Homeland, Season 4, Episode 4, “Iron in the Fire”
Written by Patrick Harbinson
Directed by Michael Offer
Airs Sundays at 9pm ET on Showtime
There are several reminders in this episode about how good Carrie is at her job, as if the writers are making sure we have the right perspective on her character before the episode’s final scene. Fara tells Quinn when he arrives, “I don’t know how she finds time to sleep.” Later, the guy John Redmond had tailing Carrie last episode (and failing) tells John, simply, “She’s good.” Considering the fact that we’ve seen Carrie often at her worst, it is valuable to remember what a good agent she is. Which brings us to that final scene.
Much of the hour is spent building up the tension between Quinn and Carrie, which is apparently meant to be read as sexual tension. To the writers’ credit, they effectively deceive us by showing Quinn throwing a ball, unable to sleep, then cuts to Carrie being woken up by someone at her door. Much like the fakeout at the end of The Good Wife‘s fourth season, we are surprised to find not Quinn, but Fara at the door with Aayan, the eponymous “iron in the fire”. From there, we watch as the show goes the Full Carrie. She needs Aayan to trust her if she has any hope of getting him to help her, so she gets down and dirty by seducing the kid, rather brilliantly.
Something really worth appreciating about this season so far are the tiny glimpses into Carrie’s soul, the small flashes of morality that we know to exist inside of her, which Claire Danes so expertly shows through the briefest nuance or subtlest look in her eyes. It comes out here most clearly when she goes to get Aayan a pillow and blankets, and pauses to look at herself in the mirror for a long moment. She seems to simultaneously be deciding to do what she does, while being very aware of how wrong it is. This is her go-to strategy to get someone to do what she needs done, because she is so good at it. It’s interesting to consider what the writers are trying to say by reminding us how great she is at her job, before having her use her body to move the mission forward.
On a show that often focuses on how you cannot trust anyone, it’s not surprising to see Homeland honing in on that again in its fourth season. Saul told Carrie last week that she can’t trust anyone, and she was way ahead of him, having already set up Fara and Max away from the embassy. This week, Carrie lies to Aayan and manipulates him to get what she wants, betraying his trust. Likely less important, but more entertaining, is the reveal that Mark Moses (Duck Phillips from Mad Men) has been the guy leaking documents to terrorists from the computer of the ambassador, who also happens to be his wife. It’s unclear if any good will come from this storyline, but it offers up a great scene where the two argue about gender roles in 21st-century relationships, as he complains about always putting her career first. “I have spent my whole life following you around,” he says, with more than a little bitterness. After he suggests they value his career for once, she hilariously spits back, “We tried that and you ended up plagiarizing an entire chapter of your book!” Credit to Martha Boyd for beautiful delivery, too. Beyond the amusement, the scene also shows us why he feels compelled to leak her documents: purely to spite her out of resentment about their marriage. It’s such an easy reason for the writers to use, but it works.
The best parts of the episode, though, are Saul and especially Fara. Saul has two excellent scenes where he just sits and has a conversation. In the first, he asks for a favour from a former general who also happens to be a genuine truther. Even better is when he meets with the guy from the ISI, and bluntly confronts him about having Sandy killed back in the season premiere. When the scene begins, it feels like a Red Wedding situation, as the only restaurant patrons are quickly ushered out of the room and the doors are closed. Mandy Patinkin is remarkable in this kind of scene, a little threatened but fully in stand-off mode. There’s as much tension in this scene as the one where Quinn breaks into the apartment of the ISI agent from the YouTube video, slasher flick imagery and all.
Fara is even more of a badass this week. Teaming up with Max (a very good pairing), they go out to follow Aayan. She leaves the truck once against Max’s warning, but then does it again. Thank God, too, because she makes the biggest discovery of the season yet: Haqqani, Aayan’s uncle terrorist mastermind, is still alive and not drone meat, and Aayan brings him something. It’s the kind of thing Carrie would do, and the little smile Fara allows after Carrie tells her she did good work is EVERYTHING. In an episode full of betrayal, manipulation, threats and heightened tension, it’s a surreal moment of real emotion, and it feels almost joyous.