Homeland, Season 4, Episode 11, “Krieg Nicht Lieb”
Written by Alexander Cary & Chip Johannessen
Directed by Clark Johnson
Airs Sundays at 9pm ET on Showtime
I don’t think we can ever win with Homeland, and we need to accept that. There will always be a frustrating polarity present, because it has always been there and it seems content to stay there. The series gives in to its best and worst tendencies on a weekly basis, thrilling in one scene with refreshing ease and then backpedalling in the next. It is a careful mediation on modern war, but it is also the 24-esque twisty action show. Sometimes, that binary opposition is entertaining and even beneficial, but other times—like this episode—it just feels disappointing.
“Krieg Nicht Lieb” translates, roughly, to “War Not Love”, which is a fairly appropriate title. Most of the episode is spent watching Carrie trying to find then reign in Quinn, which is an interesting dynamic on its surface. It’s somewhat confusing, however, because the Carrie we know would be totally down for Quinn’s plan to take out Haqqani, whether or not it was the right or safe choice. Instead, she is Quinn’s unconvincing voice of reason, which is a boring choice (though it does give us the glorious Rupert Friend delivery of, “So, you found me, congratulations”). There are subtle hints within Claire Danes’ performance (credit to her, as always) that suggest Carrie wants to help Quinn on some level and is looking for a solid reason to go through with it, but this never builds to anything. When she takes out the gun at the end of the episode, there’s no connection—the flash to Aayan’s murder makes the move feel like an impulse, not as if she was considering it this entire time. And why is Aayan’s murder the thing that pushes her to take action? What about Fara? What about everyone else? It makes no sense for Aayan to be the catalyst. She wants vengeance for the death of someone she was using for her own gain? Are we supposed to believe that she developed real feelings for him in a way that didn’t properly translate to the screen? This may just be an issue of episode structure or visual communication, but it’s still a confusing and muddled failure.
After the ridiculous but sublime climax of the previous episode, “Krieg Nicht Lieb” feels like a slow, time-killing comedown leading toward an underwhelming twist and setting up a sure-to-be crazy finale (more on that in a moment). The outrageousness of the embassy invasion was thrilling in a way the show hasn’t been in quite some time, putting the episode squarely within 24‘s world, but very comfortably so. “Krieg Nicht Lieb” shows the other side of Homeland, and yet it borrows one of the worst aspects of 24: a pointless, deflating, for-the-hell-of-it last minute twist that supposedly is meant to put the entire season under a new perspective. Whaaaaaaat?!?! Dar Adal is in Haqqani’s entourage!?!?! What does it mean?!?!?
This is an exhausting twist, the kind Homeland has largely avoided recently. F. Murray Abraham has been absent for quite some time, so to have him jump back in as an apparent key player in the season’s entire arc feels—you guessed it—cheap. The sequence leading up to this revelation is capably tense, for even though we know Quinn wasn’t going to blow up Carrie, it was unclear what was going to happen. When she took out her gun, I was excited—that would be a bold move, and the finale could center around Carrie in trouble, Quinn trying to save her, something. Instead, Khan stops her and points out Dar Adal in the vehicle, and we’re left with many questions, none of them very intriguing. Has the entire operation been part of some giant CIA plan? Homeland is less fun when Carrie is kept out of the loop, robbed of her agency. Is Dar Adal acting alone, or if not, who is calling the shots? It can’t be Lockhart, who has grown so much this season, especially in terms of his relationship with Carrie. Has the CIA and the ISI been screwing with Carrie all season? And most importantly, who cares?