Season five of Homeland will see Carrie Mathison step out …
“I’m a spy. I know shit.”
That line, spoken by John Redmond, is funny in the moment, but begins to feel ironic by the end of the episode. Practically everyone is off their game this week, with an abundance of questionable decisions leading to Saul getting kidnapped. By this point, we’ve spent plenty of time with Carrie, Saul, Quinn, even Fara. We know what they can do, we know how good they are at their jobs…except when the writers need them to be stupid. It all feels overly telegraphed, to the point where these uncharacteristic decisions not only frustrate on a plot level, but a character one too. It’s reminiscent of how a show like Family Guy treats its characters and its continuity, which is an unfortunate comparison to make with a high profile prestige drama.
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 heading into 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.
After a mostly averse critical reaction to last week’s “Game On,” Homeland returns this week with a more recognizable entry in the series that looks and feels like it could have come from the earlier version of this series that viewers enjoyed for the first season and a half. There is the traditional espionage sequence – the Yoga Play that gives the episode its title – accompanying some smoke and mirrors fare surrounding our big bad (Javadi). Even though those familiar Homeland trappings are there, though, they mostly fall short because of how well the series has done this kind of stuff in the past.
All’s well in the world of Homeland: Dana and Jessica are spending quality mother-daughter time with each other, Carrie and Saul share drinks and stories about the good ol’ days as they effortlessly run the short-handed CIA and Peter Quinn skips around Langley with a smile on his face singing Christmas tunes year-round. This is the feel-good season to balance out all the horrific things going on elsewhere in the land of television. Wait, what?
Homeland is principally discussed and appreciated as a politically-inclined thriller, an action-oriented series that manages to feel vguely relevant despite its obviously heightened nature. The show also often draws praise for its unflinching depiction of mental illness, in the many scenes we’ve gotten with Carrie struggling to keep her head in the game for the sake of national security. As Season 2 rolls along towards its endgame, however, there’s something a little different at work.