Homeland 5.11, Our Man in Damascus, answers the nagging question: How does it all tie together? Partially, the answer is that it doesn’t. There is no grand plot tying Allison’s twelve years of deceit inside the CIA to the terrorist threat on Berlin. Rather, her Russian handlers in the SVR have determined that, since the threat exists, they will leverage it to their own ends. They want the attack to succeed because they want the West to have a hatred of Daesh so deep and pervasive that Russia will have license to bomb Syria into oblivion.
Although it isn’t a single grand scheme, one big narrative that all flows together for the finale, this episode did a good job of kind of walking us down memory lane for the season while still pushing the plot forward. We are reminded that the season opened with the leak of over 1,300 CIA documents, hacked by Numan and his late friend. The Russian SVR wanted those documents because they’d out Allison as a mole. Allison wanted Carrie dead because Carrie was with her in Baghdad, and a contact had reached out to Carrie who could prove that a supposedly dead mole was alive. INCREDIBLY, insanely, Allison was willing to blow up a whole base in order to take Carrie down, but Carrie is indestructible.
Quinn was also set in motion by the leaked documents. With spying on terrorists now shut down, Saul put through a kill order, allowing Allison to use Saul’s post office box to give Quinn the order to kill Carrie when he was supposed to be going after terrorists. Eventually, that ended up with Quinn shot, hiding with Carrie, escaping to the Good Samaritan doctor, who came back in Our Man in Damascus. He just happened to live upstairs from scary terrorists. Go figure. (Actually, he lived upstairs from the nice, wimpy terrorist.) Quinn thought he could infiltrate them, but in fact, they kidnapped him, and used him as a demo of their sarin gas. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how we got where we are today. The only other things that have happened this season are the SVR murder spree to get the leaked documents, back story on Allison turning traitor, and somethingsomething with Otto During, which is still unclear. Also, the journalist.
There’s something charmingly old-fashioned about having the Russians as the bad guys here. How very Cold War. At the same time, this season is very of-the-moment, and it doesn’t shirk from being very complex about the issues we face. The character of Laura is supposed to give voice to a lot of the problems our Security State creates; she’s supposed to be a good-guy counterpart to Carrie Mathison (this is clearly demonstrated by having her ally be Carrie’s recently ex-boyfriend). Unfortunately, while she does a good enough job of giving voice to serious issues: The difficulty of balancing a free and open society with national security, the conflicts between our stated values of freedom and civil rights with what we actually do when threatened; she doesn’t voice them in a way that helps us to be on her side. I mean, politically, I am on her side, but she’s strident in tone, one-note in acting, and presented as incredibly naïve. The hairstyle and clothing all scream “college student”, so she seems young and foolish rather than brave and principled. Add to that the fact that she has zero back story or personality, and there’s simply nothing with which to sympathize, so Homeland’s effort to present another point of view kind of fails. And now she’s another threat, going on TV to look Astrid in the virtual eye and say “Come at me, bitch.”
Speaking of complex issues, Homeland turns anti-Muslim bigotry on its head, by making one of the most virulent terrorists (Dr. Aziz) an atheist, and giving us two complex, sympathetic, religious Muslims (the doctor and his downstairs neighbor).
Allison continues to be the coolest of all cucumbers ever. She shot herself in the motherfucking shoulder. Ow. I am not sure I understand exactly why she had to kill both of those men in order for her scheme to work, but it certainly helped us understand how incredibly evil, and how tough, this woman is. I mean, how did she get out of the hospital? Probably strangled the doctor with her own bandages—I put nothing past her.
Saul Berenson manages to be very good at letting prisoners whom he interrogates commit suicide. The notion that this guy rose so high is, indeed, the show’s indictment of our intelligence services. This dope, Homeland is telling us, was almost the head of the CIA. This guy. The one who keeps lying and fucking up. It makes a strong case for Laura Braided Journalist, but then, she still is Laura Braided Journalist, and cannot be loved.
Meanwhile, Carrie is a superhero who can race through the subway tunnels of Germany, gun out, even though she’s still just a private citizen, and wait for Saul to finally realize that she, as ever, is righter than any other person.
Writing a recap sometimes goes past midnight, and as I get tired, Basketcases, I do get more sarcastic. I did very much enjoy this episode, but I didn’t LOVE LOVE LOVE it. It’s good, some of the creaky parts are showing, but not many, and it was overall pretty thrilling. I’m so completely game for next week. You?