Follow Us on Twitter

Homeland: Season 8, Episode 8 (Threnody(s) - Review

Homeland, Season 8

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

POLITICS took centre stage in the eighth episode of Homeland‘s final season, offering two contrasting views of men in power and their ability to make bad decisions with a similar outcome: destabilising the world.

Homeland has long been at its best when shining a light on the world stage, using plucked from the headlines stories as a backdrop for the tumultuous lives and journeys of its principal characters. Threnody(s) did just that, referencing several real-life incidents and showing how political mis-judgements can create widespread global consequences.

In one corner, we had new US President Ben Hayes (Sam Trammell), seeking to navigate a prolonged stay in power with the need to rescue an American hostage (Maury Sterling’s Max) and perhaps delay the execution of freshly convicted Taliban leader Haissam Haqqani (Numan Acar).

Advising him is the self-serving power-monger John Zabel (Hugh Dancy), seeking to embed himself within Hayes’ top order, and current White House chief of staff David Wellington (Linus Roache), the man now credited with having overseen the loss of two US Presidents.

Zabel urges aggression and, over the course of the episode, manoeuvres Hayes into first giving up on any attempt to rescue Max and then sending out a message to both Haqqani’s son, Jalal (Elham Ehsas), and Pakistan (the country harbouring him) that justice is coming.

In the other corner, meanwhile, sits the aforementioned Jalal, now seeking his own power-play to continue the Taliban’s war in Afghanistan and take it to any infidel seeking to occupy his country.

In the wake of his father’s eventual execution, Jalal delivers a rallying cry to his troops, during which he unveils the weapon he claims was used [by his own hands] to shoot down both US helicopters [thereby killing the former US President]. It’s a move designed to raise his own profile, but which puts him in an untenable position in the wider picture.

And this is where Homeland‘s political insights come into their own. Hayes’ decision to ‘out’ Jalal and make him public enemy number one, while simultaneously castigating Pakistan for shielding him, has turned a bit-part player into a huge personality. The move is similar to the one exposed in the movie Vice, in which US foreign policy under Dick Cheney inadvertently led to the creation of the leader of ISIS.

For while Jalal’s profile is now raised exponentially, Pakistan’s ability to give him up has also been compromised. The already volatile situation in and around Kabul is now deeply unstable and the repercussions both bloody and widespread.

The world according to Homeland now stands on the brink.

Of course, in the real world, the peace treaty between the Taliban and Afghanistan continues to hold, while ALL country against country bickering has been placed on hold because of the coronavirus health crisis.

But Homeland‘s creators have sought to bring their show full circle by posing the question of how much have we learned from the events that followed 9/11. Would America make the same mistakes twice in the wake of another strike against them? They appear to suggest that, based on the available data [and its current man in power], America has not.

If the politics of Threnody(s) offered some strength in an otherwise weak series so far, then the episode was also notable for the loss of another of its biggest assets: Max.

The computer expert and long-time Carrie supporter met a sudden and untimely end when he was summarily shot by Jalal, as Carrie looked on. There was little build-up and the actor playing him didn’t get much of a scene to say any kind of farewell. But his death arguably felt more powerful for it: a cold-blooded act that felt horrifyingly real.

Max has long been one of Homeland‘s unsung heroes. And we shall miss him for the remainder of this final series. But his fate, like the fate of so many men attached to Carrie’s circle, is perhaps not that surprising. Men have a habit of dying around Carrie (Claire Danes).

Carrie herself continued to invest her trust in Russian agent Yevgeny (Costa Ronin), who at this point remains highly sympathetic. But we just know that his double cross is moments away. It has to be for Homeland to retain its credibility.

And Carrie’s last act decision to resist being taken back into American possession and stay out in the cold with Yevgeny all but completes his recruitment of her. He said as much as he drove away with her, even though Carrie has now tasked him with helping her retrieve the black box flight recorder that Max eventually lost his life attempting to retrieve.

The ending of Threnody(s) and its increasingly bleak and desperate direction does beg one final question for this overview: where, in actual fact, is the final season heading? A redemptive happy ending now looks impossible to achieve if the show is to maintain its credibility.

But a downbeat one poses a wider question… is this final season designed to hold a mirror up to our world and its leaders and show what an unstable environment we continue to live in? Do we really ever learn the lessons of our past?

Read our verdict on the previous episode