Things are both starting to come together and starting to fall apart on Homeland. Though there wasn’t any trolling or dramatic meltdowns like in “Redux,” “Halfway to a Donut” was a strong follow-up to that hour’s chaos. What’s been really fun about this season of Homeland is that the major arc can never be fully predicted. The detours and twists and resets have made this season an excellent showcase for Homeland‘s new dedication to the unexpected. Hit the jump for why “they hate us. Good luck finding common interest in that.”
The chess match between the CIA and ISI continued in “Halfway to a Donut,” with Saul as a human playing piece. Though he managed to escape (finally, some brilliant secret spy work by him) and run into the dessert, his journey is far from over. Though Carrie is able to direct him to a nearby town with an asset, Saul makes her promise to do the thing that Quinn wouldn’t let her do the first time: if it all goes wrong, bomb it. Himself included.
Saul’s commitment to this stance never wavered. In a brilliant narrative move, the United States’ spying and tech actually worked to uncover Saul for the Taliban; follow the drone, find the man. They led them right to him. Watching Saul become surrounded by angry red triangles at every turn was harrowing, and never has anything on Homeland looked more like a video game. But as they closed in, Saul decided to end things on his own terms, until Carrie talked him out of it, and (so far as he knew) to a chance at freedom. As Carrie — and viewers — knew, however, help was not on the way. So Carrie instead led him back into the arms of the Taliban, as Saul vehemently cursed her and her team for lying to him.
“I betrayed Saul. How can saving somebody’s life be the wrong choice? But it was the wrong choice, because there are only wrong choices in this fucked up world we’ve made,” Carrie says to Quinn. She’s right. Every decision from the beginning of this season has been a mistake, and yet, doing the opposite of it would have been a mistake, too. In other words, there’s no winning.
But something else interesting happened, too, in the wake of Carrie’s meltdown last week (literally, “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!”) Khan, as was my mistake and initially Carrie’s, was not involved in the plot to swap out Carrie’s meds. And Khan, like most everyone who knew about it, found it beyond the pale. There aren’t clear rules of engagement with these wars, but something about it, as Carrie said, didn’t feel fair. Khan agreed, and slipped her another piece of information to help establish a further rapport: Dennis, Martha’s husband, was the pill-switching culprit.
Of course, it actually comes back to Tasneem (Nimrat Kaur), the scary (scarily beautiful?) ISI agent who has clear ties to the Taliban, and who has been controlling Dennis. He is still useful to her, though, as Khan happens to see. But for now, the Taliban — and presumably Tasneem — are getting what they want: the release of strategic prisoners who will help secure Haqqani’s influence all over the region.
It’s also been interesting to watch Lockhart and Carrie actually agree and be on the same side for once. Lockhart has, strangely, become the voice of reason among these otherwise bullshit-filled meetings between the Americans and the Pakinstanis. There is nothing but lies and contempt on both sides of the table, which makes negotiations all a pantomime.
“Halfway to a Donut” was another strong episode from Homeland that has been part of a very strong season, and probably the show’s best since its first. It feels risky again, and like it has clear statements it wants to make about American foreign policy. But it wraps all of that up in episodes that include both some badass CIA work, and some desperately emotional moments. Saul asks Carrie to detonate a bomb if things go south, much in the way that Homeland fans may wish the show had done at the end of the first season. Though we’ve been messed around a lot in the intervening years, and maybe not totally ok with how things started out in this one, demands are being met. Homeland is delivering.
Episode Rating: A
— I want to live in Khan’s house, and yes with him there. But also, that furniture! The bed! The tufted leather couch! HOLD ME!
— Carrie: “They exploited our weakness.” Quinn: “They poisoned you.”
— I think part of Khan’s hesitation over what is happening is that the Taliban are now importing Pakistani terrorists back into their midst.
— “Transparency, teamwork … and fuck, there was another one, but I forgot what it was” – Lockhart, who is growing on me.
— Martha: “I’m a diplomat. It’s my job.” Lockhart: “To eat shit?” Martha: “To suck it up.”
— I am very curious at how Carrie will handle this info about Dennis …
— “I usually walk two blocks to the deli. It’s flat” – Saul.