This season may be even more audacious, stringing together big action setpieces on a thread to make a gaudy but compelling whole. Last week’s episode made some of the best use of drone technology we have seen in pop culture yet to track Saul’s (Mandy Patinkin) flight from his captors through the streets and courtyards of a small city. Watching him be swarmed by the red tagging dots that the CIA techs used to track his pursuers emphasized both the size of the manhunt for him and Carrie’s helplessness to do anything more than get him recaptured so he could be exchanged as a prisoner.
And the sequence was also much better commentary on the efficacy of CIA policy than any Carrie-come-lately hand-wringing about the war on terror. The CIA may be able to see everything in painful detail, whether it’s Aayan’s (Suraj Sharma) execution by his uncle, Haissam Haqqani (Numan Acar), Sandy Bachman (Corey Stoll) being beaten to death by a crowd, or Saul being swarmed by members of the Taliban. But sight is not the same thing as insight or wisdom. You can witness all the murders in the world and not know how to stop them.
This week’s episode of “Homeland” had two great, tense sequences, the second even better for coming as a genuine shock.
First, we had the suicide bomber at Saul’s prisoner exchange. “Homeland” may go back to the same well over and over again to explain the motivations for terrorism — “He’s happy to do it, Mr. Berenson,” one of Haqqani’s entourage explained of the young boy putting on a suicide vest, “Because one year ago, when you were head of the CIA, a drone killed his father and brother.” But the dread of the sequence was still tremendous: waiting to find out what would happen at the exchange once the van door shut on Saul and the boy was a very nice bit of buildup.
The scene at the exchange site works a little bit less well, not least because the sound of Carrie Mathison telling us and Saul “No more killing” is never going to read as anything but a little bit cheesy. But watching everyone involved in the exchange watch the standup unfold was terrific, and a testament to the character work “Homeland” has done this season, introducing us to an entirely new set of players in Pakistan.
And the final sequence, in which RPGs take out two of the three cars in the convoy carrying Saul back to safety, and Dennis Boyd (Mark Moses) learns just what it is that he has done in talking to Tasneem (Nimrat Kaur) was genuinely terrific. After the handoff, Martha (Laila Robins) visits Dennis in his holding cell, relaxing with him after a moment of intense stress. Even though she knows he is a traitor — and by having him imprisoned, Martha let Dennis know she knows — Dennis is still her husband.
When the RPGs hit and the CIA deploys the Marines at the embassy to aid in the response, Dennis finally recognizes why Tasneem wanted the information she wanted. “Where have the Marines gone?” Dennis asks Martha. “To give assistance,” Martha explains, assuming it is logical. “All of them?” Dennis wants to know, understanding before anyone else that the RPG attack was a setup to leave the embassy defenseless.
“There’s Something Else Going On” ends with an echo of season two, with yet another terrorist hiding in another secret passage. But Haissam Haqqani has been better-developed this season than Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban) ever was. And he is striding forward with purpose rather than plotting in the dark. I cannot wait to see what he does next.