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Homeland: Season 8, Episode 7 (F**ker Shot Me) - Review

Homeland, Season 8

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

THE mess that is fast becoming the final season of Homeland continued to show little sign of being cleared up in seventh episode, F**ker Shot Me. Sure, there were some nice moments and tensions remained high, but there’s the feeling that a once great show is going to go out with a whimper rather than a bang.

Picking up in the aftermath of Carrie’s escape from her return to Berlin into the waiting vehicle of Russian contact Yevgeny (Costa Ronin), the show balanced Carrie’s continued search for the captive Max (Maury Sterling) with the forthcoming trial of Taliban leader Haissam Haqqani (Numan Acar), who had handed himself into the Americans at the end of the previous episode.

First, Carrie. She’s now a fugitive and continually making bad decisions. And yet, the fate of just about everyone is inextricably linked to her success or failure. Now, that’s a major suspension of disbelief.

But if Carrie can recover Max, as well as the black box from the downed US helicopter, she not only saves a friend, but potentially exonerates herself and, quite possibly, Haqqani.

The problem is, the likelihood of that now seems slim. For, as the episode unfolded, Carrie descended further into the personal mire. Her trust in Yevgeny appears misplaced, no matter how sympathetic the Russian agent seems toward her.

At this point, only a double cross stands up to any scrutiny. Making Yevgeny an ally out of the kindness of his heart seems unlikely and unconvincing, as does any idea of him being a realistic romantic possibility. Too many men have fallen for Carrie, in spite of her erratic tendencies.

So, we’re left with the grooming option: either as a double agent or as a traitor to the US. Both plays would secure a more credible scenario given the emphasis placed on spy-craft and trust in this series so far.

In one of the episode’s pivotal scenes, Yevgeny took Carrie back to the village she ordered bombed during a key moment in season four: an order designed to kill Haqqani but which resulted in the death of innocents at a wedding, including children.

The realisation of this allowed more deeply emotional acting from Claire Danes, with the now infamous lower lip trembling for all it was worth. To be fair, she plays emotionally distraught incredibly well. And the strain of past mistakes is plain for all to see.

But can it really have been a coincidence? Can we believe Yevgeny when he says that he hadn’t “put it together” that Carrie was the one to have issued the order? Perhaps, she has even previously told him during the blackout period of her Russian captivity…

No matter, come episode’s end, Max is in dire straits, being fitted out in an orange jump-suit for apparent execution at the hands of Haqqani’s renegade son. Carrie looks set to try to intervene, despite being heavily outnumbered, but is held back at the final moment by Yevgeny, just prior to the episode fading to black.

Is he in control of the situation behind the scenes? Maybe. Will Max die? We have absolutely no idea. At least, in these two respects, Homeland finally has us guessing, rather than pre-empting its moves.

Less successful, and convincing, were the politics away from Carrie’s journey. These involved Saul (Mandy Patinkin) and his attempts to secure Haqqani a fair trial. But try as hard as he might, circumstances conspired against him. First, fresh faced new US President Hayes (Sam Trammell) opted to side more with Afghan president Abdul Qadir G’ulom (Mohammad Bakri)’s hard-line stance, which immediately curtailed any possibility of a US intervention.

Then, Saul found an attempt to gain a sympathetic ear among the three judges bamboozled by a last minute switch, probably pre-empted by Hayes’ decision to confide in G’ulom about the nature of the unhappiness at his methods among other US negotiators.

So, Haqqani was sentenced to death and facing his own imminent firing squad by the episode’s end. Two lives hanging in the balance. What are the chances of saving both?

The problem with the politicking was that it smacked of desperation. Trammell’s Hayes is a thinly veiled Trump-a-like, whose disdain for due process and desire for self-admiration is far too transparent at this stage. He’s a cartoon character [like Trump] but one that carries no real threat. Trump, at least, has a certain skill in manoeuvring the political landscape for personal gain; thus far, Hayes is just a parody and needs to offer up something more surprising.

We knew, for instance, that Haqqani was essentially doomed from the moment he decided to hand himself in during the previous episode. This was merely confirmed here when, moments before being handed over to the Afghan authorities, he admitted to Saul that “no one is innocent in war”.

But then the decision to cast Haqqani, a former Homeland baddie, in such a sympathetic light also highlights the quandary the writers are now facing in this final season. The switch is so great that it shows no regard for his previous transgressions.

And while Homeland has previously been good at highlighting the complexity – both moral and ethical – of fighting a new kind of war in a post-9/11 landscape, this feels a little too simplistic.

Indeed, the one note of truth was sounded by Art Malik’s Pakistani diplomat, who rightly called out Saul for his country’s hypocrisy in its dealings with the region; only for his daughter to mysteriously decide to abandon ranks and side with Saul in attempting to secure Haqqani a fair trial.

Could Homeland‘s writers be deceiving us, though? Do they have an ace up their sleeve? A genuinely surprising revelation that will blow us all away?

Of course, we’re sticking with it until the end. And there’s still room for improvement and bags of potential in the scenarios at play. We don’t want to judge it as arbitrarily as Haqqani was judged by his accusers. But we’re not feeling confident at this stage.

Read our review of the previous episode