Homeland: “The Man in the Basement” Season 6 Episode 2 Review

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There’s a twist of sorts in “The Man in the Basement” that seems obvious in retrospect, but at the moment took me off guard. The season six premiere did some much needed work on Carrie, finding ways for her to seemingly atone for her sins in seasons past. Maybe it was too good to be true that Carrie was merely fighting Islamophobia in her cozy Brooklyn office. Saul’s the first person to catch on to this lie.

The scene here that these longtime partners share, the first of season six following their difficult sendoff at the close of season five, is cold and tense. Carrie gives her former mentor a warm hug, but Saul is there strictly on business, trying to decipher whether Carrie is advising the President-elect on CIA issues. On one hand, feeding this new powerful figure information that continues to help Carrie clear her conscience makes sense. On the other hand, maybe I just wanted to believe that Carrie had really gotten out.

After a convincing lie, one that Saul buys and relays to Dar, we see Carrie go and visit President-elect Keane and, well, advise her. It sure is a stretch that Carrie, after years now out of the CIA, would be on the presidential candidate’s radar enough for her to even poach. And this development does succeed in keeping Carrie in the government’s endless game without sacrificing who she is right now in her life.

That said, there’s something not so easy to chew about post-CIA Carrie still entrenched in the mess she disparaged season in and season out. It’s yet another instance of Homeland tip-toeing across a high wire. Do you keep the characters in a tight knit story set-up that occasionally feels contrived, or do you go introspective and really examine what a person like Carrie does after the life she’s lived. Season six wants to have it both ways so far. Saul, Dar, and the President-elect tug Carrie one way, while Quinn tugs her another. Frankly, Homeland has been at war with itself since it aired its best episode, season two’s “Q&A.” Forever wounded by peaking too early, the show has since found ways to make striking points about its characters and the world they live in; sometimes it just looks like its floundering while doing so. The divide here is both on- and off-screen, with the writers seemingly afraid to commit to either side. For now, that’s okay. Homeland can have its cake and eat it too so long as it doesn’t let Carrie do the same.

Luckily, with this episode, Rupert Friend is growing into his significant challenge in reprising Quinn this season. Taking the one-time deadly assassin through the ringer, we get to see the real-world effects of their work. This more introspective piece of the series could be worth a season all on its own (especially when it includes Max).

But Homeland is still learning to walk in its fresh New York City shoes. The benefit of the show rebooting each season these days is that we get new ideas each year that are typically given their due time to develop. Season six’s introductions are done, now it’s time to get rolling. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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