The word within a word, unable to speak a word,
Swaddled with darkness.
“Gerontion,” T.S. Eliot
In 1919, working at a bank to support his poetry habit and an ailing wife, 32-year old T.S. Eliot imagined the confused desolation of a man more than twice his age. “Gerontion” is a meditation on age, decay, the sounds we hear between our own words — wind, whispers, footsteps — and the relentless work of the natural world.
Gerontion is also the title of this week’s episode. It stands as a warning to Saul, the “old man in a dry month” of the show, who thinks he’s having a good day.
We’re on Homeland’s best track this week, following both the money and the bad guys. The Brody family has left the building (except for Nick Brody himself, haunting at least two conversations and everyone’s doubt). Big moves are finally the order of the day. Yet we can’t believe in much of this action, because of what else we see in this episode.
I’m sending you back to Tehran one way or another. Either as my asset or a traitor to the Revolution. – Saul
As the two old friends chat in the safe house, it’s clear that Saul has the upper hand over Javadi. He knows it, the team knows it, we know it.
But it’s a lie.
After Saul dispatches Carrie to get Javadi on a plane back to Tehran, he stands outside the safe house for a moment to call Mira. She answers, though she’s in her bedroom with her lover. Saul doesn’t ask what she’s doing, and Mira doesn’t tell.
We watch an overly-confident Saul tell his cheating wife that she was right about his jealousy. We watch him tell her exactly when he’ll be home (“late, as usual”), and see her calculating what this means for her and the man in the bed. Homeland is cuckolding Saul right in front of us.
He’s the acting Director of the CIA, a man more used to seeing through lies than anyone else, yet he has no idea. Saul is so enamored of being the guy who played catch-and-release with the world’s most wanted man that he can’t see the forest for the trees.
If Mira can lie to Saul and get away with it, why can’t Javadi? How is this send-the-asset-home business going to backfire on Saul? Will Quinn take the fall for him on that one, too?
When Quinn shows up on security cameras at Javadi’s bloody crime scene, there’s no question of who the fall guy will be. Of course Carrie will lay the groundwork at the crime scene; naturally Quinn will be the cool, dispassionate company man who somehow repeatedly stabbed a young mother to death with a wine bottle. The detective is as frustrated as the rest of us, watching Quinn reluctantly wrap himself in the flag of “national security” while telling his series of bad lies.
I’m just trying to understand this shit that you people do. This shit that we’re party, that we pay taxes. This … this shit. – The Detective
Javadi? What Javadi? Sometimes a guy just feels like walking into a random suburban house and killing two people he doesn’t know, amirite?
Poor Peter Quinn has some heavy lifting to do this week. He has to take the Gratuitous Shower of Love-Interest Foreshadowing! He has to lie to his old boss (Dar Adal) on behalf of his new boss, Saul, and he has to make that ridiculous confession.
You know what else I realized? Just how through I am with … this. I just don’t think I believe it anymore. That anything justifies the damage we do. – Quinn
And as a final insult, he gets talked out of following his conscience because Carrie Mathison “needs his help.”
As a weary Quinn leaves the crime-scene interview to meet Carrie on the lawn outside, the cicadas of late summer rioting all around them in the dark, I’m reminded of the birdsong we heard during Carrie’s quiet talk with Creepy Lawyer Guy back in Game On. CLG had just told Carrie of her likely fate: a quiet, inauspicious death at the hands of the agency she’s served for years. As she considered this, we heard the world around her.
That world doesn’t know who these people are. It doesn’t care what they spend their time doing, and it won’t care when they’re gone. “Gerontion” — episode and poem — assures us of this once again. It’s time we listened.
This week’s Closing Thoughts:
There is no Dana, only Quinn. That sound you hear is the collective cheering of millions of Homeland viewers, grateful for one week away from the teenage drama of one Dana
That other sound you hear? The same millions, wondering where Peter Quinn In a Towel has been all their lives.
Speaking of Quinn: I think a CIA man of his level knows how to spot security cameras. I also think he knows what not to do when confronted with one (posing for a selfie would make the list, don’t you think?). Is this guy so over the CIA that he now wants to get made? I have to wonder.
Fara and Javadi yelling at each other in Farsi: I wanted subtitles. Homeland didn’t give me any, and it wasn’t the first time. (We also didn’t get subtitles in Venezuela.) For a show that ensures we get shown and told what’s happening — often more than once — this is an interesting omission.
Carrie’s not in this episode much; when she is, she’s puking. Morning sickness or lack of confidence in where the operation is going? You tell me.
Senator Lockhart remains cartoonish, and this week that worked for me. The lock-him-in-the-conference-room-with-a-phone-he-can’t-use trick was pretty juvenile, but I still got into it. I liked seeing Saul go full fourth-grader on the guy.
Open the door.
Open the goddamn door.
Make me. – Lockhart and Saul
Turning the lights out, even? BURN.
We need to talk about the hubris of Saul Berenson. Describing the 12-12 bombing, Saul tells Javadi, “My first thought was, ‘Something has to change.’” One: what kind of public servant thinks that, immediately after losing his friends and colleagues? And two, is the methodical Saul really the kind of guy who’d push the scope of an investigation that much? Use it to redraw the map of the world? Really?
Javadi “doesn’t know” who bombed the CIA. He has no reason to lie to Carrie, we think. We also know that he has no reason NOT to. He’s in the wind now. He’s free.