‘Why Is This Night Different?’

We can never escape the past, or so every incidental scene of this fifth season of Homeland seems to be telling us. Last night’s opening scene had Saul discuss his relationship with Israel, as his Jewish ties were brought into question not for the first time this series. “I’m still a good friend”, he said. “You used to be a better one” was the reply he got.

Taking Carrie out of the CIA was a bold and inspired move, as for once we’re not necessarily seeing things through US-tinted glasses. Now we are in Berlin and discussing politics outside of America (most notably Syria and cyberspace), we’re beginning to see the consequences of standing by ones country, religion and beliefs in a global political environment, and the impossibility of being truly free from what you once stood for and represented.

Despite seeming to have reverted to the cold-blooded, stony-hearted killer he once was, even Quinn lets his past get in the way of his current work, but we’ll let him off seeing as his previous feelings for Carrie stopped him from bloody killing her. After faking her death, he was persuaded by Carrie to go to the location in which he receives his orders (presumably) from Saul. This was a bad idea, and in a simplistic but tense and unexpected sequence we saw Quinn wounded by a hitman sent to kill him. So that makes two of them on the run together; I think we can all see where this one’s going.homeland-season-5-episode-4-3The CIA’s plan to oust Assad and have a president of their choice put in power in Syria was made clear when Saul blackmailed General Youssef into being their chosen one. That deal lasted the best part of five minutes as (and this really is a spoiler) the plane carrying him and his family was obliterated having barely lifted off the ground. Meanwhile journalist Laura Sutton tracks down Numan, the source of her information, whose friend is battered, bruised and killed once he has given away all he knows to the Russians. Shit got real this episode.

This was a really well-paced episode, with important dialogue and a series of crucial events of a nature both fatal and explosive dished out in equal measure. The Russian connection is beginning to link separate strands of the season’s plot, with Allison’s speaking down the phone in Russian at the end of the episode implying involvement not just in Quinn’s close shave but in the acquisition of Numan’s intel by the SVR agents earlier in the episode. She is evidently not all that she had seemed, and having such a close personal relationship with Saul is only going to end in tears. The final scene was a classic spy fiction twist, but didn’t have any of the predictability or contrivance with which 24 or Spooks in its later, less dignified years might have handled such a narrative device.homeland-season-5-episode-4-2They also did that thing that Homeland has done so well for years, creating a cliff-hanger of sorts but leaving viewers in a state of numbness as opposed to anticipation. It’s usually the continuing of the tense score into the black credits that tells us this is something to reflect on, and the sparse dialogue and blank acting style employed by Miranda Otto further aided in communicating a great deal without the need for an explanatory script.

With Carrie and Quinn out of the loop and the CIA both sabotaged and infiltrated, it’s hard to see how this could pan out well for any of our main characters. This is Homeland at its best, raising more questions than answers, and stunning its audience before they can get the chance to ask them.

★★★★★

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