Okay. Ew. That was just. Ew.
Not the whole episode, mind you, just that last scene. Homeland has been pretty bold in making Carrie Mathison an anti-hero, and Iron in the Fire is no exception. Culturally, we accept our Don Drapers, Walter Whites, and Cullen Bohannons much more readily than we accept bad behavior—especially bad sexual behavior—from women. By seducing Ayaan, Carrie has crossed a somewhat grotesque line. It’s not just the age difference, and the fact that she’s playing on his fear and confusion, or the fact that he’s a virgin and easily manipulated, it’s the utter indifference Carrie has to him. He’s a bad guy in her mind, an “iron in the fire” (title check) and he’s consorting with the enemy. She went from “working a resource” to out and out lying to him because he’s helping his terrorist uncle. And seduction as a part of that is just plain icky.
As we watched, Professor Spouse said she thought the theme of Iron in the Fire was “Who can you trust?” It was a series of betrayals, crosses and double-crosses, twists and reversals. I had already remarked, at that point, that it’s a wonder they have time to spy on the enemy, given how much they spy on one another.
John Redmond (Michael O’Keefe) is developing into an interesting character. Carrie’s rival, her enemy, a drunk—all that was apparent in their first crackly meeting. Now he’s running spies against her and playing her by feeding her helpful information (the name of the killer, the tunnel). Or is he? Maybe he’s really helping? Twists within twists.
But the darkest twists are the intimate ones. Carrie’s isn’t the only intimate betrayal, of course. That’s reserved for the ambassador’s husband. Duck, you always were no good! Mark Moses plays dissolute so well; the desperate professor who can’t get a teaching position because of his own wrongdoing has made matters worse, betraying his country because he’s angry at his wife, or wants to feel important, or some other unworthy reason.
So who do you trust? Ayaan can’t really trust Carrie, and it turns out Carrie can’t trust Ayaan either. Carrie knows she can’t trust Redmond, but she’d like to. Saul trusts his old friend, who turns out to be an anti-American conspiracy nut of the worst order.
Still, I think the episode, and indeed, this season of Homeland, is very much about the price you pay for doing this work. While Quinn is broken down, Carrie is ice-cold, and both of those are high prices to pay. Isn’t Carrie’s cold-hearted seduction evidence of that? Fara has a fairly innocent reaction to Ayaan, at first, and Carrie knocks those innocent edges right off her; Fara’s price is her own empathy. The price you pay, an intimate price, is a deeper theme, to me, and maybe “who can I trust?” is best answered with “not myself.”
Your laundry is ready for pick-up.
This was a difficult episode, but I was pleased to see real spycraft. We lose that, sometimes, in a show with so many irons in the fire (see what I did there?). Breaking into the bad guy’s apartment to clone the phone was a wonderful scene, and blackmailing Mark Moses was exactly right, and exactly how the CIA was shown to play it in previous seasons of Homeland.
And while we’re on the subject, yes, seduction has always been a weapon of spycraft, but does its application here mean that this show has gone off the rails? Or was it one dark moment on a frequently-dark show? Is it leading into a larger story about Carrie losing touch with herself, something the entire season has been hinting at?
Sound off, Basketcases, what do you think?