With its fourth season, Homeland has finally started taking some real risks. It wiped out a character who had been central to the show, as well as all those associated with him. It also totally realigned itself, meanwhile, in a new country and with a new set of targets. While some of the things in this fourth season have felt recycled from seasons past, “From A to B to Back Again” proved that this really is a new Homeland, willing to make decisions that are best for the story and the characters, and not just about keeping viewers happy. Hit the jump if you are resourceful.
Like any good episode of Homeland, we have to start with the end first: and the decision to kill off Aayan was the right choice for his character. Last week, we saw Carrie starting to mix business with emotion, just like with Brody. Her eye remained on the target, but things were starting to get messy. In “From A to B to Back Again,” Carrie enjoys some emotionally intimate time with Aayan, but also stages a tail and attack to get Aayan to lead them to his uncle. When word comes to her that Aayan might not be able to be saved if they also take out his uncle, Haqqani, Carrie is cold. As she spat to Fara earlier, “he’s an adult, funneling drugs to jihadists.”
Aayan’s journey to meet up with his uncle — his final place of refuge — could have gone another way. Had he lived, he may have been manipulated by his uncle, or further by Carrie (if his uncle released him safely), possibly even turning into a kind of double agent. That has all been done and done again on the show, though, and it was almost merciful to see Aayan spared from that (and very merciful that we as viewers were).
Despite Carrie’s cavalier attitude about Aayan’s possible death if they target the others, she was clearly invested in (and emotional) after Aayan was able to get passed the checkpoint by using his quick-thinking. And, she was willing to kill Saul in order to kill Haqqani. There are several things that seem to be going on here: Carrie did have some kind of attachment to Aayan that was beyond the job, of this I am certain. But her relationship with him required certain sacrifices, including allowing those emotional barriers down. Further, her reputation at her job (which means everything to her) hinges, in some ways, on her hunting down Haqqani, and fixing the damage she did with the initial drone strikes.
The best case scenario was that Aayan would live, and Haqqani would be taken out, but instead, the inverse happened. That reality seems to have deeply shaken Carrie. Haqqani goes free back into the mountains, their asset is dead, and their connection to Sandy and his murder by ISI is also now at a dead end.
It didn’t exactly feel in-character for Quinn to have to be the one to tell Carrie not to kill Saul, but on the other hand, her emotional impulse was an important part of that scene. Still, Saul being kept by Haqqani gives yet another reason for Carrie and her team to continue to get any leads they can to hunt Haqqani down to rescue him, and it makes Homeland — halfway through its season — do another pivot. At first, the season seemed to be about the mystery of Sandy’s asset, then his treason and murder, then finding Aayan, which led to Haqqani. Haqqani remains, but it’s also now about ensuring Saul’s safety.
“From A to B to Back Again” played up to Homeland‘s strengths. Even though some of it was heavily telegraphed (like the break-in being Carrie’s setup, and Saul appearing out of the car just before the CIA was about to strike and kill Haqqani), it was still a twisty hour with emotional resolutions that felt right. Carrie lashing out at Fara, and Fara giving it right back was a great moment between them, as was Quinn’s slow realization that Saul missing is actually a big deal. Aayan’s few moments with his girlfriend showed a glimpse at a life he might have had, while Carrie’s responses to watching Aayan on the drone were heartbreaking.
Honestly, in a season where we have no idea what to expect from the show, “From A to B to Back Again” made me feel even more positively about the sense Homeland seems to have of itself than any other season since its first. It’s willing to take risks, and it’s not done with its surprises. After all, no thanks to Dennis, Carrie is being hunted now, too.
Episode Rating: A
— R.I.P., Aayan, you will be missed.
— I feel like Fara was a little homely last year, and by this episode she’s gotten stylish with her hair, clothes and makeup. No wonder Max is taking notice! (I still ship them, yes).
— The awkwardness when everyone listened to Aayan tell Carrie he loved her, and she had to say it back. Poor boy (“he’s not a boy!”)
— I liked that John actually acknowledged that Carrie is good at her job, while also not necessarily saying he’s ok with how she is all of the time. Fair.
— Dennis may have a talent for stealth work, but he is definitely not smooth when it comes to conversations, like him blurting out to Quinn about Carrie being “clinical.”
— Speaking of that, Dennis is the only connection we have to how Carrie is doing mentally these days. Did she take her meds with her to the safe house? This is really the biggest plot the show has dropped (yes, even bigger than the Brodys, because they are nonessential that what’s happening now!)
— The biggest twist of the episode to me was how the CIA was able to get up on that payphone so quickly, but then again, I have been re-watching The Wire, where it takes half a season to get a court order on one phone.
— Haqqani is no Abu Nazir.
— “Holy fuck” – Quinn.