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Homeland: Season 8, Episode 5 (Chalk Two Down) - Review

Homeland, Season 8

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

TENSION was high throughout the fifth episode of Homeland‘s final season, as the fallout from the shooting down of the US President’s helicopter set up a chaotic next few episodes.

First and foremost, it’s now clear that the eighth and final season is going for broke and refusing to play it safe. That was evident from the moment it was declared that both Afghanistan’s President and US President Ralph Warner (Beau Bridges) had been killed in the crash.

The search and rescue mission was rife with excitement throughout, especially since Homeland favourite Max (Maury Sterling) was at the centre of the action, eventually becoming tasked with retrieving the all-important black box from the downed chopper and, finally, being taken hostage by the Taliban fighters presumed responsible for the act.

Indeed, there were times when this episode of Homeland more resembled Lone Survivor and felt all the better for it given that it detracted from some of the more sillier elements of the story telling.

For while the go for broke attitude of the screenplay certainly delivers high drama and high excitement, the credibility element – that can go hand in hand with Homeland at its best – has now largely been sacrificed… even more so given how real world events have largely overtaken what is unfolding on-screen.

No matter, seeing Max at the centre of the action does provide a nice respite from Carrie (Claire Danes) and Saul (Mandy Patinkin), whose own story arcs are becoming increasingly foolhardy. And he was even afforded one doozy of a put-down line, as Carrie instructed him to gather the black box, which he candidly observed as being ‘red’ even though he was moments away from being incinerated by a bomb.

Away from Max, the drama was more uneven. First, there was new President Hayes (Sam Trammell) being tasked with an impossible choice: to bomb the body of the President or risk his corpse getting into the hands of the Taliban.

He chose the former, prompted by White House adviser David Wellington (Linus Roache). But the sequence in question served to show that Hayes might not be up to the task of the presidency and may not, therefore, have had a hand in the downing of his predecessor.

In Kabul, meanwhile, Afghan vice-president Abdul Qadir G’ulom (Mohammad Bakri) seized the upper hand by declaring the tragedy to be the work of the Taliban and its leader, Haissam Haqqani (Numan Acar)… a statement that, in turn, prompted him to declare martial law in Afghanistan and to call for the immediate detainment of Haqqani.

But then, perhaps, this was G’ulom’s agenda all along – to undermine the peace process and claim control of Afghanistan for himself.

All of this political and military manoeuvring largely reduced Carrie and Saul to spectators, although Carrie did at least do enough investigating to establish that the President’s helicopter had been switched at the last minute by a US soldier who was also covering up an affair with an Afghanistan woman (and imminent mother to be).

But even this revelation hasn’t amounted to much thus far. Instead, Saul got cross without really making any headway (thereby tarnishing his own reputation still further), while Carrie attempted to co-ordinate Max’s rescue effort. As if to underline the mediocrity of the writing involving these two principal players, however, the final moments had Carrie attempting to liaise with Max as he was being held at gunpoint by Taliban fighters – even going so far as to ask him to provide some indication of where he was [so that ‘we can come and get you’] despite having been told, only seconds earlier, that he had made his way back to the site of the second downed helicopter. So much for central intelligence….

Needless to say, Carrie and Saul will have a bigger and hopefully more meaningful part to play in the remainder of the season. And go some way to restoring their reputations.

But while Chalk Two Down wasn’t without its lame moments, the overall pace of the episode, the tension it maintained and the questions it raises going forward, were enough to ensure that it rated among the more entertaining of this final season so far.

Read our review of the previous episode, Chalk One Up