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Homeland: Season 8, Episode 10 (The Designated Driver) - Review

Homeland, Season 8, Episode 10

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

THE tenth episode of Homeland‘s final season finally acknowledged some of its more absurd moments while also contributing some of its most powerful so far.

The Designated Driver saw many things come to a head, including Carrie’s decision to finally turn herself in to the US authorities and Saul’s realisation that he had placed Carrie on a mission she should never have been anywhere near in the first place.

The latter point, in particular, underlined the magnitude of the suspension of disbelief that this season’s writers have required viewers to undertake. But it did serve to show just how much of a hole Carrie Matheson (Claire Danes) now finds herself in.

Unable to retrieve the flight recorder that proves the downing of the US helicopter containing the US President was by malfunction rather than Taliban hand, Carrie had no other option but to come in from the cold. But not before sneaking onto a US Air Force base and running her data past a technician, who confirmed that the dialogue she had remembered from the audio did, indeed, indicate helicopter failure.

In another of this episode’s acknowledgements of its own strain on credibility, the Kabul station chief did at least concede that Carrie’s ability to sneak in and out of the base undetected didn’t exactly fill him with confidence at a time of heightened security due to the escalating tensions between the US and Pakistan.

Another of this season’s frailties is exposed by the fact that it continues to be at its most compelling when dealing with the wider picture, rather than the Carrie Matheson storyline.

The stand-off between the US and Pakistan is now where the tension lies. And it also provided an overdue platform for Mandy Patinkin to shine as Saul. True, his character has long lost any ability to be taken seriously – another point underlined to him during a de-briefing with White House Chief of Staff David Wellington (Linus Roache).

But it does show how good intentions and basic decency aren’t always great assets to possess at the top end of the political spectrum.

After being informed by Carrie that the flight recorder was now in the hands of the Russians (and Costa Ronin’s Yevgeny), he attempted to reach out to his Russian counterpart to find out, unofficially, what Russia wants for its return.

The official line was nothing as Russia did not have the recorder. But unofficially, they had what they wanted and have no plans to return it. Indeed, it was left to Yevgeny to pitch the real reason for his grooming and betrayal of Carrie: to force her hand in uncovering the US mole that has been working within the higher echelons of Russian government for years.

In order to do this, Carrie would effectively have to betray Saul and sacrifice the life of an asset in order to save thousands, if not more, from the threat of a nuclear exchange between Pakistan and the US. It’s a 24-style shakedown… how much is one life worth in the greater context of saving many others?

For Saul, this could be everything he holds dear. And you couldn’t help but already feel for Saul as the wolves circled around him. Early on, Patinkin conveyed his mounting sense of desperation brilliantly, as his erratic breathing in between verbal exchanges with his Russian contact belied his deep anxiety. This was a man who formerly thrived on his ability to retain an element of cool and intelligence under extreme pressure.

Saul, now, stands as a shadow of his former self, fully aware of his own short-sighted policies and misplaced faith that have, in no small part, contributed to the mess his nation now finds itself in.

And in that debriefing with Wellington, we also saw just how deep-rooted his loyalty stands. When warned against reaching out to Carrie when she returns to the US under FBI arrest, he refused to throw her under the bus, acknowledging his hand in exposing her to a situation she wasn’t ready for.

In that moment, we rediscovered some respect for Saul and were reminded of just how powerful an actor Patinkin can be.

Could the final two episodes now be headed towards a moment of reckoning between Carrie and Saul? Certainly, Carrie seems to be fully aware of the enormity of the task she has now been set.

The wider context of this final season was also examined in the growing influence of Jalal Haqqani, whose cold-blooded decision to make his second-in-command become a suicide bomber is sure to spell major repercussions for the tensions between Pakistan and the US, given that he took out a team of US Seals who had previously been embedded in Pakistan to try and retrieve Carrie and the flight recorder.

It’s this act that closes out the episode and which looks set to escalate an already dire situation. Will Saul and Carrie be able to prevent the unstable US President Hayes (Sam Trammell) and his war-mongering adviser Zabel (Hugh Dancy) from responding with the type of force that makes WWIII inevitable?

Faults aside, this season of Homeland seems intent on examining the complex nature of trying to establish peace in the Middle East, where one bad decision can create a house of cards effect. True, some of the mechanisms involving Carrie to set this into play don’t really stand up to much scrutiny. But the wider context it sets up have echoed real world politics and serve to show just how fragile ceasefires and peace agreements can be.

It also shines a light on the fallibility of American assumptions that it remains a major world power, capable of making decisions without repercussion. And it suggests that lessons still haven’t been learned from the fallout of 9/11 [let alone the build-up to that world-changing event].

Hence, while it may not go out on a high, Homeland can still prove itself to be a powerful, thought-provoking and politically-aware drama capable of asking some telling questions.

Read our verdict on the previous episode