she tells him of her plan. She never once talks about taking Lithium as a bad thing, in fact she says it saved her life.

She just says that there is a small moment of clarity that she’s unable to attain when she’s on it, and she wants to be able to expedite her search. We’ve seen from the first season that Carrie can be brilliant even in moments of insanity, so there’s no real reason to doubt her. It’s a risky move, for sure, but she doesn’t have too much time to formulate a more calculated plan.

I also think there’s another reason Carrie wanted to go off her meds, and it’s not something that presents itself right away. We don’t know much about Jonas, but what we’ve seen of him so far basically indicates that he’s Prince Charming (or, as Carrie later refers to him, Clark Kent). For all the sins that Carrie has committed, for how deeply she’s been bogged down by her work, I think she feels like things might be too good to be true. Her last real relationship was Brodie—who continually wreaked havoc on her life—and then she’s had nothing but numbing, casual flings afterward.

Perhaps some part of her thinks she doesn’t deserve a guy this good, and this is her way to test the waters. If Jonas were to see her at her absolute worst, to know the real Carrie Mathison, warts and all, would he still want to be with her? That’s the question she’s trying to answer, and it might be just as important as finding out who’s trying to kill her. Carrie cares about her family now, more so than ever before, but she can’t help feeling like her happiness might be undeserved.

We’ve seen Danes deliver full-on freakouts many times before, but there was something truly startling about watching her come undone within the span of a single episode. Her performance is filled with measured intensity, so that we can see the little ticks reach through the surface as medicated Carrie starts to fade away. By the time we reach her meltdown with Jonas, it feels like a long time coming, but that doesn’t make it any less brutal. Their dynamic going forward will be incredibly interesting to watch, especially with the way things ended. Will he remain steadfast in his devotion, or did this push him over the edge?

I think Aayan was the perfect character to have Carrie hallucinate during her manic episode. Of all the questionable things she’s done in the name of espionage, her seduction of him is one of the most problematic. His unjust death clearly still haunts her, and his presence worked well to remind her of all the darkness she’s tried so desperately to leave behind.

There were a number of subplots going on while Carrie and Jonas did their research, and while none of them were as interesting as the main plot at hand, they worked to break up the tension and slowly add pieces to the puzzle of this season. Laura now believes she’s been duped by her hacker contact, but really he’s been duped by his partner. Saul and Dar Adal are planning a regime change in Syria. Most importantly, Quinn kidnaps Jonas’ son.

This last plot ends up directly relating to Carrie’s narrative as Quinn’s motives are revealed when he traces Jonas’ call with his ex-wife to the location where he’s staying with Carrie. The final moments of the episode present a suspenseful shootout, with Callery’s score working wonderfully to intensify every second.

In the end, Quinn gets Carrie. For what? I’m not sure. I think it’s safe to say he’s not actually going to kill her, but it doesn’t seem like he’s ready for a friendly chat either. One thing, however, is certain: This season of Homeland has become simply unmissable. Grade: A

Some Other Notes:

  • If there’s anything that irked me about this episode—and I use irked lightly, as there’s nothing that truly dampened the narrative—it’s the reveal Saul and Allison sleeping together. I just don’t see what purpose it serves. Also, it’s gross.
  • The pictures that Carrie has laid out around her on the floor seem a little too perfect, but it’s still a cool visual nonetheless (see above).
  • A part of me has a feeling that Quinn catching Carrie could lead to a Quinn-Carrie hookup. It certainly would make sense, but I’d also feel bad for Jonas. This is definitely the healthiest relationship Carrie’s ever been in.

By Mike Papirmeister

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