Homeland: “Trylon and Perisphere” Season 4 Episode 2 Review

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Carrie Mathison is a terrible mother, and one of the most interesting characters on TV.

The realm of antiheroes on TV is mostly a boys club, but every so often a fierce, flawed female manages to break through the ranks. Characters like Nancy Botwin, Patty Hewes, and Olivia Pope deserve to be mentioned right alongside the likes of Walter White, Don Draper, and Frank Underwood. These women can play just as dirty as the boys, but unfortunately, there’s still a bit of a dissonance.

There comes a certain point in the life of any antihero series where the main character goes down a path that airs more on the side of outright villainy. The recent crop of these dark and depraved dramas often have their characters slowly lose their moral compass. What’s interesting, is the reaction that occurs when said character is a woman.

Nancy Botwin is a prime example of the unfortunate double standard that occurs with these antiheroines.  I will admit that Weeds started to go downhill creatively in its later seasons, but that has less to do with her character arc and more to do with the show’s plausibility. Nancy goes from being a suburban soccer mom who deals pot to support her kids and keep her lifestyle, to becoming a narcissistic and power-hungry drug kingpin. She uses her sexuality to her advantage, puts her children’s lives in jeopardy, and is responsible for more than a few deaths. So, why do we dislike her while cheering on Walter White for essentially doing the same thing?

Carrie Mathison isn’t exactly an antihero. Though her actions are often misguided, and she does several things merely for personal gain, her main MO has always been to protect and serve her country. Still, she’s a complex figure who can’t be easily categorized in the “good” or “evil” category. Yet, after the second episode in Homeland‘s two-part premiere, I have a feeling that many people will quickly put her in the second group.

“Trylon and Perisphere” sees Carrie and Quinn returning to the States for Sandy’s funeral—a shocking move, considering the hype around Corey Stoll’s casting—as well as a follow-up meeting with Director Lockhart. Of course, returning home means Carrie has to deal with some very real consequences she left behind. Namely, her baby.

When she first got pregnant, I think the obvious thought that went through everyone’s mind is “she will not make a good mom.” This proves to be mostly true, as Carrie continues to pawn off her parenting duties on her sister. After Lockhart tells her he’s permanently grounding her back in the States for damage control, she panics. In a truly disturbing sequence, she briefly contemplates drowning her baby while giving her a bath. This is a woman who isn’t afraid to tackle global terrorist threats head-on, and yet is completely terrified of being responsible for an infant.

It’s easy to see her as a villain, especially with how she treats her put-upon sister who, truthfully, doesn’t deserve being saddled with this extra baggage. We have an assumption that female characters are automatically supposed to be nurturing and motherly, so when one acts against this trope, a hatred for her often builds. But the reasons behind Carrie’s incessant desire to be away from her baby are fascinating, and I’m willing to watch her continue to be a terrible parent because I’m so intrigued at what makes her tick.

There’s a poignant scene midway through the episode where Carrie drives with baby Franny to the old Brody’s old house and admits that she really doesn’t know why she had a child at all. Claire Danes is at her most wonderfully vulnerable in this moment, cooing to her onscreen daughter while admitting some pretty terrible truths. It’s clear that she cares for the baby in some sort of capacity. She wants to leave her with her sister to keep her safe, and knows that she herself isn’t a proper caretaker. Still, what exactly is driving her away from motherhood? Is it postpartum depression as a result of losing Brody? Is it the bleak nature of her work? Or is it something else entirely? Whatever the reason, it’s compelling to watch her compartmentalize her emotions, because it means they’ll probably reach the surface at a very inopportune time.

Carrie’s immediate change of scenery would’ve been too much of a shift for the season’s opening, so the show smartly allowed her to seek out an alternative way to get back to Pakistan. As it turns out, Sandy’s was also trading information with his secret contact in order to get intel on the targets for the drone strikes. We still don’t know who the contact is—although my money is on Aayan, especially after seeing him dump a mysterious bag of injection fluid at his girlfriend’s house—but Carrie is able to use this to blackmail Lockhart into sending her back into the fray.

Not coming with her, however, is Quinn who seems to be suffering from a bit of PTSD after seeing Sandy get trampled. He tries to cope by drinking heavily and having casual sex with the overweight manager at his apartment complex. I’m not exactly sure what role she’ll play yet, but seeing him violently defend her against two restaurant patrons was very startling. Quinn is clearly hurting, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she got sucked into his pain as well. I’m a little nervous about him staying behind, mainly because he’ll be disassociated from the central action at hand. I did, however, enjoy his retort to Carrie’s anger at his not returning by simply saying, “the thing is, Carrie, it’s not about you.”

His future this season is unclear, but Saul’s is coming a bit more into focus. There’s brief talk of him challenging Lockhart for the CIA director position, and at the episode’s end Carrie asks if she can use his security company in Pakistan. It seems the old gang is getting somewhat back together. Good for us, but bad for Mira.

“Trylon and Perisphere” lacked the tension and excitement of the premiere, but it laid the groundwork for some thrilling character dynamics this season. The title of this episode refers to an exhibit at the 1939-1940 World’s Fair in New York, which depicted a perfect utopian society. In a perfect world, I’m sure Carrie would be much more attentive to her child. But in a perfect world, there also wouldn’t be any threats to national security. Carrie might be a bad mother, but she’s an ace CIA operative, and watching her try to make the world a safer place while completely neglecting her loved ones is a engrossing and very authentic. Grade: B+

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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