Homeland, Season 4, Episode 6, “From A to B and Back Again”
Written by Chip Johannessen
Directed by Lesli Linka Glatter
Airs Sundays at 9pm on Showtime
What are we going to do with you, Carrie Mathison? In a season that still feels like it’s waiting to kick into gear six episodes in, the events of “From A to B and Back Again” feel overly telegraphed in a way that Homeland‘s writers usually manage to avoid. It shows the seams in the season as a whole, which has been constructed in a manner that just feels wrong, and frustrating. Enveloped in melodrama and stupid decisions, Homeland is falling way off track.
With Aayan dead, it’s clear that the rest of the season will be about rescuing Saul and getting revenge on Haqqani. The problem with that is it all could have been avoided, and so the behind-the-scenes machinations come to the forefront in an embarrassing way. One could see the final scene coming, with all of Aayan’s love confessions, the predictable fake-out kidnapping, and the elegiac music that played whenever he’s onscreen, a jarring choice for this show. More importantly, after spending half the season introducing this deeply sympathetic character, to have him only have existed for the effect that his death will have on Carrie is disappointing. It turns out he was a long-term plot device, there to push Carrie further over the edge.
The most disappointing thing about the episode is how it flirts with being bold, then sidesteps. It’s very easy to imagine that Saul would have wanted Carrie to take the shot. It would have taken out a top terrorist, as well as many of his top associates – a great win. Though we know absolutely nothing about Haqqani or what he’s done (a serious misstep by the writers), we understand enough about his position and threat level to see that Carrie is making the right call. Instead, the scene is played as if it’s an insane and irrational decision. It strongly suggests that she is blinded by revenge, that the only thing on her mind is getting back at Haqqani for murdering Aayan, and how dare she not be thinking about Saul? This is Saul, Quinn reminds her. Well, yeah. It is still the right choice. Killing Saul would have been bold, brave, and interesting. Of course, it also would’ve left them with nothing much to do and no Big Bad to go after, so the telegraphed nature of it becomes more obvious and the characters are forced to make dumb decisions.
This would all be less disappointing if it weren’t for the bungled follow-up, wherein apparently no one in the room was paying attention to which vehicle Haqqani and Saul got into so they could follow them, and presumably there is no rewind function to their drone footage. We have just witnessed Max conduct some ridiculous technological feats in seconds, but this falls outside of their reach? It stretches credulity in an irritating way and paints the entire team as incompetent. There is really no acceptable reason for this plot hole, other than convenience and weak arguments about everyone being focused on Carrie’s meltdown. Give me a break.
Where they take Carrie the rest of the season will be revealing. Based on what we see here, she is headed toward either unspooling completely (again – how often can the show return to that as a dramatic crux?) or becoming overly obsessed with revenge. One gets the sense that she feels tainted, as if everything she loves is destroyed, which partly explains why she must leave behind her daughter and essentially forget about her. It’s also interesting because she is reacting to both her emotional involvement with Aayan and the strategic loss that comes with his death. At the same time, if the point of Homeland in the eyes of its writers is to keep this Carrie cycle going on repeat, that’s not something worth sticking with. By having everyone treat her like she is completely crazy when she tells them to take the shot, and by having her clearly be entirely motivated by revenge, the writers are manipulating the audience into siding with her colleagues’ interpretation of her behaviour. In terms of the rest of the season, this is not promising.
There isn’t much to say about the rest of the episode, which moves along at the same mellow pace as the first five episodes. Carrie and Quinn continue their flirtatious bickering, contributing to the episode’s suffocating melodrama, further emphasized by the excruciating scene between Aayan and his age-appropriate girlfriend. Carrie’s secret dream team of Fara and Max are now known to the CIA, which also feels like a potentially bad move by Carrie. The best part of the episode is Fara, as usual (except her bungled house-cleaning, when she completely ignores obvious signs of intrusion). Carrie chews her out for her failures and for pestering her, but Fara doesn’t take it. “There wouldn’t be an operation if it weren’t for me. I followed Aayan, I found out Haqqani’s alive, so don’t treat me like I’m the enemy.” Nazanin Boniadi’s delivery really sells the line, too, full of passion and vehemence. It’s reminiscent of how Carrie has dealt with Saul in the past, a connection made all the more clear by Fara being referred to as Carrie’s “sidekick” and “protégé” by different characters – true, but forced.
This is not a solid episode of Homeland, and it’s made all the worse for what it portends for the rest of the season. There will surely be surprises and twists, but the larger direction looks pre-determined and the execution feels sloppy. They should’ve taken the shot.