Homeland Season 4 is still struggling to find its ideal balance, and episode 4.05 About a Boy, slipped a little. The espionage and tension were all there in spades, the geo-political machinations were intense, but the personal stories just didn’t hold up.
The most important and most personal story is Saul’s, as far as I’m concerned. I mean, that seems a bold statement when there is so much personal going on. The title alludes to Carrie’s seduction of Aayan, and what could be more intimate or human than seduction? Yet we know it to be cold and unfeeling; not to mention a little disgusting. About a Boy tries hard to bring the audience along, first by a conversation between Carrie and Saul that lets us know why she feels she has no choice but to use this method of recruitment, and second by hanging a lantern on how awful the whole thing is, in the form of the argument between Carrie and Quinn. Unfortunately, it’s just not working. She’s still sexing up a boy, albeit a boy who supports and perhaps works for the Taliban. Worse, she’s using her real feelings for Brody and their baby to manipulate Aayan. Watching her force up tears by reminding herself of Brody is more disgusting than watching her be all kissy lovey.
The real problem with the argument between Quinn and Carrie is it’s predicated on the idea that we care about their eventual, and apparently inevitable, hooking up. While Carrie and Brody smouldered together, I think we’d all rather see Quinn end up with his landlady. So, if that bit of humanizing isn’t something the audience responds to, where do you go?
Another personal story is Fara’s, but we don’t know her well. She’s conflicted about taking so well to spying. Meanwhile, I’m obsessed with her strange accent, which arrived out of nowhere, was briefly discussed, and now circles each of her scenes like a mosquito, whining and buzzing its way under my skin. It’s like an additional character in the room.
The ambassador and her husband are deeply sympathetic, but they’re brand new to the show, and clearly not here for their long-term impact. They move plot forward. Given the two actors, they do so with grace and style, but that’s not what a personal investment means.
Which brings us back to Saul. He’s a safe bet for emotional connection—the audience loves him. His kidnapping was shocking and brazen. Seeing him in the trunk of the cleric’s Peugot made me gasp. I care about Saul; his on-screen presence is important to me. Unfortunately, the entire plotline is much weakened by its idiocy. The former head of the CIA wandering around Benazir Bhutto Airport blatantly following someone? I mean, standing and staring, making a scene by running? Calling Carrie, and then long minutes later calling Quinn, and no one else? It’s pure idiocy, and Saul has generally been better than that. In addition, there’s the nagging feeling that a kidnapping has been written in as an excuse to keep Mandy Patinkin around. There’s no organic reason to maintain his story arc, so a kidnapping got shoved in. If you spend enough time watching television, the difference between an event that arises from characters and situations, and one that arises from contract negotiations and audience response, is pretty plain. This just feels off.
So there you have it. The plotting is compelling but the people are not. How about you? Are you buying into the Carrie/Quinn ‘shipping?