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Homeland: Season 8, Episode 6 (Two Minutes) - Review

Homeland

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

THE halfway point of the eighth and final season of Homeland may have been the most frustrating episode so far.

For while certainly not short on tension and including a standout exchange between Carrie (Claire Danes) and Saul (Mandy Patinkin), Two Minutes also displayed some incredibly dumb decision making that cast fresh doubt on the ability of the series to deliver a satisfying conclusion.

First, the positives. Picking up in the wake of the shooting down of the helicopter containing US President Ralph Warner (Beau Bridges) and his Afghanistan President ally, as well as the attempt by Max (Maury Sterling) to retrieve the vessel’s black box, the episode saw Carrie still desperately attempting to retrieve Max from the Taliban while Saul attempted to prevent the mass killing of Taliban detainees by new Afghan president Abdul Qadir G’ulom (Mohammad Bakri).

The scenes involving Saul worked best, especially as it included new US President Hayes (Sam Trammell) and his bumbling attempts to be taken seriously while understanding the international theatre. If anything, Homeland‘s creators appear to be lining Trammell up to be a Trump-like bully/buffoon, more interested in grabbing headlines for the wrong reasons [aka self gain] rather than acting in the best, most ethical interests of those he represents.

Hence, rather than threatening to impose sanctions upon G’ulom if he persisted with the execution of the Taliban fighters he had rounded up into a Kabul stadium, he took the opposite view [as suggested by
G’ulom himself] and opted for a more hardline message that actually endorsed G’ulom’s tactics.

This, in turn, prompted hiding Taliban leader Haissam Haqqani (Numan Acar) to seek safety in the arms of the Americans. Hence, the episode concluded with Haqqani handing himself in to the US authorities [and Saul] in an attempt to force a trial that would show he had not orchestrated the downing of the US helicopter.

It should be interesting to see where things go from here, as all indications show that while Saul will offer a fair due process, President Hayes will override such an ethical stance in favour of handing Haqqani over to G’ulom. We’ll wait and see.

The search for the black flight box, meanwhile, saw Max being taken hostage and the box itself sold to a pawn shop owner, who belatedly took it into the mountains. As unlikely as this scenario appears to be, it also raises an intriguing question over just how it can now be successfully retrieved. But as it likely now holds the key to the series’ resolution, it’s one that will be answered.

As ever with recent seasons of Homeland, the frailties in the narrative – and the series ability to be taken seriously – lie with Carrie.

In this episode, her attempts to rescue Max see her turning to Russian contact Yevgeny (Costa Ronin) and then sabotaging US surveillance in the region where Max was lost in the hope that he can reach out to his Taliban contacts to save him.

At the same time, Carrie’s superiors have decoded the previous conversation between Carrie and Yevgeny in which the Russian revealed to her that he knew she had entertained ideas of killing her daughter. This also exposed Carrie’s lies about the meeting.

So, Carrie has now lied to her superiors about her relationship with Yevgeny, proven herself to be emotionally unstable, turned to Yevgeny against the advice of her superiors [and Saul] and sabotaged US surveillance. To confound that, she was also the one who suggested President Warner visited the US troops in person to announce the peace treaty between The Taliban and Afghanistan.

It’s a cleverly constructed frame-up that prompted Saul to intervene before Carrie’s immediate superiors reported her actions to the FBI team investigating Warner’s death. The exchange between them, as he attempted to establish Carrie’s thought process and learn how much he could still trust her, was rife with emotion and tension: a friendship brought to the edge [again] amid much trauma and self-reproach and recrimination.

But what happened in the immediate aftermath of that exchange strained credibility to absurd limits and ended the episode in truly frustrating, damn near infuriating fashion.

Saul decided to send Carrie back to Germany to continue her treatment. He apologised for placing her in Kabul when she clearly wasn’t ready to come back to active duty.

Saul has a history of bad decisions, including that decision to place Carrie back in the field. But to then place his reputation and career back on the line by effectively allowing the lead suspect in the FBI investigation to go free beggared belief. It just wasn’t logical [unless, fiendishly, Saul turns out to be the man behind the whole thing, which we don’t suspect for even a minute].

To make matters worse, Carrie’s escort to the airport allowed her to board the plane by leaving her at the gate. Given the slippery, unpredictable and deceitful nature of Carrie’s current predicament, allowing her out of sight for even a second before the doors to the airplane had been closed and sealed is an oversight of epic proportions.

So, when she slipped out of the tunnel and exited to the tarmac where [guess who?] Yevgeny was waiting in a jeep, the move came as no surprise whatsoever. Rather, it confirmed that viewers continue to be one step ahead of Homeland‘s writers in being able to guess what bad creative decision could be taken next. And that’s desperately disappointing for a show that – at its best – thrived on its ability to be unreadable.

Carrie, therefore, remains a liability in this final season and Saul has joined her. The suspicion now is that a potentially satisfying and strong end to the series has been compromised and is now irretrievable.

Read our verdict on the previous episode